NOAA Teacher at Sea
Soon to be Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 12 – 24, 2015
Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area: New England/Georges Bank
Date: May 28, 2015
Personal Log: Permission to Come Aboard?
Greetings from Austin, Texas. In less than two weeks, my grand summer adventure begins. I will be flying out of Austin, and heading to Boston where Peter Pan will magically transport me down the Woods (Rabbit?) Hole and out to sea aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp, where I will support scientists conducting a Sea Scallop Survey.
My Real Job
I teach at a fantastic public school in Austin that incorporates student interest surveys in lesson design and enrichment opportunities across subjects. Although we are within the city of Austin, our campus backs up to a wildlife preserve (30,000 acres, total) that was set aside as land use patterns changed, and threatened habitat and ecosystems of 2 endangered birds, 8 invertebrates and 27 other species deemed “at risk.” We have about 5 “wildspace” acres on our actual campus property that is unfenced to the larger Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. We use that space as our own laboratory, and over the last decade, fifth grade students at our school have designed, constructed and continue to support the ecosystem through ponds supported by rainwater collection (yes, they are quite full at the moment!), a butterfly habitat, water-harvesting shelter/outdoor classroom, grassland/wildflower prairie and a series of trails. In the spring, I post job descriptions for projects that need work in our Preserve and students formally apply for a job (i.e. – resume/cover letter). They spend the balance of the spring working outdoors, conducting research relating to their job, and doing their part to develop a culture and heritage of sustainability on our campus that transcends time as students move beyond our campus during their educational journey. My path through the curriculum is rooted in constructivist learning theory (project-based, place-based and service learning) and students are always outdoors. Parents, of course, always get a huge “thank you” at the end of the year from me for not complaining that I’ve ruined too many pairs of shoes.
Below are a few pictures from our game cameras and shots I’ve taken of my classes in action this spring.
As I write, there are about 5 days left of this school year, which means that most of our big projects are complete and the rain has paused, so we’re spending a few days having a big “mechanical energy ball” competition (aka – “kickball”), and I get the distinct feeling that the students are quite prepared for their summer break!
I was an “oilfield kid” and grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana, the heart of Cajun Country, and about an hour’s drive to the Gulf of Mexico. In college, I worked in the oilfield a bit, and after finishing law school, I was a maritime attorney, so I was able to spend some time aboard vessels for various purposes. My time aboard the Hugh R. Sharp will be my longest stint aboard a vessel, and I’m quite excited for the work!
R/V Hugh R. Sharp (btw students, it is a vessel or ship, not a “boat”) is a 146-foot general purpose research vessel owned by the University of Delaware (go Fighting Blue Hens!). Each summer I get a travel coffee mug from the college where I attend a professional development course, and I’m hopeful I can find one with a picture of YoUDee on it this year!
While aboard the vessel, we will be conducting surveys to determine the distribution and abundance of scallops. My cruise is the third (and northernmost) leg of the surveys, and we’ll spend our time dredge surveying, doing an image based survey using a tethered tow-behind observation vehicle, and some deeper water imaging of lobster habitat. Those of you who know me, know that I am genuinely and completely excited and grateful for the opportunity to “nerd out” on this once-in-a-lifetime get-away-from-it-all adventure! Check back over the summer and see what I’ve been up to!