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Midnight Sun in the Arctic


It is 12:00 am and Matt woke me up for my watch, as usual I pull on my boots and warm layers on then emerge from my cabin. I am in awe with what I see and immediately become wide awake. Just off the bow the persistent sun casts a glow behind intimidating dark towering shadows of what’s left of an old mountain chain created when two even older land masses collided some 1800 million years ago. The deformed rocks are topped off with snowy valleys at its peaks.  It is 6 degrees Celsius out, I wonder if that is usual.  Summer in Greenland was warmest on record last year in Kangerlussuaq, a town nearby where the average June temperature was 2.3 degrees Celsius above the 1981-2000 average. Due to multiple factors, including temperature the inland ice sheet lost 39.3% of its surface mass in 2014.

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Sailing to a Nearly Frozen World

Who cares about Greenland and why is the Ocean Research Project team going there? About 90% of the island is covered in ice and the people and animals who live there rely on it staying froze. They live along the rocky fringes separated around the island by partially frozen fjords and towering dynamic marine terminating glaciers where their means of survival, traveling and hunting by dogsled is threatened. When the ice sheet eventually melts at least 21 feet of sea level rise will occur globally, but when? Our observations will help scientists from NASA to determine the stability of the ice sheet and predict when the water will be displaced.

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Aaron Anthony’s Intership Blog

Blog 2 Aaron Anthony 8/11-8/22

I act as the grounds crew for Nicole and Matt who have been sailing up the Chesapeake Bay looking for tagged cow nose rays. They have been traveling with biotelemetry data using Vemco receivers (VR2W and VR100) trying to receive data from any tagged fish species swimming by. As grounds crew, I would receive data from Nicole and Matt they would send me the date of the find, time, transmitter number, and the coordinates. I would then take this data and find out the species of the fish, who tagged the fish and where the species were tagged. Then I would place the detection’s on Google Earth along with the paths and anchorage of Matt and Nicole.

James River Species Detections

James River Species Detections

I am able to figure out the species of fish and other information with the help of the crab lab at theSmithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC). I have been assisting with the crab lab through my internship with the Ocean research project. Learning about the studies they have at the lab. I have been helping out in a wide range of different labs. I have been helping out with the Chesapeake Bay river herring project where I would count river herring seen swimming through a river with dual- frequency identification sonar to monitor spawning runs through the Chesapeake Bay. I have also assisted with the predator prey interactions of crabs, shrimp and mummichogs. We would tether shrimp and mummichogs and check them over different time intervals of 15 minutes, 30 minutes,45 minutes, 60 minutes then 90 minutes to see if they were preyed upon, missing or if we caught a predator with the hook. For the crab predator prey we went dredging for juvenile crabs. And once we caught a good amount we would bring them back to the lab tether them, place them in one of the locations and check them after 24 hours to see if they were preyed upon. I have also helped with epibenthic fish and crab to understand annual and seasonal changes to community structure and population. For this project we went on a trawl in the Rhode river were we did 4 trawls with a net. We measured each species of fish we caught from bay anchovies to blue crabs. We caught many fish types and we would only measure the first twenty of the fish species. We then put in fishing lines to see if we could catch any striped bass or other fish species.

This internship in all has given me experience in scientific research and a better understanding of organisms in the Chesapeake Bay. I have also had experience in field work, lab work, and work on the computer as well. I am having a great time working here with everyone. In the future I will probably be spending less time at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center now that school is starting up soon. I can still do some work from my home computer such as placing detection marks on google earth but I will be coming in every now and then, when I receive data from Nicole and Matt so I can identify the species and so on.

Hopefully we will find some cownose rays soon.

-Aaron Anthony


Week 1 blog Aaron Anthony Ocean research project 8/4-8/8/2014

The first week is supposed to be the hardest but my experience so far has not been difficult. I have been exposed to many things I didn’t know before and I’m starting to find my interest in marine biology. I haven’t been receiving any date yet from Nicole and Matt but I am still put to work around SERC. I am working with the people of the Crab lab I was shown around the lab and I also have seen the projects there are doing and how long they run most of them have been running for over 10 years and even longer. The first project I assisted with was the Benthic Infauna Invertebrate Community. Infauna means aquatic animals that live in the substrate of a body of water. Benthic is defined as occurring of the bottom of the water. This project was created to see species differing habitats and fluctuating abundances over time and an understanding of the process that regulate their community and population dynamics. The Organisms that mostly live at the bottom of The Rhode River is Macro invertebrates such as crustaceans, mollusks and worms. The team will go out and take benthic samples from sites in the Rhode River. They are taken back and stained with Rose Bengal making the living organisms pink. Once stained samples are looked at through a microscope and are dissected and identified. Finding the species under the microscope was one of the jobs I continually worked on throughout the week I would find one and place them in a petri dish filled with DI water. Another project I helped with was the River Herring project. Using a DIDSON (Dual frequency Identification Sonar) reek by funneling the fish through the weir and at weekly intervals a net is deployed and the fish are studied and classified. We went out on the boat and got in the water to fix the gates where they are breaking and getting older. My first week has been great I will be looking forward to the next week and receiving data from Nicole and Matt.

Aaron Anthony

Have you seen a ray in the Chesapeake lately?

Some people call them skates or Stingrays, the Ocean Research Project team is looking for the cownose ray. A species that has experienced an increase in population due to the gradual decrease of their main predator, sharks. We are 7 days into conducting our Bay-Wide Biotelemetry Survey. We started near Jamestown 20+ miles up the James River and will be working our way to Annapolis after about 300 miles of acting as a mobile listening station. What does that mean? Probably sailing the bay under 2.0 knots, with one sail up but reefed. We are using multiple ultrasonic telemetry & tracking receivers underway and on anchor to occupy areas that have the potential for detecting marine species. There are many fixed receivers on buoys, bridge supports, and piers that line the shorelines of the bay. They can only detect a half a mile radius from their fixed location leaving a lot of uncovered area where tagged species are getting by unnoticed.

The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) has tagged cownose rays throughout the bay this summer and we hope to make their acquaintance really soon. One of our devices has a speaker that will actually let you hear when we have a visitor! When we sailed down the James we had multiple detections that were likely all sturgeon. There have been a variety of marine species (invasive and native) to the bay that bay scientists have tagged for research purposes including: Rays, sturgeon, bass, blue crabs, and blue catfish.

I hope we detect a variety of species in this survey. All of our detection data will make its way back to those scientists responsible for the tagged species. This information will shed light on the habits and migratory activity of these species which will allow bay scientists to better advise bay fishery resource managers who have the ability to modify regulation.

We are excited to have our 1st high school intern from Anne Arundel County Public School on the project. Aaron is busy acting as the data manager or Fish Spy Analyst and is stationed at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center creating a detection map with Google Earth as we send him available data.

92 miles

Mid-summer wind in the bay is minimal. We have been lucky that the winds fill in often in the evening allowing us to survey at night but leaving us on the hook during the day. We have become partially nocturnal. A few days ago our dinghy escaped! We had to book it in the middle of the night to a safe anchorage as a thunderstorm threatened to run us down. The next morning the bow u-bolt for our dinghy was all that was left on its line. Some eastern shore waterman will have a good find this week. Unfortunately, that leaves our boat without a little boat. This hiccup partially severs our tie to landside conveniences. So if you see us on anchor, come by and say hi!project. Aaron is busy acting as the data manager or Fish Spy Analyst and is stationed at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center creating a detection map with Google Earth as we send him available data.

Today we explore the York River where Virginia Institute of Marine Science VIMS helped tag and release rays for SERC. Tomorrow we hope the winds are favorable to start making our way up the bay potentially towards the Rappahannock or Tangier/Smith, areas where oyster & eel grass may attract our friends!


Nicole Trenholm


Receiver deployed

Receiver deployed

Matt and VR2W pre- receiver launch

Matt and VR2W pre- receiver launch

Testing receivers with pinging tag.

Testing receivers with pinging tag.

Response to Stem Students Elijah and Sarah

As we head Northwest every day that we trawl our samples increase in the amount of plastic micro-debris. The other day I amused myself for a few hours and I played a game trying to catch all the floating trash that went past the boat, with a large net while steering. There in the distance was a white floating object with a bird resting on top. It looked like a little ice berg. As it came close the bird flew away and I was in awe of the large chunk of foam. Every 5 minutes more debris would float by including, a car bumper, light bulbs and water bottles. I was certain that we reached the elusive North Pacific Gyre (Eastern Hemisphere). How does the plastic in this gyre behave? Would the debris stay suspended in this gyre indefinitely or be spit out onto nearby Pacific Island beaches with the possibility of becoming vulnerable to transformation into Plastioglomerate.

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Day 47 — Response to student blog from ORP

It is day 47 and Matt and I are starting to think about what food we crave the most. We both agree a nice salad and fruit would be refreshing but then Matt changes his mind to a dozen BBQ chicken wings and I decide nachos would be tasty for our imaginary snack. Out here you live simply. You do not over eat, you produce very little waste such as one bag for trash and one bag for recyclables for two people for a few months. We make our own water every day. It can take up to two hours so we take turns pumping to produce the 5 liters we need. You begin to become very conscious of how much exposure you have to un-natural chemicals in you daily life because offshore you are surrounded by nature. How much of the packaged foods and toiletries that I stowed for use during this crossing have been partly compromised by harmful plastic chemicals and may be harmful products in disguise? I don’t know. I even question the very fibers of our clothing and here I go staring at my 100% plastic toothbrush again. Plastic seen afloat offshore or in use onboard the Sakura are likely polypropylene and polyethylene which by design have a knack to resist aging. The more I think of it I am surrounded by plastic whether onshore or offshore and refusing to buy harmful plastic will be a challenge that is slow to conquer and a lifelong challenge.

The more I think of it I am surrounded by plastic whether onshore or offshore and refusing to buy harmful plastic will be a challenge that is slow to conquer and a lifelong challenge.

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Plastic that knows no bounds — Response to student blog from ORP

Angry birds, is not just an amusing game APP on your smartphone but an everyday observation I have made on all 38 days sailing across the Pacific. The birds I referring to are alive and soar around the Sakura not on an electronic device. Maybe these birds are more hungry than angry but I do know they eat what is near or adrift on top of sea surface including plastic debris which can’t be very tasty making for a toxic treat.

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Plastics in Our World and in our Oceans — Old Mill Middle South – By Rachel and STEM team

The sixth grade STEM science class has been researching plastic. They have found some shocking things that are happening despite the fact that plastic materials are used very often in our daily lives.

When you take showers in the morning, did you realize that your shower curtain is made of plastic? Or the soap bottles that contain the liquid soaps and shampoos are made of plastic? When you eat breakfast, your plates and utensils might be made of plastic! Think of all the plastics used in the food container and storage industry.

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