Day 4: Marine Science Academy

Apologies for how long it has taken to get this post ready and up…the final post should come along tomorrow to finish up the week of our Marine Science Academy

The fourth day of our Marine Science Academy took place mostly back around Carteret Community College. We started off the morning with two activities to culminate our work at Cape Lookout from Tuesday.

Graphing Transect Data
After the students collected data on the topography of the beach Tuesday, we had to work to make sense out of what they had compiled. Students used Microsoft Excel and created a surface map chart of the data. Many of the students had used Excel before, but this was an authentic use similar to one in a marine science career and many of the students were amazed at how closely their model resembled the area of the beach they were mapping.

Biological Sampling Comparison
On Cape Lookout during the Tuesday rotations, one activity was to count the number of snails in the saltwater marsh. Students found a tremendous number of snails in the natural marsh. Behind the Community College, the Coastal Federation has been working to grow an artificial marsh by planting Spartina alterniflora. The group went down to the manmade marsh and did the same sample collection finding significantly fewer snails. Though the man-made marsh looks healthy and thriving, this serves as evidence that we can’t create overnight what nature has taken years and years to perfect.

Sea Turtle Dissection
After the morning sessions, we headed back over to the NC State Marine Lab for a sea turtle necropsy. Many of the students in our group had professed a desire to be marine biologists in the future. What better way to get a handle on this than to get into some real work exploring what caused the death of a marine animal? The only problem was, after the first cut, a good 20 of our 55 students were headed outside for some air!

Sea turtle necropsy...loggerhead turtle on Twitpic

Dr. Craig Harms led the necropsy of a juvenile loggerhead sea turtle. He led us through a discussion of some of the external anatomy of the turtle prior to the dissection. He explained that our turtle was a juvenile and we wouldn’t know if it was male or female until we got a look inside. He also pointed out two gashes that appeared to be caused by a boat motor or two on the exterior of the turtle’s shell. From there, he began the necropsy. Many kids were right there, front and center, ready to see what was going on. Many others discovered that their interest in biology was strictly for invertebrates and microbiology.

Dr. Harms took us through all the parts of the turtle’s internal anatomy. We discovered that our turtle was a female and her last meal appeared to be a crab. From the internal blood clots, we found that she was alive at the time she was hit by the boat props. Those wounds were likely what lead to her death, as everything else appeared to be healthy. After the information was collected, students had an opportunity to explore the anatomy of the turtle


I went to science camp and all I got to do was dissect a turtle on Twitpic

Living on the Aquarius
After lunch, we headed to the lecture hall of the community college for a presentation by Dr. Niels Lindquist. Dr. Lindquist has been on numerous missions aboard the Aquarius, an underwater research vessel. Each stay lasted from a week to 10 days for a total of nearly 70 days underwater. Dr. Lindquist shared some experience about living underwater and his research on sponges. It was rather surprising how interesting a discussion of sponges could be. He rounded out the talk discussing stewardship of our oceans and sounds. The main thing he was trying to make students aware of was the increasing numbers of lionfish in the coastal waters of the US. He shared with us this video with some surprising statistics about the proliferation of lionfish along coastal waters.

NC Maritime Museum
Our final stop on day four was a trip to Beaufort, NC (in NC we pronounce it “bow-fort”) to the North Carolina Maritime Museum. At the museum we had the kids go through five stations where they learned about the history of boat making in North Carolina. At one station, they were taken through some hands on exhibits of the different kinds of watercraft that were historically made or used in North Carolina waters. The highlight of this area was the pulley display where I got to discuss some of the physics behind simple machines as there were four different block and tackle systems set up to lift the same amount of weight.

Next, our kids got a chance to head up to the observation deck atop the Maritime Museum. From here we looked a bit at the landscape of the area. We could see the lighthouse on Cape Lookout approximately 10 miles away, Fort Macon, Carrot Island, Shackleford Island, Piver’s Island, and a number of other local landmarks from the observation deck.

Then we headed back inside for a scavenger hunt of the museum. The hunt took us through a look at the history of Blackbeard the pirate, boat making in NC, underwater diving apparatus, clipper ships, and tools of the seafaring trade.

After that, we headed across the street to the watercraft shop, where students got a chance to try out their boat-making skills first hand. Students got to experience planing boards, making pegs, drilling holes, and a number of the other parts of hand crafting a sea-going vessel.

Putting the kids to work...we've got a lot of work before the... on Twitpic

Finally, we headed into the library at the museum to hear a brief discussion about the efforts to raise the wreckage of what is believed to be Blackbeard’s flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, just off the coast of Beaufort. There have been a number of pieces recovered that date to the time period of the sinking of the QAR, and several other discoveries that make historians believe that this wreckage is actually that of Blackbeard’s ship. Students got a brief history lesson, as well as a science lesson on the restoration process of some of the cannon and other recovered pieces.


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