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After making a splash last year, Camp Gurney’s, our complimentary summer camp for kids, returned this summer to inspire yet another generation of guests, with the Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program What’s this camp all about, exactly? CCE Marine Program educators work with Camp Gurney's participants for dedicated sessions each week to provide hands-on marine science education to our young guests through fun, educational activities.
We chatted with Kimberly Barbour, the CCE’s Senior Resource Educator and Outreach Manager, to learn more about her role within the program and the partnership with Camp Gurney’s.
How did you get started at Cornell? What are some of the favorite parts of your role?
I started at Cornell Cooperative Extension ten years ago when I came on board to work with the Habitat Program, helping to restore eelgrass meadows to our local waters while educating the community about this essential habitat. My role has since evolved, and I now help oversee CCE Marine Program's education and outreach efforts, working with my team to reach as many students and community members throughout Eastern Long Island as possible.
My favorite part of this role is the chance to establish new partnerships like the one with Gurney's Resorts. Working with local businesses and entities in the hospitality industry really helps us reach new audiences. It's rewarding to form these relationships and create pathways for involvement in marine science and environmental stewardship.
What is the Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program?
We are scientists and educators working to enhance and restore our local marine resources, to preserve our maritime heritage, and to educate the public on the importance of our marine and coastal environments.
In the field, our researchers conduct surface and groundwater studies in an effort to help determine the source of pollutants and inform management decisions that can make our waters as clean as possible. We also work to bring back our local eelgrass meadows and improve coastal wetlands to serve as habitat and aid in coastal resiliency. Each year we produce millions of clams, oysters, and bay scallops for local restoration projects, including our oyster reef at the Gurney's Star Island Marina property! We also work closely with the local commercial fishing industry to help clear the waters of derelict fishing gear and make sure fishing practices are as sustainable as possible. And finally, we tie this all together through our outreach and education initiatives, engaging the public in science-based, hands-on opportunities.
What does it mean to be a CCE Marine Educator?
What makes our educators unique is the access we have to staff scientists and researchers. This helps our educators integrate real-world science into their lessons, enabling participants to really understand the natural world around them and how important water quality, adequate habitat, and proper human stewardship is to all the living things in our waters and on our shorelines.
How did the partnership with Gurney's Star Island develop in 2018?
We have been involved in Camp Gurney's for the past three seasons and worked to get the permits in place to enable us to install a spat-on-shell oyster reef within the marina property. This effort kicked off last summer and the goal is to put out 100,000 oysters each year for the next ten years—this will build an oyster reef that will help improve water quality and serve as an important habitat for local fish species in Lake Montauk.
What are some of the benefits of working with a local hotel, such as Gurney's Star Island?
By introducing the Gurney's Resorts clientele to our organization and providing education to guests, we are furthering our mission to reach as many individuals as possible and inspire them to give back to our bays and waterways. The participants of the Camp Gurney’s get to learn about the importance of a healthy ecosystem, and we encourage all guests to learn not only about our work, but how they can take part in efforts like our Gurney’s Star Island Marina Oyster Reef Project. https://www.backtothebays.org/gurneys
Do you have tips for ways to learn more about the South Fork marine life?
We encourage people to visit backtothebays.org and learn more about the initiatives and programming we are conducting in support of our local marine life. By checking out ccesuffolk.org.marine, you can see the great work our Marine Program is doing in the area. In 2020 we launched a new Digital Education Initiative and currently have numerous tutorials available for free, plus education kits for purchase that enable you to bring the CCE Marine Education experience to your home! More info on this can be accessed at ccemarinedigitaled.org
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