As promised, this weekend, the GEMM lab attended the first ever S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) Fair organized by the friendly folks at the Depoe Bay Kids Zone. We had a table and a half available for us to showcase some bio-artifacts such as: harbor seal, northern fur seal, and river otter pelts, skulls from a male California sea lion, a Dahl’s porpoise, and a beaked whale, and a humerus bone from a sea lion as well as several species of whale baleen and teeth – Did you know that you can count growth rings on whale teeth just like tree rings to get an idea of how old they are?
We also had a small hands-on experiment showcasing how whales (and seals) stay warm in the frigid ocean waters. Want to try at home? Here are some directions! You’ll need some (at least 1/4 gallon) zip-lock bags, a container of crisco, a bucket of ice water, a towel and some curiosity. Fill a ziplock bag about ~1/3 way with crisco. Now turn another bag inside out, squish it into the other bag and zip the two bags together so that you have a continuous layer of crisco sealed between the two bags – no more mess for your hands! Make sure when you place your hand inside this crisco-d bag that the layer of crisco is evenly distributed on all sides -voila! blubber glove! The crisco is intended to simulate the effect that a nice thick layer of blubber has on cetacean (whale) and pinniped (seals & sea lions) heat retention in water. Stick one hand in the “blubber glove”, and place it in the icy water. Simultaneously, place your un-protected hand in the ice water.
How long can you keep your hands in the water? Can you keep one hand in longer than the other? Which one? Why? Can you think of any technology that humans use to mimic this effect? (Hint: think clothing for surfers and divers)
One of our lab members is studying harbor porpoises by using acoustics (sound), so she brought her laptop and some headphones so that interested folks could listen to all the weird sounds in the ocean and all the crazy cool calls that whales and porpoises and seals make to communicate with each other.
One of the difficult things about studying marine mammals is that we can only truly see them when they come to the water’s surface to breathe, so we invited people to learn how to spot whale blows, fins, and flukes (pictures that we had scattered around the hall) and start to get creative about how one can spot these elusive animals.
All together, it was a lovely, well organized event – among others, we were joined by the OSU Fish and Wildlife club, the Coast Guard, local artists, and many of the students had their own booths showcasing home wind-energy, chemistry and physics experiments that all could try. We had a lot of fun and will most likely be back in future years! Until next time, Fair winds everyone!