Gold Beach Students Explore Watershed Issues

By Cait Goodwin, Oregon Sea Grant
with Debra Watson, Riley Creek School and Lindsay Carroll, Oregon Sea Grant

When rain falls on Riley Creek School, where does it end up? Are there pollutants in the watershed that could travel to the ocean? Debra Watson’s 5th grade students wanted to find out.

On a rainy day in December, the students headed outside to collect data that could help answer some of their questions. “It was a day when we were having rain and 60MPH gusts of wind, so we were WET!” recalled Debra. Walking around the schoolyard, students observed that the grounds were generally free of litter. But, what about the dog poop they observed near the school? Would the dog poop have an impact on surrounding areas? This led to a great discussion about what is in rainwater and where it goes. The students were left curious about where the water runoff from their playground went after it disappeared down the storm drain.

Riley Creek School is located just south of the Rogue River in Gold Beach, Oregon, and is named after a small creek that flows into the Pacific Ocean. Its location provides students with ample opportunities to explore the watershed and to make connections between the land and sea.

Debra began planning her watershed unit in November, when she first joined a cohort of other south coast teachers in a year-long MWEEs by the Sea project. “MWEE” stands for Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences, a framework used by the NOAA Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program, which funded a professional development series facilitated by Oregon Sea Grant in partnership with South Slough Reserve. To ensure field experiences would be “meaningful” for their students, Debra and the other MWEE teachers created long-term project-based learning units that would take their students on repeated, hands-on trips outside to learn about watersheds, local environmental issues, and stewardship opportunities.

Debra Watson participated in several teacher professional development trainings in 2019-20. In this photo she is taking part in a workshop focused on marine debris. Photo credit: C. Goodwin

Here are some highlights from Debra’s classroom activities in early 2020.

After their initial stormy field experience, the Riley Creek 5th graders spent the early weeks of January learning more about their watershed through readings, discussions, and videos. To introduce her students to the problem of plastic pollution in the watershed and ocean, Debra used curriculum from Washed Ashore and then took her students on a field trip to the exhibits in Bandon. “The students got to work on pieces for a condor sculpture, and they just thought the museum was the coolest thing they had ever seen.” said Debra. “They were thrilled to be there.”

three students examine a wall mural showing ocean gyres
Riley Creek 5th Grade Field trip to Washed Ashore.
Photo credits: Debra Watson

To prepare for their trip to Washed Ashore, local artist Elizabeth Roberts from Make Art Not Trash visited the students in their classroom. Her presentation about marine debris and the conversations that followed helped set up the students to understand what they would be seeing during their out of classroom experience. “They all know what a gyre is now,” Debra reported, “and they were able to match the artistic mural of gyres that they saw on the wall at Washed Ashore with the NOAA pictures they had seen back in the classroom.”

In February, Debra’s students conducted experiments to learn more about the characteristics of marine debris. They made hypotheses about whether different types of plastics were likely to sink or float in water, and then tested their ideas. They observed how plastics can hang in the water column and create a “soup”, how bottles full or empty behave differently, and how plastics might look like food to wildlife.

Late in the month, the students took a field trip to the new state-of-the-art Gold Beach Sewage Plant, as well as to the Water Treatment Plant located 5 miles upriver.

The students found out the differences between the two plants, and learned that their drinking water comes from the Rogue River.

“We are in the Rogue River watershed.”

Two Plants: One processes wastewater from people’s houses, and one gives us clean water to drink.

Back at school, the 5th graders spent time outside exploring Riley Creek and collecting macroinvertebrates. These “water bugs” helped them better understand the health of the creek.

By March, the students were ready to brainstorm the issues they wanted to explore further. They discussed their interests and ideas, formed groups, and narrowed down the topics to a few main projects:

  1. Dog Poop – How does dog poop that is not picked up affect the school field, grassy play areas, and stormwater that flows to the ocean? This group was interested in coming up with policies, outreach messages, and other strategies to change the behavior of dog owners. 
  2. Marine Debris Art – How can we help the public understand the problem of marine debris? This group was interested in creating art projects that communicate marine debris impacts and solutions.
     – See examples of projects
  3. Beach Clean Up – What can students do to remove debris from local beaches? This group was interested in working with SOLVE to organize and advertise a beach clean-up event.
  4. PSAs – What kinds of things can people do to protect the environment? This group used to create digital media public service announcements.
     – See examples of projects here and here
  5. Inventions – What solutions could we design to address the problem of plastic pollution? One team in this group focused on ideas for inventions that would keep plastics from going down storm drains, and another team worked on designing an instrument that would separate microplastics from sand.
    Hear a student describe his design
Students working on projects at school.
Photo credit: Debra Watson

Today, as school has transitioned to distance learning, Debra and her 5th grade students remain enthusiastic about the topics they have been working on together. “We had just begun working when the pandemic hit” said Debra. Unfortunately, plans for additional field trips were canceled, and student projects were left in a variety of stages when schools closed. To see some of the projects students have been working on this year, visit this Student Work Folder.  For now, the Riley Creek team agrees: “We really enjoyed learning about watersheds!”

Cait Goodwin is a Special Projects Coordinator with Oregon Sea Grant Marine Education, and she coordinates the “MWEEs by the Sea” teacher professional development program in partnership with Jaime Belanger from South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. Gold Beach teacher Debra Watson from Riley Creek School is one of 17 South Coast teachers participating in the 2019-20 MWEES by the Sea cohort.

Reedsport Third Graders Learn About Watersheds through Meaningful Field Experiences

By Cait Goodwin, Oregon Sea Grant

Think back to when you were in elementary school. Did you participate in a field experience that was so impactful you can still remember it today? “Out of classroom” experiences provide teachers and students the ability to explore local places and relevant issues through hands-on activities and interactions with community partners. These meaningful learning experiences build exposure, connection and curiosity, and often resonate with students well beyond the trip.

Third grade teachers Cristina Bettesworth and Anna Villegas from Highland Elementary School in Reedsport have spent the 2019-20 school year attending multiple professional development workshops to learn strategies for providing meaningful watershed-focused experiences for their students. With guidance from local partners at Oregon Sea Grant and South Slough Reserve, they designed a learning unit filled with lessons and field trips that helped students learn about coastal ecosystems, human impacts, and stewardship. These Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) are part of the MWEEs by the Sea project, funded by NOAA Bay-Watershed Education Training program.

MWEE Professional Development

MWEEs by the Sea workshops help teachers plan and implement lessons focused on local and global environmental issues.

Photo credit: C. Goodwin

Cristina and Anna planned their third-grade unit together around three main topics: watersheds, salmon, and marine debris. Each topic was introduced in the classroom, followed by hands-on field experiences and connections with environmental professionals that served to further solidify and expand on student learning.


A watershed is the area of land where precipitation collects and drains off into a common outlet, such as into a river, bay, or other body of water.

After students were introduced to the topic of watersheds in the classroom, they took a field trip to South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve in Charleston in February. With the help of South Slough staff and volunteers, students explored the flora and fauna of the watershed. The students observed how the coastal forest stream is connected to the estuary, experiencing the components of a watershed first-hand as they hiked down from the ridgetop.

Students learn about natural inhabitants of a coastal watershed on a hike down to Hidden Marsh. Photo credit: Cristina Bettesworth

To expand on their knowledge of different watersheds, they also visited other sites, including a local beach. After observing different watersheds in person, the students were able to head back to the classroom and create clay models of regional watersheds to show how water flows through local systems.


Given the importance of salmon as a coastal resource, the Highland Elementary teachers knew it would be a natural fit to incorporate salmon studies into their MWEE unit. Salmon migrate between inland streams and the open ocean, showing students another way that land and sea are connected. In addition, parts of salmon life cycles can be experienced in the classroom, enabling students to study life cycles, an important 3rd grade learning standard!

With the help of volunteers from the Gardiner STEP (Salmon Trout Enhancement Program) facility and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife STEP biologist Evan Leonetti, the students set up tanks for hatching salmon eggs in their classrooms. Students collected water quality and other data and observed the salmon life-cycle in action as the eggs hatched and grew. When the fish were big enough, they were placed in a transfer tank and taken back to the STEP facility.

Young salmon hatched in the classroom are ready to be transported to the STEP facility. Photo credit: Cristina Bettesworth

In addition to hatching eggs in the classroom, the third graders headed off-school grounds and toured a hatchery, visited local salmon habitat, and some students even travelled to Salem to discuss salmon sustainability in south coast rivers.


Marine debris is any solid, persistent, human-created waste that has been deliberately or accidentally introduced into a waterway or ocean.

To engage their students with a human impact that they could not only see and relate to, but also do something about, Cristina and Anna built lessons around the topic of marine debris. The students started this section by learning and researching about marine debris, answering question like: What is it? Where is it? and What are the impacts and possible solutions to the problem of marine debris?

“Sometimes garbage ends up in a stream or river
and will flow into the ocean.”

– Annabelle A., Third Grade, Highland Elementary

To further excite students, teachers arranged to have Elizabeth Roberts from Make Art Not Trash visit their classroom. She shared her experiences cleaning up marine debris from remote beaches in Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine, and told the students about the ways she uses art to help people understand the issue.

“Marine debris is a big problem that affects all of us. It happens in all waterways and is not only a problem in the ocean. We can all do our part to solve the marine debris problem. We just have to pick up trash and make sure our trash gets into the correct places.”

– Brody S., 3rd Grade, Highland Elementary

Prepared for their field experience, the Highland Elementary 3rd graders took a field trip to Bandon, Oregon, to conduct a beach clean-up at Seven Devils State Park, and to visit the marine debris art exhibits at Washed Ashore. The students took the marine debris that they collected from the beach back to school, separated the trash by types (plastics, microplastics, foam, nurdles, etc.), and graphed their results so they could see what types of debris were most commonly found in their samples. Inspired by the art they had seen from community partners, students used some of the marine debris they collected to create their own art projects. In addition, they wrote essays about the problem of marine debris to help explain marine debris impacts and solutions to others.

“We can help the marine debris issue by picking up our garbage and cleaning our beaches.”

– Bodhi L., 3rd Grade, Highland Elementary

Students cleaned up a Bandon beach and were inspired by art made from marine debris. Photo credit: Cristina Bettesworth

Today, the students are working on creating and sharing their essays, art projects, displays and slide presentations with others. You can see some of the student work generated by this project here.

“We can help deal with the problem of marine debris by not using plastic products. We can reuse products so that they don’t end up in the ocean.”

– Uriah I., Third Grade, Highland Elementary

Cait Goodwin is a Special Projects Coordinator with Oregon Sea Grant Marine Education, and she coordinates the “MWEEs by the Sea” teacher professional development program in partnership with Jaime Belanger from South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. Reedsport teachers Cristina Bettesworth and Anna Villegas from Highland Elementary are two of 17 South Coast teachers participating in the 2019-20 cohort.

Bon Voyage, R/V Oceanus

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 and the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

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

By Tracy Crews

Four high school students, one high school teacher, one community college student, and three graduate student will accompany OSU researchers on this cruise that will study seabird and marine mammal distribution off the Oregon Coast and correlate sightings with prey abundance and oceanographic data. On this trip, we hope to deploy drones to help quantify sightings and document marine mammal behavior, and to launch a smaller boat from the research vessel to collect fecal samples from whales. In addition, students will work with benthic ecologists to collect box core samples to learn about oceanographic sediments found in various locations and the organisms living within.

This cruise is not just an opportunity for researchers to collect valuable information about Oregon’s marine ecosystems and the diverse organisms that call these areas home, but an amazing opportunity for students to participate in hands-on, career connected learning. While serving as part of the science party, they get a unique glimpse into life at sea and the lives of the female researchers leading this expedition.


Wednesday was a busy day for researchers, their graduate students, and the ship’s crew aboard the R/V Oceanus, as they worked together to “mobilize” for their four day STEM research cruise. Oceanographic equipment was loaded, tested, and tied down. Duffle bags full of boots, rain gear, gloves, cameras, and binoculars were hauled up the ship’s gangway and down multiple flights of ladders to small staterooms with bunk beds that would serve as our homes for the next five days. Packing for a research cruise is much more intense than packing for vacation. It’s not just the extra amount of gear required to live and work comfortably at sea, but the knowledge that once you leave the dock there is no way to replace what is missing or what might break. So we pack multiples of almost everything.

Getting Underway

On Thursday, students and other cruise participants spent the first hours of the morning going through safety drills, donning life jackets and immersion suits and learning how to use a fire hose.

Once safety drills were complete, the ship left the dock and headed out under Newport’s Yaquina Bridge to the open ocean!

Coming up next: Learning to conduct research at sea on the very first day of the cruise.

Tracy Crews manages Oregon Sea Grant’s marine education program and is responsible for coordinating the R/V Oceanus shipboard experience for students and teachers.

Home Stretch

Andy Bedingfield and Calan Taylor are high school teachers participating in the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program on board the R/V Atlantis. Below are more selections from their daily journals:

July 23 – Andy

plantkon on a screen

It is Tuesday at 3:00 PM and my shift is just starting. We are back on 15 minute shifts on the ISIIS. This is our high definition camera system that we tow behind the boat and lower and raise as we travel. There are two jobs when we are running this system, “flying the ISIIS,” and running the winch. Flying the ISIIS means watching the computer control panel in the main lab and using the radio to tell the winch operator out on the back deck whether to pay out cable, haul it in, and how fast. For instance, I am sitting in the lab typing this and Megan, the PhD student who is currently flying ISIIS just picked up her radio and said, “winch, lab please pay out at five zero,” and the winch operator called back, “copy that, paying out at five zero.” This mean that the ISIIS just got to its minimum depth of 10 meters, and the winch operator needed to stop pulling cable in, reverse the winch, and start sending it out again so that the ISIIS will start going down again. Once the ISIIS gets down to its maximum depth of 100 meters, Megan will call the winch again and have them start hauling in again so that it will start to rise towards the surface. We did this all night last night from 10:00PM to 3:00AM. You would think this would get monotonous, and it does, but we have figured out a pretty good system to minimize the boringness of it. We are in two member teams, and we all work one 15 minute shift per hour. Something seems to be pretty magic about this schedule. The hours really seem to fly by. 

July 24 – Andy

It is 8:00 PM right now, and the night crew is very happy to be on their last 3:00PM to 3:00AM shift! We started the night at station #1, which is the closest one to Newport, and we used all of our data collection methods.

July 24 – Calan

We caught a decent size squid this morning (roughly 6 inches). I put it in a tank and watched it swim around for a bit which was fascinating. It’s eye was huge and seemed to be looking right at me. The biologists assure me that squid intelligence pales in comparison to octopus but the eyes still freaked me out a bit. 

squid have big eyes

July 25 – Calan

There is an artist on the ship named Sarah. She does mixed media that involves lo-fi photography using cyanoprinted photograms. She prints these images onto steel and attempts to represent time in various manners. Today she taught me how to do the photogram process. I made a print of a squid and shrimp that we caught yesterday. Sara gave me the info for a company that sells kits to make the prints. I think kids would get a kick out of it, and I’m pretty sure I’ll include it as part of my curriculum. 

July 25 – Andy

Wow, last day of the cruise! We just have to finish off towing in to Newport, and the science work will be done for the cruise. 

After lunch, the other teacher and I cal had a meeting with two of the principal investigators, Kelly and Bob. I was very impressed with them throughout the cruise, and I really couldn’t speak more highly of them. They were both very nice and helped Cal and I learn a lot of marine science. We had a great discussion about how Cal and I can create a curriculum based on the science that they do, and we are excited to get started.

“We had a great discussion about how Cal and I can create a curriculum based on the science that they do, and we are excited to get started.”

– Andy Bedingfield on the last day of the cruise

R/V Atlantis
R/V Atlantis

Calan Taylor teaches Physics, Chemistry, and Physical Science at Bandon High School and Andy Bedingfield teaches Science at Taft 7-12 High School in Lincoln City. They are part of the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program on the R/V Atlantis cruise taking place July 13-27, 2019.

Sunshine and light wind

Andy Bedingfield and Calan Taylor are high school teachers participating in the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program on board the R/V Atlantis. Below are more selections from their daily journals:

July 21 – Calan

I learned quite a bit today. Had a couple nice conversations with Bob Cowen relating to patterns in upwellings. ISIIS was picking up some interesting bifurcations in the fluorescence which may have been a malfunctioning sensor, or could possibly be an indication of more mixing and the beginning of an upwelling. The strong northerlies that have brought on the seasickness the past couple days should start to move surface water out to sea and begin the upwelling process. 

sea jelly in a jar

I also talked to Kelsie (Who is completing her PhD in Larval Fish Ecology at OSU/Hatfield) About logarithmic relationships between plankton and larger species. She taught me about how and why upwellings generally occur on the west coast of continents and how headlands can create micro-upwellings. She also taught me a lot about the history and current status of marine sanctuaries and reserves in Oregon and Washington.

I find myself taking a lot of my free time trying to think of questions to ask the folks that I’m around on the ship while the opportunity is here. It’s cool to have access to the input of folks that are on the ground, doing the research right now. I’ve been really impressed not only with their knowledge, but also with their openness and willingness to talk/explain their work in a manner that is understandable for the masses. I just wish I could think of more great questions. I’m sure that the moment I’m off the ship, several will come to mind.

Net towed in water

July 22 – Andy

It is 9:00 PM. I have been working on the deck for 6 hours already, and I have 6 hours to go. We had great weather today though, and that makes all the difference. Last night we hauled the MOCNESS nets all night. This makes the time go much faster than some of the other things we do, but you are super worn out by the end of your 12 hour shift. The crazy graduate students that I am working with are actually working out for an hour from 3:00AM to 4:00AM and then going to bed. Not me! I am fine with sleeping as long as I can and working out in the morning. 

It was a truly stunning all day today. Many crew members who I have never seen came out of the depths of the ship to enjoy the sunshine and light wind. At one point, we had a pod of about 100 dolphins racing the ship and playing in the wake. 

Man holding a metal seine dish

Two of my night crew buddies (Megan and Will) and I started brainstorming about how we can create a curriculum based on the Next Generation Science Standards that highlight their work. I showed them the standards and an example High Adventure Science module, and they had some great ideas. We made plans to work on something when we get back to shore. 

One last highlight from last night, and a memory that I would like to keep: It was 3:00AM and we were just finishing our shift.  We had been pulling the MOCNESS net system all night, and we finished with one final tow. My job was to put the samples we collect in jars in the lab. When I got done with that, I went back on deck to see how the crew was doing re-setting the net. When I got out there, Will, a huge 6’6” hulk of a human was sitting on a bucket sewing up a huge tear in the net. All the rest of the crew, Rick, Megan and Blair were sitting with him, and the almost full moon was lighting up the scene. I asked, “what can I do to help,” and Rick said, “why don’t you grab your guitar and serenade us?” He was joking, but I never pass up an opportunity to play for people, so we closed out the night with a round of Wagon Wheel by Bob Dylan under the moon cruising about 50 miles west of Newport at 3:00AM.

Calan Taylor teaches Physics, Chemistry, and Physical Science at Bandon High School and Andy Bedingfield teaches Science at Taft 7-12 High School in Lincoln City. They are part of the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program on the R/V Atlantis cruise taking place July 13-27, 2019.

Rough Seas

Andy Bedingfield and Calan Taylor are high school teachers participating in the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program on board the R/V Atlantis. Below are more selections from their daily journals:

July 19 – Calan

No entry yesterday, seas and wind picked up and I was too close to sea sickness to get onto a computer. The ship is big, the biggest I’ve ever been on at sea. It was blowing 30+ knots by the end of the day yesterday and the combined seas were 8-10 ft. On a seiner or sailboat it would have been challenging conditions. On Atlantis, it was relatively workable. There were definitely a few waves that came over the gunwales and a few crew that ran for the Dramamine…but relative to other boats I’ve worked on, it was smooth. 

As far as the science/work, I spent the morning helping set, reset, launch and retrieve the MOCNESS. I sewed a couple holes in the trawl net using needle/thread, and a sailors palm. Shout out to my high school Home Ec Teacher Ms. Haskins for helping me get my sewing license. It’s come in handy out here. I also helped sort, label and process samples from the MOCNESS. One of the most educational parts of the day was talking to Bob Cowen about trends in species diversity in aquatic ecosystems vs terrestrial with relation to latitude. One thing I hadn’t realized was that the tropical regions are filled w/an abundance of genus while the higher latitudes have relatively few genera but many species to fill niches. A good example is rockfish where there are approximately 160 species in the North Pacific alone. 

“Shout out to my high school Home Ec Teacher Ms. Haskins for helping me get my sewing license. It’s come in handy out here.”

-Calan Taylor

July 20 – Andy

I haven’t been able to create a blog post for two days now due to the weather. The first night of this weather, they called off operations. When they called off work for the night I was super relieved. I just went back to my bunk where I had spent most of my day. Flat on my back in my bunk is where I deal with the movement the best!

I spent the whole next day in my bunk. When I came down to work at about 9:00PM, we launched ISIIS and towed in up and down the transect all night. I was able to work by staying on the open deck. Our main job during ISIIS tows is to work the winch on the deck, paying out cable and hauling it back in. This night we were super careful. If someone went over the side in this weather in the dark, there would be very little chance of finding them. In fact one of the scientists went missing last night, and we all went looking for him. After about five minutes, we found him in the bathroom.

Today, the seas are still rough, but only about half as bad. While yesterday, I had to either be flat on my back in my bunk or outside looking at the horizon, today, I have been able to fire up my computer and actually get some work done. Hopefully my body is finally able to handle this movement. People say that seasickness gets better with time, and I hope they are right!

“People say that seasickness gets better with time, and I hope they are right!”

-Andy Bedingfield
Andy Bedingfield on deck
Andy Bedingfield on deck

July 20 – Calan

Seas have started to calm after two days of rougher weather. I hadn’t taken sea sickness pills since I was a teenager but I caved yesterday as did the majority of the crew. I think the combination computer screen time, diesel/hydraulic fluid smells, not being able to see much, and the unfamiliar roll of a big ship combined to put me on the sick side. The good thing about sea sickness pills is it makes it easy to go to sleep. My best night yet in that regard. 

July 21 – Andy

My watch last night was very, very, very much better than the night before. The seas and wind had calmed down quite a bit, and I had zero seasickness symptoms. On top of that, we were running the MOCNESS net system all night. In addition, I’m finally getting used to being up until 3 in the morning.

Calan Taylor teaches Physics, Chemistry, and Physical Science at Bandon High School and Andy Bedingfield teaches Science at Taft 7-12 High School in Lincoln City. They are part of the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program on the R/V Atlantis cruise taking place July 13-27, 2019.

Heading Out to Sea

Andy Bedingfield is a high school teacher participating in the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program on board the R/V Atlantis. See other posts in this series using the navigation tools at right.

Heading Out to Sea, July 13-16, 2019
By Andy Bedingfield

Andy Bedingfield
Andy Bedingfield

July 13-14, 2019

Lisa Blank, Director of the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, recruited me for this mission and will be helping me turn the experience into something I can share with my students. On Saturday morning, July 13th, Lisa and I got a tour of the R/V Atlantis, learned about the science, and starting shooting videos to potentially use as part of our curriculum.

loading the R/V Atlantis

The ship was docked in Newport Oregon for two set-up days. In the chemistry world, you get to set up your lab space and use it for years to do your research. These scientists have just 48 hours to get all of their equipment on board and set up their gear, and only two weeks to collect their data. According to one of the graduate students, it is common for a graduate student to collect enough data in these two weeks to complete a PhD.

This puts a ton of pressure on everyone to make sure they bring everything that they need, and that it all works flawlessly during the cruise. That said, nothing ever works flawlessly, and a big part of their job is to stay calm and fix issues as they arise. For instance, Jami, the lab manager, and her sister Megan (a PhD physicist) have been working really hard to get the pressure sensor to work on the multiple opening net system. This one of the main pieces of equipment they will be using on this cruise, so if they can’t get it to work, we will be in big trouble.

Since the ship wasn’t scheduled to depart until 8:00AM on the 15th, I was able to go home after I got my gear stowed on board and had lunch with the crew. I was really grateful to be able to spend one more night on shore because I have two year old daughter and every minute with her is precious. Also, my in-laws flew in from Texas to help my wife take care of Fox while she works. Since I could go home, I was able to spend time with them. Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to go on this cruise, so I am super grateful.

July 15

I arrived on the RV Atlantis at about 06:00AM. Not much was going on, and there was a light rain. Then, slowly but surly the science crew started to wake up. By 7:00AM Jami and Megan were trying to get the pressure sensor system on the net system to work. This must be super stressful for them! This system is pretty old, Jami was having to take pictures and screen shots to send to the only guy in the world who really knows how it works. Science is always like this, much of your time is spent trying to get weird and wonky equipment to work so that you can collect the data that you need to answer the question that you are after.

Just after breakfast, I went up to my stateroom to make a protein smoothie,  and I just barely felt a different movement. When I looked out the window, I could see we were making our way to sea. I ran outside to join the crew on the bow of the boat to watch our transit down the Yaquina River and through the bar. The bar is a shallow area of sand that happens anytime a river meets the sea. We had a tugboat lead us out, and he stayed with us for a while as we made our way out to sea. At 9:00AM we had a meeting in the library and spent the next two hours learning about the ins and outs of the ship, safety, how to put on a survival suit, and how to evacuate and get on life boats. At 1:00PM, we had a science team meeting and everyone got to introduce themselves. I found out that starting tomorrow I will be on the night crew, working from 3:00PM till 3:00AM. I’m pretty worried about it, but I’m also excited to push the limits of my body.

inside the R/V Atlantis

For dinner I had some tofu, salad, green beans and asparagus. After dinner, I got my guitar out of my state room. I went down to the main aft deck where they send equipment over the side, parked myself in front of ALVIN, and played my songs. After a couple of songs, the reporter come by and asked me a few questions for his article. Then the artist showed up, and she sang along with me while I played. It was a lovely evening on the deck. We had a bit of south wind and chop through the middle of the day, but that cleared on in the evening.

After playing, I headed back to my stateroom. Cal and I chatted for a while, and then we took a quick tour of the bridge. Two guys were on watch up there, and we had a fun time chatting with them about how they run the ship.

July 16

I start my first watch at 3:00PM today and it will go to 3:00AM the next morning. A lot of people were talking about staying up as late as possible so that they will start adjusting to the night schedule, but I decided to just go to sleep when I was tired knowing that I would probably wake up at my normal 5 to 6. I slept great on the boat, though. We had just a gentle rocking and some nice airflow background noise from the ships operation. I’m sharing my stateroom with Cal, the other teacher on board. He is in the bottom bunk and I am in the top. It is pretty tight, but fine once you lie down. I have trouble getting in my bunk, though, since the roof is so low; there is only about 2.5 feet of vertical space. It is so low that I often hit the roof with my head as I’m turning over in my sleep, making a loud crashing noise. The roof is a metal tile like nothing I have seen and it is sort of like a steel drum if you bash into it in the night.

I woke up about 6:00AM, meditated in my bunk till about 7:00AM, and then wandered the ship until breakfast. During that time Kelly (one of the Principal Investigators) and I ran into each other and had a nice 20 minute chat about education. After tofu, home fries and fruit for breakfast, I made my way onto the aft part of the main deck. When I got there, a few of the science team members and a few of the boat crew members were getting ISIIS (the camera system) ready to be deployed over the side of the ship. I conducted a few interviews of science crew members as they were setting up. They used a two-part system: a crane boom that was operated by one person, and a winch operated by another person. Luckily everything went to plan and they got ISIIS over the side and towing without anyone getting hurt or damaging the equipment. As soon as the instrument was in the water, they began collecting data with the two high resolution cameras on ISIIS. After I finish this sentence, I’m going to go back down and see how things are going.

When I started my watch at 3:00PM they were just stowing the ISIIS on the deck. After that, we got trained on how to set up the CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) recorder.

The CTD has 24 large plastic tubes that can be opened to collect water samples. To prime it to collect, you have to open up the end caps and set up the automatic closing device. There is a bungee — a really tight one– that runs down the middle of the pipe and is connected to both endcaps. To set up to take samples you pull the end caps off and put a restraining cord on the automatic trigger mechanism. One you drop it over the side, you can tell it to close one of the tubes, and you have a sample of water at that depth.

After that, we set up and lowered the neuston drag net for a test run. The neuston is the name of any plants or animals in the ocean region right on the surface. This net looks like a manta ray with a big aluminum mouth. After about a 5 min drag on the surface at 2 knots or so, we reeled it in and took a look at what we caught. First off, I was amazed at how much human detritus we caught, bits of plastic, paper and paint.  Even though it was a test run, we still caught a ton of critters as well. We saw a ton of fish eggs (almost translucent spheres), and two baby Velella velella or “by-the-wind-sailors”. The latter are colonial organisms that have a hard gelatinous top with a sail.

At 9:00PM we did our first official 5-minute neuston haul. It was a great one! They got about five live baby rockfish that were just past larval and moving towards the juvenile stage. After that, we put ISIIS back in the water under a newly-risen full moon. When we started at about 9:45PM the moon was blood red and we all saw a UFO (unidentified flying object). It was a bright light just as the sun was going down and you could only see the moon and a few stars. This bright object –as bright as Saturn –was moving erratically, but on a steady path to the north. I think it was a satellite on a north-south path and the erratic nature of its motion was due to our motion.

Andy Bedingfield teaches Science at Taft 7-12 High School in Lincoln City and is part of the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program on the R/V Atlantis cruise taking place July 13-27, 2019.