Snow Doesn’t Stop Motivated Teachers

By Jaime Belanger

Snow doesn’t stop motivated teachers from heading to the estuary!

Teachers pull in a netWhat kinds of science can you study during the winter on the Oregon coast? Nine teachers braved the heavy gray skies, icy passes and a assortment of precipitation to find out. In mid-February the group of educators spent three days immersed in learning about ocean acidification and climate science at the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve in Charleston. Elementary, middle and high school teachers of science, social studies, library and media and environmental education attended a Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE) workshop. The Reserve used the phenomenon of ocean acidification as an anchor to explore causes and effects of changing atmosphere on estuaries and oceans.

teachers look in microscopesDuring the workshop, teachers participated in classroom activities and field work to tackle the complexities of climate change and ocean acidification. Understanding the science behind these issues is difficult, and educators often face additional challenges when teaching about climate change due to external factors that influence student thinking like political polarization, media bias or personal values. Workshop participants learned ways to make ocean acidification, the carbon cycle and pH more tangible and relevant to their students. In addition, they had opportunities to discuss obstacles they face in their teaching, and methods to help address some of those problems.

The teachers examined water quality trends from South Slough with Ali Helms, the Reserve’s Estuarine and Monitoring coordinator. They discussed anomalies in estuarine pH as well as recent issues with eel grass declines.

TOTE teachers on deckThe Reserve’s Education Coordinator, Jaime Belanger, believes the best way to understand and connect with a place is full immersion, so she took the teachers out on a research cruise with Captain Knute, aboard the UO Oregon Institute of Marine Biology’s R/V Pluteus. Teachers collected plankton, measured water quality, examined benthic samples and observed the diverse wildlife that call the estuary home.

The group also had a unique opportunity to hear from Oregon State University PhD candidate Brian Erickson, who has reviewed an immense collection of ocean acidification resources, taught in classrooms and developed a curriculum for classroom teachers.

teacher presentsFinally, they spent a morning working through some exercises with artist and ocean historian Samm Newton. Samm asked the teachers to dig into the questions “what do we know,” “how do we know it,” and “why do we care.” Then they worked as a group to identify ways that environmental arts and humanities could strengthen ocean acidification lessons.

Teachers on the Estuary (TOTEs) are professional development workshops offered by National Estuarine Research Reserves designed to provide hands-on experience in estuary science concepts that can be applied in the classroom. Participating in a TOTE allows educators to explore coastal habitats and conduct field investigations, learn from local scientists and experienced coastal educators.

“It truly felt like a deep dive and it will definitely impact my teaching significantly.”

teachers on deck

“There was a lot of variety; lectures, speakers, activities, field trip, boat excursion, group work and art. Which kept the pacing lively and engaging.”

 

The next climate TOTE workshop at South Slough will be held Jun 19-22. For more information and to register, visit the Eventbrite site


Jaime Belanger is the Education Coordinator for the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve in Charleston, OR. In addition to providing professional development workshops for educators, she develops and leads students on field experiences at the Reserve throughout the year, and also works with teachers and students at their schools. South Slough NERR and UO’s Oregon Institute of Marine Biology are partners in the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

Sun and Wind in the STEM Forecast

By Cait Goodwin

More than 170 elementary and middle school students converged on OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center on March 5th to compete in the 7th annual Oregon Coast Renewable Energy Challenge hosted by Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon Coast STEM Hub. For weeks leading up to the event, students from Lincoln City, Newport, Waldport, and Florence researched renewable energy, explored existing and emerging technologies, and worked in teams building their own model devices. At the competition, students put their wind and solar energy devices to the test to see how their devices performed.

More than 40 teams designed wind turbines and tested them in a wind tunnel to determine which device produced the most energy. Students made their turbines from materials ranging from cardboard to 3-D printed plastic; their models varied in the number, size, shape, and angle of turbine blades. In addition, 22 teams tested solar boats in outdoors water tanks to see which model traveled the fastest. A variety of boat shapes and materials were represented, with designs using everything from plastic water bottles, duct tape and cork, to cardboard.

In all, 40 science and engineering professionals volunteered at the event, helping with judging, scoring, and operating testing stations. Each student team was interviewed by a pair of Engineering Judges. Points were awarded based on student responses to questions about how the team’s device worked and their design process. The judges were impressed with the students, their designs, and their ability to explain the reasons why their device performed as it did.

Employment in the Renewable Energy sector provides high wage jobs for those with strong Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) skills. By engaging students in hands-on STEM activities with real-world connections, the Oregon Coast Renewable Energy Challenge aims to get young people excited about STEM and STEM careers.

Winners of this year’s Oregon Coast Renewable Energy Challenge are listed below. Top wind teams are invited to participate in the National KidWind Challenge in Houston, Texas in May.

 

 

2019 Oregon Coast Renewable Energy Winners:

WIND ENERGY

1st Place          Ms. Kilduff’s team #10 “Keelah & Sugar”, Crestview Heights School – Waldport

2nd Place          Ms. Saxton’s team #6 “Windwalkers” from Crestview Heights School – Waldport

3rd Place          Ms. Hill’s team #4 “Tornado Turbines” from Crestview Heights School – Waldport

 

SOLAR ENERGY

1st Place          Ms. LaMarche’s team #5 “Famous Four” from Taft Elementary – Lincoln City

2nd Place          Ms. LaMarche’s team #1 “The Monsters” from Taft Elementary – Lincoln City

3rd Place          Ms. McDermott’s team #3 “Orange Team” from Sam Case School – Newport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Cait Goodwin is the Communications Coordinator for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub. If you would like to share your Oregon Coast STEM education story on this blog, contact her at cait.goodwin@oregonstate.edu.

North Bend SeaPerch Competition

By Guest Contributor: Darren Sinko

On Saturday December 1st, the North Bend Middle School Science Club competed at the North Bend Pool in a SeaPerch Competition against a group of science students from North Bend High School.North Bend Middle School Science Club

SeaPerch is a program in which students build and operate a simple Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) which can perform tasks underwater. At a SeaPerch Competition, students maneuver their ROVs through an obstacle course or use it to retrieve objects. In the past year, three SeaPerch competitions have been held in North Bend.

SeaPerch is one of two programs on the Oregon Coast that engage students in building and competing with underwater robots. In contrast to the MATE ROV program, SeaPerch involves simpler materials and competition requirements, which makes it an attractive option for middle school educators and students.

At Saturday’s SeaPerch competition, several middle school club members distinguished themselves by winning medals in multiple events.

 

RESULTS

Scavenger Hunt Event

  • 1st Place  – 7th graders Orion Sinko and Beau Parrott
  • 2nd Place  – 8th graders Payten Henderson and Gillian Baxter
  • 3rd Place – 6th grader Jackson Allen

Obstacle Course

  • 1st Place – 9th grader Johnny Flanagan and Madden Robertson
  • 2nd Place – 7th graders Orion Sinko and Beau ParrottSeaPerch ROV engages in the Coat Rack Scavenger Hunt
  • 3rd Place – 9th grader Sadie Wolfe

Coat Hanger Scavenger Hunt

  • 1st Place – 7th graders Orion Sinko and Beau Parrott
  • 2nd Place – 8th graders Payten Henderson and Gillian Baxter
  • 3rd Place – 6th grader Jackson Allen

The North Bend Science Club will be hosting another SeaPerch competition in early May at the North Bend Pool. Teachers who are interested in entering their students in this competition should contact Mr. Darren Sinko at North Bend Middle School.

Read more about the North Bend SeaPerch Competition in The World Link.

7th grade North Bend students

8th grader from North Bend Middle School Science Club competes with her SeaPerch ROV 8th graders from North Bend Middle School Science Club get ready to compete with their SeaPerch ROV

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Darren Sinko teaches science at North Bend Middle School, mentors the North Bend Science Club, and coordinates the SeaPerch competition in North Bend, OR. He can be reached at dsinko@nbend.k12.or.us

North Bend School District is a partner in the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

Students Demonstrate Power

By Tracy Crews

Student tests solar boat at 2018 Oregon Coast Renewable Energy ChallengeHow can wind, waves, and sunlight provide coastal communities with electricity? To demonstrate the answer, Oregon coast students are invited to design models of wind, wave, and solar energy devices and bring them to the 6th annual Oregon Coast Renewable Energy Challenge in March.

Oregon Sea Grant hosts the annual Oregon Coast Renewable Energy Challenge at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, and this year’s competition will be held on March 5, 2019. The event provides students in grades 3-12 opportunities to learn about renewable energy options that are currently being investigated along the Oregon Coast, and provides support and context for teachers seeking to integrate real-world science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in their classrooms.

Student designed solar energy deviceAt last year’s Challenge sponsored by the Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund and the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, more than 170 students brought their renewable energy devices to the HMSC Visitor Center to test in wave tanks, a wind tunnel, or under high-powered lights to see which designs produced the greatest amount of energy. In addition, 25 volunteer judges from research and industry were on site to interact with students, assess student designs, and provide feedback.

In preparation for the Challenge, students researched renewable energy, practiced the engineering design process as they developed, built and tested their prototypes, and created a marketing poster detailing the strengths and benefits of their design. At the event, students further communicated their learning by interacting with other students and adults at the competition, as well as providing an engineering presentation to a panel of volunteer judges.

Students tell judges about their designs at the 2018 Oregon Coast Renewable Energy ChallengeAccording to an engineering judge who volunteered at the 2018 competition, “One strength of the Oregon Coast Renewable Energy Challenge is students’ involvement with the scientific, problem solving, and engineering design processes. And, seeing the enthusiasm and pride the students had in their work was fun!”

One teacher who brought students to last year’s competition reflected, “I appreciated the high interest and developing curiosity that purposely connects to this challenge. It touched my heart to hear youngsters using scientific vocabulary and investigations in their explanations about their engineer designs.

Student tests solar boat at 2018 Oregon Coast Renewable Energy ChallengeUpper grade level student teams that win at the Oregon Coast Renewable Energy Challenge are invited to participate in the KidWind National Challenge, providing them the opportunity to face top wind and solar energy teams from across the US.

The Oregon Coast STEM Hub will be scheduling educator workshops for teachers and mentors along the Oregon Coast who are interested in bringing students to this year’s competition. Keep an eye on the Professional Development page of the Oregon Coast STEM Hub website for announcements of these opportunities. For more information, contact tracy.crews@oregonstate.edu.

 

 

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Tracy Crews is the Marine Education Program Manager for Oregon Sea Grant, the Student STEM Experiences Coordinator for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, and the coordinator for the Oregon Coast Renewable Energy Challenge.

 

Mission Earth! Summer Camp

By Kama Almasi and Kara Allan

What activities make middle school students excited about learning? What topics will engage their attention? What kinds of tasks will be appreciated as both fun and meaningful? For one week last summer, we were challenged to tackle these very questions for 25 middle school students from Lincoln County School District and beyond. Our answers included: A mystery involving death and our local area, lots of hands-on activities, a couple of field trips, and a few silly games thrown in. We named our camp: Mission Earth!

Mission Earth! Campers

Our Program

Mission Earth! campersWe began camp with a fictional situation in which scientists discovered a massive die-off of juvenile salmon along the Yaquina River. Oh NO! The kids brainstormed possible causes and designed tests. Their hypotheses included death from warm water temperature, disease, parasites, pollution, and much more. We then embarked on a journey of investigation and exploration with the kids. They spent the week:

  • Learning techniques of sampling
    • biosphere (living organisms)
    • atmosphere
    • pedosphere (soils)
    • hydrosphere (water)
  • Using analog and digital tools
  • Dissecting salmonids
  • Collecting data from Brian Booth State Park, two sites in Toledo, and Hatfield Marine Science Center
  • Learning to use a GPS (geographic positioning system)
  • Geocaching
  • Listening to a guest speaker talk about parasites and invasive species
  • Creating art/science journals, and made
  • Making fish prints
  • Creating barometers
  • Conducting experiments on pH and ocean acidification

Mission Earth! campersOur goals were that students would engage in science in a fun way and experience deepened learning by making local connections with the content that were relevant to their everyday experiences. With the help of our four high school/college counselors, students were able to work in small groups throughout the week allowing for lots of active learning and close interactions with instructors and peers.

In the end, students determined that both the Yaquina River and Beaver Creek are clean, but conditions during the fictional die-off were unusually warm. The students concluded that, likely due to climate change, the water became very warm too early in the season for juvenile salmon. This either would have caused their deaths outright, or weakened them and made them susceptible to disease or parasites.

The Takeaway

Mission Earth! campersThere’s nothing more satisfying to a teacher than seeing her students excited and engaged in learning. Thanks to support from our sponsors, we were able to do just that for our campers. We received very positive feedback from students and parents alike, and were extremely gratified to see our kids excited about working in their local environments. They had fun and learned valuable skills that will someday allow them to contribute to their communities.

 

Our Partners

Mission Earth! Camp was made possible through outreach, training, and supplies from Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline (NESSP) and considerable logistical aid from the Oregon Coast STEM Hub. In addition, we received generous donations from the Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund and Thermo Fisher Scientific. NESSP is an offshoot of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that serves communities in the Pacific Northwest. In particular, they aim to strengthen STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and interest in careers by giving educators and students access to innovative materials that will excite and engage student interest in STEM. The Confederated Tribes of Siletz created a charitable fund in 1999, and since then, has donated millions of dollars to charitable funds for education, natural resources, and much more. Thermo Fisher Scientific Corporation also has a philanthropic fund through which they help to strengthen STEM education with the goal of increasing the STEM workforce in the United States. All of this generous support enabled us to offer a free environmental camp to improve equity and access for local students and parents.

 

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Kama Almasi and Kara Allan are Community Curriculum Resource Liaisons (CCRLs) for Lincoln County School District, and they are also the Central Coast Coordinators for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

 

What is it like to be part of a science party?

By Tracy Crews

On the OceanusThe R/V Oceanus is a 177-foot research vessel owned by the National Science Foundation and run by Oregon State University. She can carry a crew of 24 which consists of 11 crew members of the ship and 13 members of the science party. The science party on the recent STEM research cruise was composed of two high school students, three high school teachers, two community college students, two graduate students, and four OSU researchers. Most of these cruise participants were complete strangers to one another prior to boarding the ship.

What is it like to be part of a science party at sea?

Analyzing samplesAlthough we are at sea to conduct marine science, each cruise is a social science experiment in and of itself. When a group of individuals with diverse backgrounds are living and working together in a confined space, they quickly learn how to get along and what skill sets each bring to the table. During this cruise, it was amazing to see how quickly friendships formed, how everyone encouraged and supported one another, and how the team functioned like a well-oiled machine to deploy and retrieve equipment, collect data, and troubleshoot problems.

preparing the droneBelow are a few thoughts about the relationships formed on this cruise. It was written by Oregon Coast Community College student Jason Miranda, a recent graduate of the Drone Academy at Career Tech High School in Lincoln City, and the official drone operator for this cruise.

Aboard the Oceanus is one trip I will never forget. The memories started when I first boarded the ship and met the people I would spend the next six days with. It was an awkward experience, meeting new people, but as time passed these people became close friends. We all worked, ate, and relaxed as a team.

 

It was an amazing experience to see all the sights I saw, like a pod of dolphins, two killer whales, countless humpbacks, and the beautiful views of downtown Portland. It would not have been the same without any of them aboard this ship. As we all started to leave I felt sad because I knew I would not be able to see many of them ever again, but I guess that’s what makes our memories together so special.

working on deckThe R/V Oceanus is back in Newport, and the teachers and students who participated in the cruise are back to their normal lives on land (although at least one participant reports that it feels like the floor is still rocking). Many thanks to all who participated and to to those who made this STEM experience possible!

 

 

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Tracy Crews is the Marine Education Program Manager for Oregon Sea Grant, the Student STEM Experiences Coordinator for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, and the Principal Investigator for the STEM research cruise which took place last week on the R/V Oceanus.

This cruise was funded by Oregon Legislative funds with additional support from Oregon Sea Grant and Oregon State University.

 

Drones, Plankton, and Orcas: Day Four on the Oceanus

By Sara Pursel
Science Teacher at Taft High School in Lincoln City, OR

This post is part of a series about the 2018 STEM research cruise taking place this week on board the R/V Oceanus. Other posts in this series include a report from PI Tracy Crews on Day One and Day Three, and a post from high school student Alishia Keller from Day Two.

Drone footage captures data about whales

Wednesday was our fourth and final day conducting the research portion of the Oceanus STEM cruise. We began in the morning off the coast of Washington, surveying for marine mammals as both the wind and weather were cooperating for visibility. The goal of the day was to get additional drone footage of the Humpback whales as they surfaced. Fairly early in the day we encountered a group of at least five individual whales and were able to successfully complete two drone flights to obtain footage of the animals. Our drone operator recently graduated from the Drone Academy at Career Tech High School with his pilot’s license and has been collaborating with the chief scientist onboard, Dr. Leigh Torres, to capture overflight video of whale for photogrammetry analysis, which helps assess body condition or overall health.

During one early whale sighting, we also had a solitary sea lion and a sea turtle right in front of the bow of the ship. The sea bird activity picked up as well, demonstrating how cold Pacific Northwest waters provide a favorable habitat for many types of marine animals.

Before lunch we conducted another plankton tow in order to obtain some samples to help with the education outreach effort that will be happening once we dock in Portland. While we didn’t catch as much in volume compared with the night tows, one of the students on board did attach a camera to view the organisms entering the tow net. The tow brought up a jelly with a bell size of approximately 18 cm (7 inches) in diameter as well as more krill, copepods (tiny crustaceans), a ctenophore (comb jelly), amphipods (more tiny crustaceans), a siphonophore (also related to jellies), and several other species. The video footage of the tow captured the jelly, ctenophore, and many other interesting images, including the flow meter stopping and starting as the ship moved over the ocean swells.

Sampling planktonAs we made our way south towards Oregon waters, three Orcas (killer whales) crossed our path and we diverted our trip to observe the animals for a while. I was working on this blog post when the boat stopped suddenly and several of us raced outside after putting on our PFDs (personal flotation devices – safety first) to get a glimpse of the animals. The head marine mammal researcher identified one adult male and hypothesized the other two were possibly juvenile males given their size. Most of the rest of the day was spent cleaning up, sharing files of data, pictures, and videos, and preparing for the next two days in Portland.

Marine education has been a passion of mine since I was a kid, and this experience has given me a new perspective and appreciation of what researchers do to gather data. While on the ship I have been sharing brief stories and a few pictures and videos with my students back home and have had a chance to answer some of their questions regarding equipment and marine life. I’ve learned so much on this research cruise that I can share with my students for years to come, and I will be able to connect them with researchers and opportunities in the future thanks to my time here.

Orcas

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Sara Pursel teaches science at Lincoln County School District’s Taft High School in Lincoln City, Oregon. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology with Chemistry minor, and a Masters of Education degree. In addition to joining this STEM research cruise, Sara has participated Oregon Coast STEM Hub professional development trainings and has checked out materials from the STEM Hub resource trailer.

Day three on the Oceanus: Unexpected Gifts

By Tracy Crews

This post is part of a series about the 2018 STEM research cruise taking place this week on board the R/V Oceanus. Other posts in this series include Tracy’s report from Day One, and a post from high school student Alishia Keller from Day Two.

Pacific white-sided dolphins

Pacific white-sided dolphins

We started out our research cruise off the Oregon Coast, but as the wind increased down south impacting visibility, we tried our best to outrun it by heading north, into the waters off of Washington. We started out the day over Gray’s Canyon, surrounded by thick fog, wondering if we had traded one weather problem for another. But as the sun rose higher in the sky it burned off the fog and we were able to resume our survey tracks, zig-zagging back and forth from the shallower edge of the canyon, through the deeper water, then back to the other side again. Our quest today was to find those large, elusive whales known to prefer deep water, like sperm whales, beaked whales, and blues.

It wasn’t long before we saw a large pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins, estimated to be 230 in number by our two marine mammal researchers. Soon the dolphins surrounded the boat, darting out of wave crests, performing acrobatics and dancing in the wake of the vessel. The speed and agility they displayed was truly astounding. But as much as we enjoyed their antics, it was time to resume our search for their larger relatives.

Sperm whale fluke

Soon thereafter, as we made our way into deeper water, a solitary sperm whale was spotted. Everyone was excited to see such a rare sight but it wouldn’t last for long. Immortalized in books like Moby Dick, these large, toothed whales are impressive divers and once submerged can stay down for 45 minutes or more. Unsure when or where it would resurface, we continued along our survey transect.

As we moved back into shallower waters, we began to see more of the humpback whales that we have become so familiar with over the last few days. Most were traveling in small, close-knit groups, synchronized as they moved through the water. Others could be seen diving together then “logging” at the surface, floating to conserve energy and recover before diving once again.

deploying CTD

More oceanographic surveying

As the day wound down and wind picked up, we shifted gears to conduct some more CTDs (oceanographic surveys) and decided to conduct another nighttime plankton tow to compare to what was caught the previous night in the Astoria Canyon, off the Columbia River. As we gathered outside on the back deck to watch the sun sink below the horizon, one of the teachers pulled out his guitar and harmonica and we were presented with one last amazing gift, something mariners often wait a lifetime to see- a green flash.

Sunset Day Three

Waiting for the green flash

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Tracy Crews is the Marine Education Program Manager for Oregon Sea Grant, the Student STEM Experiences Coordinator for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, and the Principal Investigator for the STEM research cruise taking place this week on the R/V Oceanus.

This cruise is funded by Oregon Legislative funds with additional support from Oregon Sea Grant and Oregon State University. Track the R/V Oceanus at marinetraffic.com, and see more photos of this expedition on the Oregon Coast STEM Hub Facebook page.

 

 

Whales, Shrunken Cups, and Plankton Tows by Moonlight

By Alishia Keller
Bandon High School ’19

This post is part of a series about the 2018 STEM research cruise taking place this week on board the R/V Oceanus. For an introduction to the cruise, read yesterday’s post by the cruise’s Principal Investigator Tracy Crews. Today’s post is from a student’s perspective:

humpback whale flukeToday was the first full day at sea. Though much of the group spent yesterday in their bunks with seasickness, they all were present for today’s activities.

We woke and gathered in the dining area for breakfast before heading up to the flying bridge to observe marine mammals. There were patches of bait balls (groups of small fish) followed by flocks of gulls. Though we saw a few individual humpback whales, they were typically seen in pods of three or four.

making marine mammal observations from the ship's deckDuring our whale observations, we witnessed a whale lunge feeding. This is when a whale lunges out of the water, exposing its enlarged buccal cavity which expands like an accordion to accommodate a large amount of water and the krill on which it feeds.

Seeing consistent whale activity led us to deploy the CTD to collect oceanographic data, and a plankton tow to observe the abundance of food available.  Afterwards, we continued to observe the humpback whales. Though we saw many whales, not many flukes were visible, which made it difficult to photograph and identify the individual whales.

getting ready to deploy the CTD with styrofoam cups attached

Styrofoam cups ready for deployment

Right before lunch we gave up due to increasing winds which made observations difficult, so we headed North to Astoria Canyon off the Columbia River to conduct a series of CTDs. During the deepest deployment, we attached bags of Styrofoam cups decorated by our group, as well as students from some of their classrooms. The cups were sent to over 700 meters depth causing them to shrink to half their original size due to the high pressure.

styrofoam cups after their trip to the deep ocean

Styrofoam cups after their trip to the deep ocean

After recovering the CTD and cups, our group gathered to eat ice cream and enjoy the magnificent sunset in the West, mirrored by the full red moon to the East. Our last research effort for the night was another plankton tow which yielded more krill, lantern fish, a baby octopus, and many other cool critters.

full moon at sunset

Ice cream on deck

sunset

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Alishia Keller is a senior at Bandon High School in Coos County, Oregon. After high school she plans to go to college to study ecology and sustainability.

Shipboard Experience on the Oceanus

By Tracy Crews

Surveying the horizon for marine mammals and seabirds

Surveying the horizon for marine mammals and seabirds

This weekend, a science party of 13 researchers, students, and teachers gathered aboard Oregon State University’s research vessel, the Oceanus, to begin a four-day research cruise aimed at providing mentoring and career connections at sea. The team mission is to conduct marine mammal and sea bird surveys and correlate sightings with oceanographic data and prey distribution. Participants in this cruise include high school teachers and students from Bandon High School, Taft High School in Lincoln City, and Warrenton High School, as well as college students from Southwestern Oregon Community College, Oregon Coast Community College and Oregon State University.

Deploying the CTD

Deploying the CTD

While adapting to life at sea, these teachers and students are learning to handle lines and deploy oceanographic equipment, how to identify marine mammals, seabirds, and plankton. They aren’t just observers but active participants in the science party, operating critical equipment, including hydraulics and data collection systems.

The first day we experienced sunshine and many successes.  Participants mastered their seasickness, and went on to deploy and retrieve plankton nets and CTDs. The abundance and types of plankton (small floating plants and animals) captured in the fine-mesh nets, and the physical parameters of conductivity (salinity), temperature, and depth measured by the CTDs will help researchers characterize the water column.

In addition, we surveyed over a dozen humpback whales and numerous porpoises, and used a drone to capture video footage of a humpback whale from above. The video data will help researchers from OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute assess the whale’s body condition, an indicator of overall health.

Life on the water is often exhausting, and after a 14 hour day, we are all ready for some much needed sleep. Laying in our bunks as we are rocked to sleep, we dream of what tomorrow will bring.

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Tracy Crews is the Marine Education Program Manager for Oregon Sea Grant, the Student STEM Experiences Coordinator for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, and the Principal Investigator for the STEM research cruise taking place this week on the R/V Oceanus.

This cruise is funded by Oregon Legislative funds with additional support from Oregon Sea Grant and Oregon State University. Track the R/V Oceanus at marinetraffic.com, and see more photos of this expedition on the Oregon Coast STEM Hub Facebook page.