Educational charter teaches about 'Lowcountry's nursery'

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There's a wealth of knowledge to be unearthed regarding the complex, interconnected and all-important ecosystem of the Lowcountry and how it affects us.

Spartina Marine Education Charters, headed by marine biologist and Coastal Discovery Museum's Sea Turtle Project manager Amber Kuehn, provides a two-hour learning experience to educate residents and visitors.

Aboard the Spartina research vessel, participants explore many of the unique and often overlooked features of the local marshlands. From pluff mud to fiddler crabs, dolphins to spartina grass, Kuehn paints a vivid picture showing how the ecosystem is truly the "nursery of the Lowcountry."

The May River was both Kuehn's backyard and playground, which she regularly explored aboard her 15-foot motorboat growing up.

It was this childhood experience that prompted Kuehn to complete her master's degree in marine biology and begin working to preserve the nature around her, while passing on the knowledge to ensure others do the same.

"I grew up in Bluffton and took for granted how unique the area was and how important it was to the Eastern seaboard," said Kuehn. "After graduating school, I started working in geological conservation and teaching people the intricacies of the salt marsh."

What separates Kuehn's expedition from other sightseeing tours is the in-depth knowledge and respect demonstrated throughout the trip. Kuehn relates her stories back to childhood memories, linking nostalgia with scientific fact to celebrate both the heritage and geographic importance of the Lowcountry.

For instance, while local waters might look dirty and brown to some, the Lowcountry actually boasts some of the cleanest coastal waters in the country.

"It's rewarding for me when I get to flip that switch and have a light bulb go off when people start to realize why these things are important," said Kuehn. "It's important to know why these things happen, not just that it happens."

For August, Bluffton expeditions are available every Thursday and Friday at 10 a.m., departing from the Calhoun Street dock, and Hilton Head expeditions every Tuesday at 10 a.m., departing from C.C. Haigh Boat Landing on Pinckney Island.

Tickets are $40 for adults and $30 for children under 12. For more information, visit www.spartinacharters.com or call 843-338-2716.

Sam Posthuma of Bluffton is a freelance writer and production assistant for The Bluffton Sun.

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