Whyvillians have a problem: Harmful algae are threatening their beaches and coastal ecosystem. To investigate, understand, and mitigate the problem, citizens are turning to the Whyville Oceanographic Institution (WhOI), with its boats, its underwater labo-ratories, and other resources for exploring the ocean.
This interactive experience is part of a new partnership between the developers of Whyville.net, a leading educational Web site for youth, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. To learn more about how nutrients can fuel plankton blooms, Whyvillians must collect samples from the virtual ocean, use the laboratory to identify the species and nutrient at the root of the problem, trace the nutrient to its source, and stem the nutrient flow by restoring a virtual wetland.
“One of our biggest challenges as a research institution is conveying our work to the public,” said WHOI Associate Scientist Sonya Dyhrman, who helped create the new feature.
“Whyville.net is an excellent tool for communicating information about the oceans, and their significance to our everyday lives, in a unique and entertaining format.”
For teachers, an inside track into ocean science
WHOI workshops for teachers offer a window into the world of current
ocean research, and educators from all parts of New England come for
This spring, Benjamin Walther, who recently earned his Ph.D. in the
MIT/WHOI Joint Program, explained his geochemical work using fish ear
bones (otoliths) to track American shad migration, and WHOI biologist
Simon Thorrold discussed using otoliths to study tropical reef fish
populations. Walther and Andrea Thorrold, coordinator for the New
England Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE-NE),
gave teachers interactive DVDs they produced containing classroom
lessons and an inquiry-based activity using actual otolith data. The
workshop also featured WHOI physical oceanographer Peter Winsor
(blue jacket in photo) speaking about using computer models and new polar profiling floats to
study the fast-changing Arctic climate.
One teacher commented, “I appreciate listening to scientists explain
current research. This is interesting to bring back to my class-room.
The students feel that they have an inside track.”
Teacher professional development
workshops at the WHOI Exhibit Center are jointly sponsored by the WHOI
Information Office and the WHOI Academic Programs Office, and Woods
Hole Sea Grant, primarily supported by a generous donation from the
Ducommun Foundation. COSEE-NE provided a supplemental grant to defray
costs for teachers from underrepresented and underserved school
districts in New England.
Posted: September 30, 2007