A Teacher’s Perspective

This post is part of a series chronicling the September 12-15, 2019 research cruise on board the R/V Oceanus, Oregon State University’s largest research vessel. This cruise was funded by Oregon Legislative funds through the Oceangoing Research Vessel Program. Coordination and additional support was provided by Oregon Sea Grant, the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, and OSU’s Regional Class Research Vessel program.

Follow the adventures of the students, educators, and researchers who are on board engaging in #STEMatSea.

By Carisa Ketchen

I consider myself to be a reflective teacher and as we head back to Newport to end our four day adventure at sea, it’s the perfect time to do so. Throughout the last few days aboard the research vessel Oceanus, our team of researchers and students have been working with a variety of technology and cutting edge scientific tools. The crew worked together diligently to perform tasks that required a strict mindfulness of safety and we had to be quick on our feet to deploy and retrieve equipment safely out of the water.

The students and I took part in a variety of research objectives. There are multiple research components being conducted throughout the day and into the late evening hours. We typically started the day with a rotating whale watching schedule, looking for spouts and other activity such as breaching. When we encountered enough activity in one region, five of the science party would load into the Red Rocket (RHIB) to get a closer look with the goal of identifying specific whales, counting, and tracking their movements.

Most mornings began bright and early with the deploying and retrieval of the CTD device. With this tool we gathered data regarding temperature, conductivity, density, and fluorescence which is helpful in determining where we may see whales and provides clues that indicate the upwelling nutrients.

CTD deployment
Early morning deployment and retrieval of the CTD.

Plankton tows also took place in the early morning and evenings. Students attached the cod ends to the nets and then launched the dual plankton nets to be towed at a specific depth for several minutes. The depth and angles for the nets was determined by the information received from the CTD. After obtaining the plankton from the nets, we identified the organisms via microscope.

People empty the cod end of the black plankton net on the ship deck
After the plankton net has been towed through the water, the net is brought back on the deck and the contents of the “cod end” are collected in a bucket for examination.

Taking box cores happened throughout the day and into the late evening to scoop up sediment and organisms from the ocean floor. This included learning to operate the hydraulic A frame and hooking the box for safe retrieval. After a core sample was taken, it was time to start sifting for marine organisms. We found several brittle sea stars, various worms, hydras, clams, and a plethora of other micro marine organisms.

As a local high school science teacher at Toledo Jr. Sr. High School, this has been a phenomenal experience. I’m currently writing a variety of lesson plans that I can incorporate into my classroom this semester and for years to come. Some of these include construction of research vessels, living at sea, working with a crew, ocean topography, different whale species and their migration patterns, plankton, soil sampling, and specific lessons about the technology and equipment used on board. I’m excited to share my experiences with my students and to continue developing marine science curriculum in order to increase ocean literacy. Having participated in many other professional development opportunities with OSU, I had some background knowledge about the Oceanus vessel and its objectives for research. However, being able to actively participate on board and work directly with the lead researchers and students has provided the most important educational opportunity that I could ever have imagined possible. I am inspired by this research and feel a renewed sense of passion and energy that I can’t wait to share with my students.

“I am inspired by this research and feel a renewed sense of passion and energy that I can’t wait to share with my students.”

I have always been intrigued by the ocean and marine biology. I can recall as a young kindergartner daydreaming about the ocean and drawing whales in my scrapbook. It was my goal to move to the Oregon coast since I first visited in 2008, so when the opportunity came up to “Teach at the Beach” with Lincoln County School District, I applied immediately and was fortunate to be hired. This will be my third year living on the coast and I’m looking forward to many more.

Carisa Ketchen is a Science Teacher at Toledo Jr Sr High School in Toledo Oregon. She obtained a B.S. in Natural Sciences with a minor in Geology at Lewis-Clark State College, and a Master’s degree in Science Education from Montana State University. Since coming to the Oregon coast, Carisa has participated in a variety of Oregon Sea Grant funded professional development opportunities focused on coastal and marine science, including MBARI Earth, MWEEs by the Sea, and the Oregon Marine Scientist and Educator Alliance.

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