Caitlin Fine: Introduction, July 26, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Caitlin Fine
Onboard University of Miami Ship R/V Walton Smith
August 2 – 6, 2011

Mission: South Florida Bimonthly Regional Survey
Geographical Area: South Florida
Date: July 26, 2011

Personal Log

Hola! My name is Caitlin Fine and I teach science at Escuela Key (Francis Scott Key School), a dual-language immersion elementary school in Arlington, VA. I am a Virginia native and my heart is constantly torn between the lively activities of the Washington, D.C. area and the peaceful beauty of the Shenandoah Valley. I left Virginia for college and graduate school, but returned 4 years ago to begin my teaching career for Arlington County Public Schools.

Caitlin Fine

On top of Aspen Mountain during a recent trip to Colorado

Although I majored in Political Science and Spanish Literature and I have graduate degrees in Spanish Literature and Multicultural Education, I have always been interested in science. During college, I worked on an organic farm in Andalucia, Spain that practiced permaculture (this is a way of using the land that is sustainable so that the soil does not use-up all of its nutrients). I also traveled around the Southern Cone of South America (Chile, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil) studying the geology of the region. As you can see, I have some experience with farming and the mountains. But I have never really spent an extended time at sea — I have never slept on a boat or studied the marine ecosystems up close and personal over a period of time. I hope that I am not seasick!

My interest in science mixed with my love of cooking has created a current obsession — the health of our national and global food and water supplies. Did you know that every time we take medicine or use pesticides on our plants, a small amount of it enters the water supply and some of it ends up in the rivers and oceans nearby where fish and water plants are trying to live?

The science program at Key is a bit different from traditional elementary schools in that there are three science teachers who teach all 630 students. For the past two years, I have taught the Kindergarteners, the 2nd graders and half of the 5th graders. Key kids are amazing scientists — they are full of questions about how the world works and they are not afraid to get busy trying to figure things out on their own through hands-on inquiry and cooperative learning. I cannot wait to return to Key with new knowledge of oceanography, ocean-related careers and ways to monitor the health of the ocean to share with my students and colleagues!

I am so excited to be a Teacher at Sea for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s 2011 Field Season! Teacher at Sea is a program that provides allows Kindergarten through college-level teachers to live and work alongside scientists on research and survey ships. The goal of the program is to help teachers understand our ocean planet, environmental literacy, and maritime work so that they can return to the classroom and share information with their students about what it is like to be a real scientist who studies the ocean.

I will be on a 5-day cruise on the R/V Walton Smith in south Florida.

R/V Walton Smith

This is the R/V Walton Smith

From what I understand, we will be taking measurements across the south Florida coastal marine ecosystem (the southwest Florida shelf, Biscayne and Florida Bays, and the Florida Keys reef tract). The program is important because the research has helped scientists keep an eye on the sensitive marine habitats, especially when the ecosystem has had to deal with extreme events, such as hurricanes, harmful algal blooms or potential oil spill contaminants. We will test the circulation, salinity, water quality and biology of the ecosystem.

Drainage Basin

The currents might move some of the Mississippi River water toward south Florida

During this cruise, I have been told that we might be able to measure Mississippi River water because it might enter our survey track.

Scientists are also going to be trying out new optical measurement tools! It sounds as though I will have a lot to report back to you about!

Please leave me a comment or any questions you have about the cruise.

Please take a moment to take my poll:

10 responses to “Caitlin Fine: Introduction, July 26, 2011

  1. Hello Sra. Fine, This is Clarence, Cesar, JJ, and JC , rising 5th graders from Key. We are studying with Mr.Palacios in summer school and when we come back to Key are you going to still be there? Will you be our teacher next year? Are you going to bring a plant or a bug or a submarine or fish back for us to see? A shark would be cool! I hope you come back safe. We will check back next week. !

    • Hi Clarence, Cesar, JJ, and JC! Thanks for following my blog! I plan to be your teacher for 5th grade science. I do not think that I will bring back actual plants or fish, but I will bring back lots of photos and video of plants and fish. I will also bring back videos of the scientists using really cool instruments and talking about what they do as marine scientists. So far, I have helped them test the water quality and collect seaweed and plankton and small fish. Plankton are organisms that are so small that they can not swim on their own – the ocean current moves them from place to place. Please post more questions!

  2. So exciting C! Ask if the oil spills in the gulf are making their way over to the Keys. Are residual chemicals drifting?? Ok keep us updated!!

  3. I love your nail polish Mrs. Fine! But on a serious note…has Tropical Storm Emily been an issue this week? Are you able to compare you water quality samples with Teacher at Sea experiments from last year? I know that we are all curious about the changes in our oceans especially with all the water pollution that is happening. It is Shark week which also makes me wonder what kinds of sharks you might have seen. Are there certain types of fish that you should not eat due to high mercury levels?

    I love that you are teaching children that teachers keep learning as well!
    Hope that your mission is a success!
    Coach Pond

    • Tropical Storm Emily looks like it will not be as big a storm by the time we are on our way back to Miami on Saturday. The scientists are constantly comparing their water quality samples from previous surveys. I am bringing a lot of data home with me so our kids can look at the data in their science classes and come to their own conclusions/inferences. We have not seen any sharks, although I’ve been told that they are out there. We have seen lots of jellyfish, small fish, seaweed and the night shift saw dolphins at sunrise yesterday morning. Thanks for reading my blog and for posting comments!

  4. Hi Xan, from your kindergarten class. I want to know what kind of sharks are there where you are that you might see and can they be killed by dolphins?

    • Hi Xan! We could see nurse sharks, bonnethead sharks, tiger sharks, blacktip sharks, lemon sharks, and spinner sharks to name a few. They cannot be killed by dolphins. Here is more information about Florida sharks.

  5. Hi C! How awesome you are! Audrey wants to know if you have seen any dolphins, manatees, jellyfish, manarays or angel fish. Will you still be her teacher in third grade?

    Are you able to snorkle or scuba dive to collect your samples? Have you seen any live coral reef ecosystems and/or artificially made ones by sinking old ships down to the ocean floor?

    Also with global warming, are the water temperature warming up or cool off?

    Inquiring minds want to know. Take good care.
    Alina Sosa Trimble

  6. Hi C! How awesome you are! Audrey wants to know if you have seen any dolphins, manatees, jellyfish, manarays or angel fish. Will you still be her teacher in third grade?

    Are you able to snorkle or scuba dive to collect your samples? Have you seen any live coral reef ecosystems and/or artificially made ones by sinking old ships down to the ocean floor?

    Also with global warming, are the water temperature warming up or cool off? Inquiring minds want to know. Take good care.
    Alina Sosa Trimble

    • Audrey and Alina,
      Thanks for checking the blog! You have a lot of great questions!

      We are now in the Gulf of Mexico and this morning I saw a group of dolphins swimming near the boat. Their dorsal fins were coming out of the water. There were about 4 or 5 of them. The were very beautiful.

      I have also see A LOT of jellyfish. They are so beautiful in the water – it is hard to believe that they can sting things. We have been collecting a lot of jellyfish in the tow net that we drag along the side of the boat several times a day, so I have some close-up pictures of them. One of the pictures is in my next blog – which should be posted soon so check back this evening!

      We are not assessing coral reef ecosystems, so I have not seen angel fish or any other coral reef fish.

      Later today or tomorrow we will probably see manatees as we move closer to the freshwater coastal shoreline.

      We are not able to snorkle or suba dive on this trip. We have a very large and heavy instrument (a CTD) that collects water samples from different depths and then we use a net to collect organisms that are floating at or near the surface of the water. I explain all of this a lot more in my upcoming post.

      With global warming, water temperatures in this are are generally warming up. Atmospheric temperatures in some places might be cooling, but in general ocean temperatures are warming up.

      I do not think that I will teach 3rd grade next school year. But I will check in on you, Audrey, to make sure that you are still asking good questions about our natural world! And my door is always open, so come hang-out with me whenever you want!

      I hope you are both enjoying your summer break! I can’t wait to hear about your adventures!
      Sra. Fine

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