Highlights from the 5th Annual Ocean Science Symposium

By Natasha Ewing, K-12 Education Coordinator, Ocean Networks Canada

 

Ocean Networks Canada’s (ONC’s) was proud to celebrate its 5th Annual Ocean Science Symposium April 28th and 29th.  This unique event continues to provide students and teachers with experiences that highlight and explore the interdisciplinary nature of Ocean Science and Technology. In addition the event also recognizes the diversity of ocean-related careers by bringing in experts in the field such as, Dr. Lauren McWhinnie, Dr. Tom Dakin, and Sara Wickham, to name but a few.  This year ‘s event emphasized the teamwork and collaboration required from different disciplines that is needed to explore and understand the ocean.

5th Annual Ocean Science Symposium Attendees

The Symposium brought together over 70 students and teachers from 16 different schools across Vancouver Island, Northern BC  (Prince Rupert, Kitimat) and the Arctic. Energetic and Passionate presenters, Dr. Andrew Bateman, Dr. Laura Eerkes-Medrano, and ONC’s Adrian Round set the scene each day, highlighting marine conservation, unique career paths, teamwork, collaboration, and community-based research.

 

Throughout the two day event, students and teachers continued their marine Science and Tech exploration through six engaging sessions, including:

 

  1. The economic and environmental discrepancy between open-based and land-based fish farms;
  2. The role of computer science in deep sea automated video analysis;
  3. Investigating the diversity of seaweed species through art (seaweed presses);
  4. The need for Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) to be included into western science and environmental/coastal decision making
  5. The challenge of creating code to “talk” with Remotely Operated vehicles (ROVs) in the deep sea; and
  6. Understanding the harmful impacts of marine noise pollution.

 

Exploring the ONC Maze to Create Their Codes

Through short presentations and hands-on activities led by post-secondary students and post-docs, symposium attendees gained a deep appreciation of the complexity marine systems. Furthermore, students began to recognize that their passion for the ocean could intersect with other interests from biology to physics to engineering. 

 

For example, learning to “code” was one highlight for both students and teachers, who didn’t expect it would be quite so challenging to code they way around the courtyard. Wandering through the mock ONC maze (based on the NEPTUNE Observatory), participants had to carefully plan out their routes to efficiently guide their divers (ROVs) to specific sites of interest. The students could empathise with professional in the field as this activity recreated a real challenge and them to take on the role of scientist, engineer, interpreter and diver. As the “scientist” and “engineers” created the routes and code, the “interpreter” deciphered the code for the “diver” who had never seen the course.  Divers could try the course both blindfolded or not! There were definitely a number of laughs and a few mix ups, but everyone enjoyed the simplified example, including one student who said: “[the] most meaningful [session] for me was the engineering part; I really love coding and want to be an engineer in the future.”

 

Attendees from Prince Rupert Create Seaweed Presses

This year we took the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) model and stretched it to STEAM; including art as a means for communicating science. Students and teachers were thrilled to get their hands wet and touch live seaweed specimens. They learned how there are 100’s of different species worldwide, how to ID them, and that all seaweeds are edible (except one!). The seaweeds were then pressed in colourful arrangements, which offered an unusual and exciting memento. When they are finally dry, the prints will be shipped out to all the students.  

 

Marine noise pollution – the lesser-known pollution – hit home for all attendees. Student and teachers were immensely impacted by learning about the devastating consequences of human-induced noise in the ocean and its affect on marine mammals. One student really took the information to heart and began to reconsider their own behaviours; “I cross the border on the Coho [Ferry] all the time and I never knew about how much impact it had on orca populations. As a result I will think more about this when I’m booking transportation.” Witnessing attitude and behavioural changes is education as its best!

 

Our Ocean, Our Future:

High school students were particularly awed by the diversity of careers and inspired to think about their future. One student commented that, they “really enjoyed hearing about how people got to their careers because [they are] worried about never getting to where [they] want to go”. Seeing “real” scientists and engineers and listening to their journeys confirmed that no career path is linear. Furthermore, each professional’s passion assured the students that there is still an incredible amount of work to be done before we fully under the complexities and mysteries of the ocean and that new discoveries and insights can come from anyone at all.

 

But let’s not forget, this event could not have been made possible without the students dedicated chaperones and teachers. At the symposium, teachers and educators were able to network amongst each other and brainstorm ways to incorporate more ocean science and technology into their classes. A great venue for professional development, the teachers shared their tips and tricks among one another and offered experience based feedback on all activities.  To help reach students not able to attend, activities and concepts highlighted at the symposium were shared with teachers to use in their classes. In addition, teachers were shown aspects of ONC’s Ocean Sense program and real time data.

 

To view the 5th Annual Ocean Science Symposium twitter “moment” and exciting highlights from the event, follow this link – https://twitter.com/i/moments/859475129348218880.

Contact Natasha Ewing, ONC’s K-12 Education Coordinator for more info at tasharei@uvic.ca, and stay tuned for details on next years Ocean Science Symposium!

Ocean Sense  – http://www.oceannetworks.ca/learning/ocean-sense

Ocean Science Symposium webpagehttp://www.oceannetworks.ca/learning/learning-events/ocean-science-symposium .