CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Luck would have it that the Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary's research mission this year coincided with the start of a new school year.
That meant they were able to share the results of their research with students. They were also able to show off the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration ship used to perform the mission with school kids.
It was the first trip out of class in the new school year, and some local students got to leave the land and discover what happens under the sea.
"It's inspiring. I love to get to meet the school kids and get to talk to them about science. I'm passionate about what I do and I love working at Gray's Reef," said Kimberly Roberson, Gray's Reef Research Coordinator.
Dozens of 6th and 7th-graders from Coastal Middle School got to learn about some of the work done at the sanctuary, as well as tour the Nancy Foster - the NOA ship used for a just-completed 10-day research mission at Gray's Reef.
"We lived and ate on this ship and slept on this ship, so they got to see our bunk rooms and they've seen the galley or the eating area, the web lab and the dry lab, different places scientists work and live on the ship," Roberson said.
The students also got to hear about some of the science that was studied during the mission.
"We ran seven different projects, each with its own parts and pieces moving at the same time, including plankton toes, coral investigations, counting reef fish, counting sea turtles," Roberson said.
It was an interesting and unique afternoon out of school that they might even choose to study further back in the classroom.
"I hope they're inspired about where we live right here on this Georgia coast. It's 100 miles. It's incredibly important to the entire ecosystem of the Atlantic Ocean and we have one of the 13 marine sanctuaries right here off the coast of Georgia," Roberson said.
Gray's Reef has to apply for time on the Nancy Foster every year. In fact, they have already submitted the paperwork to use the trip for next year's research mission.