On January 16th, a group of 12 students from James Simmons Elementary School visited Fort Johnson and participated in the Grice Marine Lab’s CORAL (Community Outreach Research And Learning) program. It was a morning full of marine science education and fun. The students started at the bottom of the marine food chain by examining various plankton and invertebrates through microscopes. Moving up the chain, they watched as the fish in the display aquarium were fed grass shrimp. At the top of the food chain, they viewed a scorpion fish and a hammerhead shark from the Grice Collection. Our collection has about 350,000 specimens of fish and invertebrates used for teaching and research. The Grice tour finished with a touch tank experience in our wet lab.
In a collaborative outreach effort with the SC Department of Natural Resources, the students visited the Marine Resource Resources Institute (MRRI) with Dave Wyanski. In his tour of the MRRI lab, he discussed his work with the Marine Resources Monitoring, Assessment, and Prediction (MARMAP) Program. This project works with NOAA to conduct biological surveys and assessments used to evaluate the size, abundance and life history of reef fishes. The program has conducted ichthyoplankton surveys and trawl-based bottofish surveys in the past.
On Thursday, January 21st, CORAL also participated in the first annual Science Night on location at the James Simmons school. Our touch tank gives students the opportunity to interact directly with marine organisms. It creates a platform for education about marine life and provides discussion opportunities about the ocean and how it affects human health.
On January 24th, we participated in the Lowcountry MESAS (Middle / Elementary School Academy of Science); a one day opportunity for students in grades 4 through 8 to engage is hands-on activities with local scientists. Our marine touch tank exhibit was titled “Estuaries: Nurseries of the Sea”. There were microscopes available for students to examine a variety of organisms found in Charleston Harbor. They also learned how to distinguish between a male and female blue crab and developed an understanding about what it means to be a marine scientist. For more information on this program, visit the SC Academy of Sciences.
In December 2008, the DiTullio lab members participated in a scientific research cruise aboard the R/V Roger Revelle, Scripp’s research vessel. They joined scientists from around the world in a collaborative effort to study a phytoplankton bloom that occurs every spring off the Southern coast of Argentina. The goal of the research cruise was to examine the effects of elevated carbon-dioxide levels on the growth of a particular group of phytoplankton called Coccolithophores. These organisms help fight global warming by turning carbon dioxide into protective shells called coccoliths. These armored plates are shed by the algae and sink to the sea floor thus, sequestering the carbon. As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise, the ocean act as a natural carbon dioxide sponge; increasing oceanic carbon dioxide levels result in a lower oceanic pH or acidification. One of the experiments examined how this change in ocean’s pH levels might adversely affect Coccolithophores and their ability to sequester carbon in their coccoliths. The cruise lasted thirty days and provided the researchers with a lot of interesting data and samples that are currently being processed in the lab.
Several faculty and students attended the annual meeting of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) on January 3-7, 2009 in Boston, MA. Organized by discipline, SICB aims to integrate the many fields of biology. It is one of the largest and most prestigious professional associations of its kind. According to its constitution, SCIB “promotes the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge and concepts in integrative and comparative biology, and it adopts and supports policies advancing innovative studies of organisms.” Eight presentations and six posters from the College of Charleston were presented at the meeting. Please refer to the 2009 SICB Program for details on each presentation.