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Teacher Sets Sails for Research Cruise: An Account of a Participant in the Teacher-at-Sea Program

What is the best way for a teacher to gain first-hand knowledge of oceanic science? How can a teacher partake in a unique, educational experience? By taking a cruise of course! Herb Bergamini, an 8th grade science teacher at the Northwest School in Seattle, participated in the Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algae Blooms Pacific Northwest (ECOHAB-PNW) project jointly funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NOAA in September.

Herb won a grant from NSF’s Research Experience for Teachers Program that allowed him the opportunity to take part in a research cruise. He boarded the RV Atlantis, which is owned by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, for a three-week cruise to survey areas off the coasts of Vancouver Island and Washington.

Research Vessel (RV) Atlantis

Research Vessel (RV) Atlantis

Bergamini and the team of researchers set out to study the ecology and oceanography of the toxic algae Pseudo-nitzschia, the formal name of a number of related species, which plague the waters off the Pacific Northwest coast. Pseudo-nitzschia produce, accumulate and release domoic acid (DA), a toxin found in shellfish that can be fatal to animals and humans. Bergamini’s role was to report and share the oceanographic research experience with the K-12 educational community.

They collected water samples at 107 stations in their survey area and incubated these samples in controlled conditions to see which conditions led to the enhancement or demise of Pseudo-nitzschia. The goal of the cruise is to understand the factors leading to the production of DA.

Vera Trainer, a co-principal investigator on the RV Atlantis, described this cruise as a great opportunity for the scientists, the teacher and the students. According to Trainer, it is a good way to reach students and have them learn about science.

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