AUBURN — A local educator created a cross-country connection last month when she went on a 10-day ocean science research expedition and allowed students here the opportunity to participate in a video conference with scientists aboard a research vessel.
Amy Work, geospatial information systems (GIS) analyst and education coordinator, can usually be found in the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology at Cayuga Community College.
But from Sept 7 to Sept. 18, Work was aboard the JOIDES (Joint Oceanographic Institutes for Deep Earth Sampling) Resolution, a scientific ocean research vessel that goes on four research expeditions per year to any location in the world, depending on the needs of the researchers whose proposals are accepted.
This time, the Resolution was 50 miles off the coast of Vancouver Island in the Pacific Northwest, Work said. Aboard the ship was the School of Rock, an “annual immersive earth science program” that targets educators, according to a press release from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership.
The School of Rock is coordinated by the Deep Earth Academy, an educational program supported by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, according to the press release.
The expedition’s mission was to install a permanent sub-seafloor monitoring instrument 300 meters below the ocean floor. The Resolution was 1,300 meters above the ocean floor as the hole for the instrument was drilled.
The instrument that was tucked into the Earth monitors temperature and pressure below the ocean floor, Work said. Knowing those variables can help scientists better understand earthquakes and the formation of gas hydrates under the ocean floor.
Work’s voyage had local connections, many of them made when she did a video conference from onboard the Resolution back to the world geography class she teaches at CCC. Work said the video conference connected her students with the real science that was happening at that moment in another part of the world.
“It was an opportunity to provide a real-world experience to students,” she said. “It was an automatic connection.”
Students also got to talk to scientists in different fields and ask them questions that came up in class or during the video conference.
“It was really that ability of students here at the college to connect with those scientists and researchers,” Work said. The scientists were really open and willing to discuss it.“
One of the scientists they were able to speak with studies dust to examine atmospheric records, Work said. Students in her class are learning about weather and climate patterns now, which is related to the study of atmospheric records because studying dust can tell researchers how the weather and climate were hundreds of years ago.
Other topics discussed during the video conference are future class materials, Work said. Earth’s physical processes, specifically plate tectonics, and the relationship between gas hydrates and climate are topics the class can look forward to, Work said.
Kris Ludwig, spokeswoman with the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, said another advantage of the School of Rock program is the ability to reach educators across the nation.
“There’s no way we can reach the thousands of teachers across the country,” she said. “We can bring (on the expedition) a few talented teachers like Amy who can in turn return to their communities and share their enthusiasm for science and ocean exploration.”
Work said her experience will reach farther than her CCC class. She intends to work toward a lecture series for a wider, community audience, she said. Now that she has formed an impressive network with the other educators and scientists that were with her on the Resolution, she can use those connections to help bring science education to the local area.
“The value is priceless,” Work said. “The information I’ve learned... I’m still digesting and still building upon that information.”
Staff writer Kelly Voll can be reached at 282-2239 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at CitizenVoll