NOAA Teacher at Sea
Preparing to board R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 5 – June 21, 2017
Mission: Sea Scallop/Integrated Benthic Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Northeastern U.S. Atlantic Coast
Date: May 30, 2017
How do you prepare yourself mentally for something to which you have no comparison? I, Terry Maxwell, have wrestled with this question since I was notified on February 1st, 2017 that I would be a part of a research cruise in the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program. Do not get me wrong, the people at NOAA have been awesome in answering my questions and providing resources to interact with to prepare for this mission. However, I have lived my whole life in the flat land of Illinois. I am used to seeing for miles in all directions, but cannot imagine the views out on the ocean. I have taught science now for 13 years, but have never had an opportunity to work with scientists doing actual fieldwork and research. My mind is trying to process this upcoming incomparable experience right now.
I am a science teacher at Seneca High School in Seneca, Illinois. I will be starting my 6th year at Seneca High School next year, and going into my 14th as an educator. I mainly teach freshman physical science, but occasionally get the opportunity to teach a junior/senior environmental science class. Along with teaching I also am an assistant
football coach, assistant track coach, science club sponsor, and FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) huddle leader. I wear many different hats throughout the year, and have the support of an awesome family at home. It will be difficult to be away from my family for a couple weeks after a busy school year, but this is an amazing opportunity I had to apply for.
Why did I apply for Teacher At Sea?
I attended a NOAA workshop at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois titled “Why and How We Explore the Deep Ocean.” I went to the workshop to see if there was any ocean content I could work into my Integrated Physical Science class. At the workshop, I discovered the amount of ocean content that fits in with the physics and chemistry content I currently teach is numerous. The workshop was fantastic (if you are a teacher reading this I highly recommend you attend this workshop if it is available at a nearby location). Towards the end of the workshop, the presenter discussed the Teacher at Sea opportunity. I instantly knew I wanted to apply. I came home from the workshop and told my family, “I’m going to apply to go on a research vessel with NOAA this summer.” To which my wife (who has heard so many crazy ideas come out of my mouth) said, “Uh huh…okay.” My oldest daughter responded, “Only if I can go with you.” My son responds, “As long as it’s not over my birthday.” My youngest just put the free NOAA bag from the workshop on her head like a helmet, and ran around the room. So, with the obvious support of my family, I applied.
I had never felt so strongly about something. I wanted to be a part of this experience for many reasons. A) I wanted an experience working on an actually research mission. I consider this extremely valuable for my classroom moving forward. I envision taking research methods I learn from this trip and emulating them in my classroom. B) I seek to strengthen my weaknesses. My knowledge of ocean ecosystems is weak. Part of this is being land locked in Illinois. What better way to gain knowledge and appreciation for ocean ecosystems than to be a part of a team researching them? I think when you lack understanding about something it is much easier to disregard it. Ocean ecosystems are far too important to give little attention to them. C) Being about a 1/3rd of the way into my teaching career I am looking for an experience that can ignite new ideas, and help me grow as an educator. I am motivated and inspired by all kinds of simple things; I cannot imagine what this opportunity could do for me. D) I like fish. Simple I know, but its true. The science club I run is called Conservation in Action (yes the CIA), and one of the projects we currently have running is keeping cichlids that are endangered or threatened in the wild, in our classroom.
We currently have about 15 aquariums that some of our club members maintain with the goal of informing people of the plight of the Lake Victorian cichlids and other endangered fish, and keeping their population numbers in captivity healthy.
How can you prepare with me?
I would like to leave you with some resources that you can prepare for this trip with me. There have been several sources given to me by NOAA, and some others I have found to be valuable as well.
A) What ship will you be on? I will be on the Hugh R Sharp. You can find out more about this vessel here. This site from the University of Delaware even includes a video tour of the ship. This will answer a lot of questions about what day to day life may be like for me on the trip, though I will be posting more about that in the coming weeks.
B) What is a scallop survey? From what I understand, we will be collecting large amounts of samples from the ocean floor through dredging. The samples would be brought on board and counted. A record of overall population and populations at different life cycle stages is taken. A report from a past survey is found on the NOAA website, and that is linked here. This report by Dvora Hart is a great look at some of the technology and methods that may be used on this upcoming mission.
Did you know?
NOAA is predicting a more active than normal hurricane season in the Atlantic in 2017.
Always a good article to read right before heading out for a couple weeks into the Atlantic Ocean! However, I am not worried by this because I am in the hands of experts. It is always good to be prepared and aware though. The article is a good read with lots of links about NOAA’s weather predicting capabilities.
Above-normal Atlantic Hurricane Season is Most Likely This Year