MRDF 2015 Banner


STEM Education

MarineLab: Marine Science Education

Students investigate calcareous algae at Rodriguez Key Rodriguez Key students
Jessica Pulfer, Director of Education, with a newly certified group of Reef Check Divers from Roane State College (TN). Eco Divers
Testing water quality on the reef Coral Reef Classroom
Horseshoe crab Horseshoe


MRDF's marine education programs are known as the MarineLab experience and are geared toward school groups and class trips. Since 1985, nearly 5000 students each year have spent from one to six days at our facility in Key Largo, learning about the seagrass, mangrove, and coral reef ecology of the area. Our staff of marine science instructors lead them through ecology discussions, labs, and on snorkeling field trips to the surrounding marine habitats. The program is highly regarded and very successful, with a 90% repeat rate. Some of our schools have been coming for over 20 years! All our curriculum has been correlated with the National Science Education Standards and all state science standards.

Students looking at sea star seastar Snorkelers Snorkeler MarineLab has programs for students grades 5 - 12 and college programs. We have programs incorporating AP Environmental Science and AP Biology and service learning programs.The Director of Education is Jessica Dockery. We are also working on programs that incorporate research activities into the educational components. Director of Curriculum Sarah Egner has created partnerships with various organizations and scientists to allow MarineLab students to collect and analyze data for their projects. For instance, students collect water quality data and upload it to the GLOBE database, making this information available around the world for other students and scientists to use.

For more information on the different MarineLab programs, how to book a program, availability, and other program details, visit



Sturdy invertebrates are collected during the mangrove trip for students to observe.
Instructor Kelley Stephens helps a student get in the water at a snorkeling site.
Students get to examine first hand numerous invertebrates
Key Largo School students participating in the Coral Reef Classroom, measuring water quality at the reef.
Director Jessica Dockery with her latest class of Reef Check EcoDivers.
MarineLab students explore coralline algae at Rodriguez Key with instructor Katie Mastenbrook.


ROV Remote operations Video Ray ROVVirtual Education Programs - Engineering

MRDF offers a virtual program in our MarineLab Undersea Laboratory. This program is an opportunity for students anywhere to operate a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) out of an operational underwater habitat. Students interact with Chris Olstad, our Habitat Operations Director and experienced marine science technologist.

During the program, Chris gives a brief talk on the background of underwater habitats, conducts a virtual tour of the MarineLab Undersea Laboratory, and demonstrates the projects currently underway. Students have the opportunity to ask questions in real time, and a few students have the chance to "fly" the Video Ray ROV in the lagoon at MRDF. Your Virtual Habitat Mission can be customized to meet your group's particular needs, too! The only requirements are an internet connection and a telephone line for communication. This can work with an almost unlimited number of students, depending on the venue. The cost is negotiable, depending on content and length of time. Check out

Contact Chris Olstad at for more information.

The VideoRay ROV can be remotely operated, over the internet, from any location around the world.

Teacher Workshops

Teachers instructors Teachers Restoration mangrove restoration Reef Check EcoDiverFish ID Fish ID

Every summer, MRDF offers one week workshops for middle and high school science teachers from across the country. The Introduction to Coastal Marine Ecology is a survey of the seagrass, mangrove, and coral reef communities, plus information on reef restoration. Advanced Marine Ecology & Research Techniques offers teachers the opportunity to use a variety of different research techniques commonly used by marine scientists, and the Reef Check EcoDiver certification gives SCUBA certified teachers the opportunity to learn even more detailed survey techniques, and the ability to join Reef Check research trips in the Caribbean. Click here for details on the current workshops!

Teachers can also get certified as Reef Check EcoDivers.
Participating in mangrove restoration can be part of the workshop.
Teachers enjoy learning about marine invertebrates just as much as students do!
Fish identification is part of the coral reef snorkels.