Archive for the ‘Science Education’ Category

Savannah newspaper article features UGA Skidaway Institute and R/V Savannah

July 5, 2016

The Savannah Morning News published a nice article over the weekend on the Rivers to Reefs teacher development program produced by Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Although the Rivers to Reefs is not a Skidaway Institute program, the last day of the experience was on board the Research Vessel Savannah. The ship and Skidaway scientist Marc Frischer are prominently featured. Here is a link to the article and also to a slide show on the SMN Web site. Kudos to Dash Coleman for an excellent article and beautiful pictures.

http://savannahnow.com/education-news-news/2016-07-02/georgia-teachers-get-muddy-drenched-and-familiar-fish-trip-savannah

Photo Slide Show:

http://savannahnow.com/slideshow/2016-06-30/rivers-reefs-2016-expedition-grays-reef-national-marine-sanctuary#slide-1

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VIDEO — Teachers participate in hands-on science research on UGA Skidaway Institute research cruises

June 20, 2016

Teachers join UGA Skidaway Institute research cruises

June 9, 2016

JoCasta Green became a teacher after she was told as a child she couldn’t be a scientist because she was a girl. In May, the pre-K teacher from Decatur, Georgia, achieved a small piece of her childhood dream by joining a research cruise on board the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography’s Research Vessel Savannah. Green was one of two teachers on the overnight cruise, some of the first to participate in a cooperative program between UGA Skidaway Institute and Georgia Southern University’s Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM Education (i2STEMe).

“Because I am an elementary teacher, I was afraid that maybe I shouldn’t have applied,” Green said. “However, once I got here and everyone was so interested and wanted to share, I really did learn a lot.”

JoCasta Green (right) learns how to prepare a conductivity-temperature-depth sensor array for deployment with the help of Natalia Lopez Figueroa from Hampton University.

JoCasta Green (right) learns how to prepare a conductivity-temperature-depth sensor array for deployment with the help of Natalia Lopez Figueroa from Hampton University.

UGA Skidaway Institute scientist Marc Frischer led the cruise with the aim to hunt, collect and study doliolids — a small gelatinous organism of great significance to the ecology and productivity of continental shelf environments around the world. Green and middle school teacher Vicki Albritton of Savannah were the only teachers on board and were able to actively participate in the research activities.

“I think giving any teacher the opportunity come to out to sea is an amazing experience,” Frischer said. “I think it’s transformative, but to have them integrated into the research, we haven’t really done that before.”

JoCasta Green and Marc Frischer chat during the cruise.

JoCasta Green and Marc Frischer chat during the cruise.

Green and Albritton participated in the deck activities. They helped launch the CTD (conductivity-temperature-depth) sensor packages mounted on heavy metal frames and deployed plankton nets that concentrated a wide variety of tiny marine creatures into a small container. The two teachers then worked with the science team in the darkened wet lab to sort through gallons of water and to isolate the doliolids they were seeking.

“I was hoping to see science in action, and I did that all day long,” Albritton said. “I got to participate and learn what was going on and take many pictures, and now I have a wealth of information to take back to the classroom.”

Albritton says an experience like the cruise raises teachers’ credibility in the classroom, because the students see the teachers going out to learn more themselves. “If I want them to be perpetual learners, then I need to demonstrate that same trait,” she said.

Although Green admitted she was nervous about the cruise initially, she credited the scientists with making her comfortable. “They were great teachers,” she said. “I understood what we were doing and why we were doing it.”

Albritton echoed Green’s thoughts and cited the graciousness of everyone she encountered on the cruise. “There wasn’t condescension or an implication that we didn’t know anything,” she said. “There was genuine respect for all of us as professionals in our fields. That was really wonderful.”

A research cruise on the 92-foot R/V Savannah will never be confused with a luxury vacation cruise. Green and Albritton agreed the food was good, but the working spaces were tight and the bunks and cabins even more so.

Green and Albritton were the second group of teachers to join an R/V Savannah research cruise through the partnership with Georgia Southern’s i2STEMe program. The goal of the i2STEMe program is to improve the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics at all levels from kindergarten through college throughout coastal Georgia.

The partnership between UGA Skidaway Institute and i2STEMe is expected to grow. Five additional doliolid cruises are scheduled this year with space available for as many as four teachers on each cruise. UGA Skidaway Institute will also offer two half-day cruises this month as part of i2STEMe’s summer professional development workshop for teachers.

According to Frischer, the ultimate goal of scientific research is to generate and communicate information. “Teachers are some of our most important communicators,” he said. “They communicate to the next generation, so I think it is really special to be able to bring teachers right to where the research is happening. It gives them a total perspective, not only on what we are doing, but how research works and to communicate that to their students.”

Both Green and Albritton said they would encourage their fellow teachers to take advantage of opportunities like this. “You would be crazy not to, in terms of learning and what you can bring back to the kids in your classroom,” Albritton said. “It’s an experience you will never forget.”

The cruise was part of a research project, The Cryptic Diet of the Globally Significant Pelagic Tunicate Dolioletta Gegenbauri, funded by a grant (Grant numbers OCE 1459293 & OCE 1459510) from the National Science Foundation’s Biological Oceanography program. The grant includes two ship days per year to support broader impact goals of providing experiential learning opportunities for educators.

Vicki Albritton (l) and JoCasta Green

Vicki Albritton (l) and JoCasta Green

Skidaway Marine Science Day video on YouTube

December 1, 2015

Our annual campus-wide open house event, Skidaway Marine Science Day, was held on Saturday, October 24. Here is a a quick look at the fun and activities.

Skidaway-Sapelo summer course featured in Georgia Magazine

September 3, 2015

The UGA  joint summer research methods course, taught partially at UGA Skidaway Institute, was the featured cover story in the latest issue of Georgia Magazine. The four-week course was split between the UGA Marine Institute on Sapelo Island and Skidaway Institute. Click on the cover to read this very nice article.

GM_Sept15

UGA Coastal Summer Course at Skidaway Institute

July 13, 2015

Scientists use underwater robots to excite students about science

December 4, 2014

Educators and scientists from the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the UGA Marine Extension Service have developed a novel education program based on ocean robots to spark an interest in science and mathematics in middle and high school students. The team invented a board game that lets students explore different strategies for navigating autonomous underwater vehicles, called AUVs or gliders, through the ocean.

The program, “Choose Your Own Adventure,” capitalizes on Skidaway Institute’s expertise with AUVs and MAREX’s extensive history of marine education. Skidaway Institute scientist and UGA faculty member Catherine Edwards and MAREX faculty members Mary Sweeney-Reeves and Mare Timmons are directing the one-year project, which demonstrates the decision-making process in “driving” gliders.

Gliders are untethered, torpedo-shaped vehicles that are launched into the ocean to collect data as they move through the water. They glide up and down by adjusting their buoyancy and pitch. Gliders can remain on a mission for weeks at a time, equipped with sensors and recorders to collect observations of temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and other biological and physical conditions, even under the roughest weather. Every four to six hours over their mission, they surface and connect to servers on land to report their position and vehicle and mission information. They also can send data back to shore or receive new instructions from pilots anywhere in the world. Skidaway Institute’s glider, nicknamed “Modena,” has been used in several recent projects, including “Gliderpalooza,” a simultaneous, cooperative launch of dozens of AUVs from different institutions in 2013 and again in 2014.

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Skidaway Institute scientist Catherine Edwards and MAREX faculty member Mare Timmons (far right) cheer on a small child who tried her hand at the “Choose Your Own Adventure” game at Skidaway Marine Science Day on Oct. 25.

“Gliders are education-friendly, but the existing outreach activities are stale,” Edwards said. “We are developing the next generation of AUV outreach programs by combining cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research with educational activities and strong STEM components.”

The AUV activity/game is a part of an outreach program targeting mostly middle school students and it highlights the problem of working with the strong tides that are characteristic of the Georgia coast. A big issue in operating gliders is developing a guidance and navigation system that will function well in strong currents. The fast-moving Gulf Stream, located roughly 100 miles off the Georgia beaches, also introduces navigation problems.

“Although the AUVs have Global Positioning Systems and can be programmed to travel a set course, tidal and Gulf Stream currents can exceed the glider’s forward speed, which can take the instrument off course and keep us from collecting data where we need it,” Edwards said. “By estimating forecasts of these currents in advance, our software system can predict the best possible route for the glider to take, which helps collect the best possible data.”

On the education side, the predictability of tides makes the proposed program highly intuitive and education-friendly. The activity/game incorporates student role-playing as an AUV maneuvers through a playing field of vector currents on a game board. The student decides how many of his or her moves to spend fighting the current and how many to spend moving toward the finish line. Successful arrival at the destination depends on how the individual pilot responds to currents en route.

Activities depend on grade level, so middle school students have different objectives than those in high school. However, all the activities address the direction and speed the AUV travels to a destination. The AUV direction and speed will depend on the sea state, such as strong currents, storms or high winds.

Teachers April Meeks and Ben Wells from Oglethorpe Academy have offered their classes as a test-bed for the game. The two have worked closely with the team to integrate classroom concepts into the game and guide discussions about strategy based on the math. Since the activities are multidisciplinary, the teachers’ expertise in building a math curriculum has been valuable as the team integrates concepts of marine science, math and engineering into classroom activities. Rolling giant dice is a fun activity that attracts the students—everyone wants to roll the dice. So far, the feedback has been very positive.

“The students really seem to love it,” Sweeney-Reeves said. “More importantly, they are making the connection between the game and science, and learning.

“It took a period of time for some students to understand the concept but after starting the second round, they had the game/activity figured out. The excitement peaked at Oglethorpe Middle School when Mr. Wells played against the students and we really saw the competition heat up.”

Edwards added, “We knew we had a hit when we saw students jump up in celebration when the currents were favorable and pout when they were blown off course.”

The team demonstrated the game at the campus’s annual open house, Skidaway Marine Science Day, in late October, with a life-sized version of the board game with giant dice. Over 120 students played the game, racing against each other as they explored different strategies to win in three- to five-person heats. Sweeney-Reeves and Timmons also rolled out the game for educators at the Georgia Association of Marine Educators annual conference on Tybee Island earlier this month.

“The conference attendees were excited to use the giant dice to roll and hedge their bets on where they could navigate to the finish line,” Timmons said. “This is much like how the AUV is programmed to reach its sampling assignment in the ocean.”

Timmons said the teachers at the conference laughed as they saw the big game board spread out on the sidewalk. “Towards the end as teachers were close to the finish line they shouted, ‘right!’, mentally trying to encourage the roll of the die to their advantage.”

Timmons and Sweeney-Reeves think the game has real-life applications and hope the students can use the concepts they learn in the classroom for swimming in our own local waters. The next step is to expand the classroom demonstrations to Coastal Middle School in Chatham County and Richmond Hill Middle School.

The activities allow students to develop analytical skills in a program that will be compliant with Next Generation Science Standards for the 21st Century in the common core state curriculum.

“We hope this one-year program will serve as a springboard for future funding and continued joint outreach by Skidaway Institute and Marine Extension,” Edwards said. “We’d love to develop computer games and apps for tablets and mobile phones that let students fly gliders through even more realistic scenarios based on the measurements we collect in real time.”

The program is being funded through a joint grant from Skidaway Institute, UGA Office of Public Service and Outreach, and the UGA President’s Venture Fund. The UGA President’s Venture Fund is intended to assist with significant funding challenges or opportunities. The fund also supports small programs and projects in amounts typically ranging from $500 to $5,000.

The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is a research unit of the University of Georgia located on Skidaway Island. Its mission is to provide a nationally and internationally recognized center of excellence in marine science through research and education. The UGA Marine Extension Service is a unit of the Office of Public Service and Outreach.

For additional information, contact Catherine Edwards at 912-598-2471 or catherine.edwards@skio.uga.edu; Mary Sweeney-Reeves at 912-598-2350 or msweeney@uga.edu; or Maryellen Timmons at 912-598-2353 or mare@uga.edu.

Skidaway Institute intern wins research prize

July 16, 2014

Candy v wAn undergraduate student who conducted her research at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will attend a prestigious international science conference as a reward for winning the Outstanding Research Paper in the Savannah State University’s Bridge to Research program.

Candilianne Serrano Zayas’ paper was chosen from 10 others and tied for first place. She will attend the international science conference sponsored by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography meeting in Granada, Spain, in February 2015.

Zayas is a rising junior and biology major at the Universidad Metropolitana in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her research project studied the microbiological community present in dolphins.

“One of the reasons this is important is because bottlenose dolphins are a marine sentinel species,” Zayas said. “This means that their health can be indicative of the health of the overall environment, which in the case of dolphins is our coastal waters.”

Zayas believes what made her project special was that it involved both field and lab work, and it created an interesting and important relationship between human health and animal health. “You don’t need to take a molecular biology class to understand how it works, so it makes it so much easier to explain to different audiences.”

Zayas worked in the lab of Skidaway Institute professor Marc Frischer, who praised her and her mentors.

“The combination of a good student, an appropriate project and, most importantly, a stellar mentor shoots these students to the stars,” Frischer said.

Zayas was mentored by SSU graduate student Kevin McKenzie, who is also a member of the Frischer research team. Zayas echoed Frischer’s praise. “Kevin took the time to explain it all to me, even two or three times, and he taught me everything I did on this project,” she said.

In the 2013, McKenzie mentored another REU student who also won this prestigious award. Kristopher Drummond, an SSU student and star football player for SSU, has continued the research he started and plans to continue his studies.

Zayas says she plans to complete her bachelor’s degree in Puerto Rico and then attend graduate school.

Zayas shared the first place honor with SSU student Darius Sanford, who worked at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and who will also attend the ASLO meeting.

Launched in 2009, the SSU Bridge to Research in Marine Sciences program is a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program. The SSU program has proven successful in inspiring under-represented student populations to pursue degrees and careers in science and technology-based research fields.

“African-Americans are greatly underrepresented in the ocean sciences,” SSU professor Tara Cox explained. “Of the 28 students who have completed the program, 20 are African-American.”

The seven-week 2014 Bridge to Research program began with field trips and classroom work covering research basics. The students then took a two-day research cruise on Skidaway Institute’s Research Vessel Savannah. They then were paired with a mentor at one of the participating organizations—Savannah State University, UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary or Georgia Tech-Savannah. During this partnership, they conducted research and then presented it at a public forum.

Hunting microplastics on Tybee Island

July 10, 2014

UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography’s Jay Brandes joined a group of K-12 teachers on an excursion to find microplastics in the beach sand on Tybee Island. The teacher workshop was sponsored by the UGA Marine Extension Service and coordinated by Dodie Sanders.

The trip on July 8 generated coverage from two local TV stations (WTOC-TV and WSAV-TV) and the Savannah Morning News. As of this morning, the newspaper article has not yet been published.

Dodie Sanders (in the blue shirt) gives instructions to the teachers.

Dodie Sanders (in the blue shirt) gives instructions to the teachers.

Three teachers sift through the same looking for tiny particles of plastics.

Three teachers sift through the same looking for tiny particles of plastics.

Dr. Jay Brandes is interviewed by WTOC-TV reporter Elizabeth Rawlins and photographer Channing Meacham.

Dr. Jay Brandes is interviewed by WTOC-TV reporter Elizabeth Rawlins and photographer Channing Meacham.

Scientists use underwater robots to excite students about science

March 3, 2014

Can underwater robots catch the imagination of middle and high school students and spark an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics? Researchers and educators from the University of Georgia’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and Marine Extension (MAREX) think so. They are creating an education program focused on autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), also called gliders or underwater robots.

The program, “Choose Your Own Adventure,” will capitalize on Skidaway Institute’s expertise with AUVs and MAREX’s extensive history of marine education. Skidaway Institute scientist and UGA faculty member Catherine Edwards, and MAREX faculty members Mary Sweeney-Reeves and Mare Timmons will direct the one-year project.

Catherine Edwards (center) demonstrates an AUV to Mary Sweeney-Reeves (left) and Mare Timmons.

Catherine Edwards (center) demonstrates an AUV to Mary Sweeney-Reeves (left) and Mare Timmons.

The AUVs are a cutting-edge technology in marine research. The torpedo-shaped vehicles can be equipped with sensors and recorders to collect observations under all conditions. They are launched into the ocean and move through the water by adjusting their buoyancy and pitch. Because they are highly energy-efficient, gliders can remain on a mission for weeks at a time. Every four to six hours over their mission, they surface, report their data by satellite phone and receive instructions as needed.

Skidaway Institute’s AUV, nicknamed “Modena,” has been used in several recent projects, including “Gliderpalooza,” a simultaneous, cooperative launch of 13 AUVs from different institutions in 2013.

“Gliders are education-friendly, but the existing outreach activities are stale,” said Edwards. “Our program will develop the next generation of AUV outreach programs by combining cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research with educational activities and strong STEM components.”

The proposed work will highlight the problem of working with the strong tides that are characteristic of the Georgia coast. A big issue in operating gliders there is developing a guidance and navigation system that will function well in that kind of environment. The fast-moving Gulf Stream, located roughly 100 miles off the Georgia beaches, also introduces navigation problems.

“Although the AUVs have Global Positioning Systems and can be programmed to travel a set course, tidal and Gulf Stream currents can exceed the glider’s forward speed, which can take the instrument off course and keep us from collecting data where we need it,” Edwards said.

However, on the education side, the predictability of tides makes the proposed program highly intuitive and education-friendly.

“Students who grow up and live on the water already have an intuitive sense of tidal currents,” said Timmons. “Students understand why currents change during certain phases of the moon. This coastal intuition will provide a foundation for us to start an innovative, hands-on approach to STEM activities.”

Activities will depend on grade level so middle school students will have different objectives than those in high school. However, all the activities will address the direction and speed the AUV travels to a destination. The AUV direction and speed will depend on the sea state of coastal waters such as strong currents, storms or high winds.

To address the problem of strong tides, Edwards and a team of Georgia Tech graduate students, co-advised by Fumin Zhang, have developed the Glider Environmental Network Information System, called GENIoS, which optimizes a glider’s path based on data from real-time observations and ocean models. Current doctoral students Dongsik Chang and Sungjin Cho are working to upgrade the system to integrate real-time maps of surface currents measured by Skidaway Institute radar systems.

The education plan is to involve two local educators, April Meeks and Ben Wells, who teach in the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System. Since the activities are multidisciplinary, their expertise in building math curriculum will be valuable as the team integrates concepts of marine science, math and engineering into classroom activities.

“After the initial planning phase, we will be taking the program on the road to Chatham County schools,” said Sweeney-Reeves.

Activities will include student role-playing as an AUV maneuvers through a playing field of vector currents on a large game board. Successful arrival at their destination depends on how the individual pilot responds to currents, wind and density changes in route.

“The real fun will begin when obstacles, like underwater volcanoes, a giant squid or other surprises, cause the pilot to reroute the course of the AUV,” said Sweeney-Reeves.

The activities will allow students to develop analytical skills in a program that will be compliant with Next Generation Science Standards for the 21st Century in the common core state curriculum.

The funded study will include two short glider deployments. A summer 2014 deployment will be used for field-testing, software validation and developing real-world scenarios for the outreach program. A fall deployment will serve as an opportunity for classroom participants to communicate with the glider in real time.

“We hope this one-year program will serve as a springboard for future funding and continued joint outreach by Skidaway Institute and Marine Extension,” said Edwards. “We’d love to develop computer games and apps for tablets and mobile phones that let students fly gliders through even more realistic scenarios based on the measurements we collect in real time.”

The program is being funded through a joint grant from Skidaway Institute, UGA Public Service and Outreach, and the UGA President’s Venture Fund. The UGA President’s Venture Fund is intended to assist with significant funding challenges or opportunities. The fund also supports small programs and projects in amounts typically ranging from $500 to $5,000.

For additional information, contact Catherine Edwards at 912-598-2471 or catherine.edwards@skio.uga.edu; Mary Sweeney-Reeves at 912-598-2350 or msweeney@uga.edu; or Maryellen Timmons at 912-598-2353 or mare@uga.edu.