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Stony Brook Southampton Students Set Sail for Seal Watch

Seal watch 5

Seal watch 5

A group of Stony Brook Southampton students enjoyed the unique marine environment and coastal location of the East End campus as they embarked on a seal watch boat trip March 1.

Twelve students from the School of Health Professions and the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) were aboard the RV Peconic, a U.S. Coast Guard-inspected catamaran, houseboat-style vessel used for operation in protected bays and rivers.

This trip was the second seal watch of the year, following an inaugural trip on February 10 for 20 physician assistant students from the School of Health Professions and members of the University Police community relations team.

Seal watch 1It proved to be as successful and enjoyable as the first journey, showcasing the unique opportunities for experiential learning and wildlife viewing at Stony Brook Southampton.

Wendy Pearson, vice president for strategic initiatives, accompanied the students, in addition to Michael Austin, assistant director of student life at Stony Brook Southampton. “This is one of my favorite collaborations with SoMAS and Health Professions programs, being able to go right out to the source and see wildlife. It’s great to get our non-marine science majors to take a break,” said Austin.

Christopher Paparo, manager of the Marine Sciences Center and the field station’s naturalist, educates the public about the various fish, invertebrates, mammals and birds that call Long Island home. Paparo shared information about wildlife with the group throughout the trip.

Seal watch 2During the winter, he explained, seals migrate to Shinnecock Bay from Cape Cod and Canada in search of warmer water and more abundant food supply. Seals begin to appear in mid-October and by mid-March, he has seen as many as 200 in Shinnecock Bay.

During low tide, the seals sun themselves on a sandbar near the inlet. On the March 1 trip, Paparo estimates that the group saw 200 Harbor seals. For many students, this was the first time seeing a seal in its natural habitat.

“Going on the boat and seeing the seals helps people appreciate the wildlife in our local ecosystem, and for students, a lot of times they forget that there is so much really cool stuff in the unique location of the Southampton campus,” said Paparo. “They are busy studying and working on their classes, and trips like this allow them to take a break and forget about their hard work to just appreciate something really cool in nature, happening right here, on their own campus.”

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