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Monday, August 1, 2011

Check it out..

Here is my latest Animoto.  I still haven't upgraded, but I'm seriously thinking about it because it's so much fun to make these!  I made this one for the introductory page of the education module I helping to write.

Plankton-Aquatic Drifters

So what do you think? Should I invest or is this long enough?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

And "Life in the Dead Zone" Cruise goes on...

The research vessel had a few technical issues this cruise, but everyone pulled together to get the job done.  On the fourth day of the cruise, we were looking for a hypoxic but not anoxic area of the bay and thought that they were at one this morning, but not so.  Turns out the CTD had not been giving correct oxygen readings and what was thought to be hypoxic turned out to be anoxic.  So reading were taken by hand and we "inched" down the bay looking for an area that was hypoxic but didn't have sulfide at the bottom.  It took a long time, and we had to redo measurements and tests because of the equipment foul up.  Ah well, just more fun in the sun and the lab.

Looks like there are more anoxic areas that expected, but not really considering the amount of runoff into the bay this year.  All that runoff brings lots and lots of nutrients into the bay which causes lots and lots of algae growth, which increases zooplankton growth, but not enough to eat it all and when all that algae dies and falls the the bottom of the bay, the bacteria uses up all the oxygen down there decomposing it.  That's not all the story though.  Cold salt water from the ocean and warm fresh water from runoff set up a density stratification that prevents oxygen from the surface from reaching the bottom of the bay.  This is called the pycnocline, and in places in the bay, it is a very sharp change in density from the bottom to the top.

One of the scientists on the cruise has designed a really cool apparatus for pulling water along a very narrow pycnocline to look at water changes in both chemistry and organisms.  Daniel Lee has designed a syringe apparatus and is testing it out.  Pretty exciting stuff.

Each day of the cruise brought new challenges and learning experiences.  Listening the scientists share their work and passion for it was truly amazing.  I feel very fortunate to have been a part of this adventure.

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Life In the Dead Zone" Cruise continued...

So back in the "Dead Zone", during sample taking, things get pretty crazy. You want to work quickly, because people are waiting to either get their samples at that depth, or they are waiting for the next depth. Either way, efficiency is important, but so is being careful in collecting the samples. Wash and rinse three times with the sample water is the rule. Whether it is a 100 mL jar or a 20 L carboy.

Dr. Jeff Cornwell and Mike Owens took a sediment sample in an anoxic area of the bay. The sample leaked an inky black substance that Jeff identified as hydrogen sulfide and pyrite. The smell was definitely hydrogen sulfide! Which brings me to an interesting bit of biochemistry. Bacteria in the anoxic areas of the bay are using elements other than oxygen as their terminal electron acceptors. There is a whole list of ions that they go through, each one is more of an energy trade off. In a simpler view, these bacteria are respiring using elements other than oxygen. When they get down to sulfur, it costs about the same amount of energy to use it as the bacteria gain from it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Reflection on class discussion.

I like the discussion format. It was easy to check and see what I had read and what I hadn't. I enjoyed reading the refections as well as the responses, and it was nice to be able to see what I had responded to and what I had not. I have not become fluent in Google Reader yet and parts remain a mystery to me, such as how to easily tell when I have written a response and when I have not. With so many sites to see and time in between, it's hard to keep track of it all. I'm sure I am not using it to its full potential, but I am still learning and will continue to learn long after this class has ended. Like any really good class, it has set me on a path to discover more.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Life in the Dead Zone" Cruise

I've been on a cruise before.  It was pretty awesome, we went around the Mediterranean Sea stopping in various ports.  This cruise was nothing like that, except maybe the food.  No, the food was better on what we call the LIDZ cruise.
I've never been on a research vessel before, and it was an amazing experience.  We loaded the ship at 1:00am in Cambridge, MD, July 6th, and set off up the Chesapeake Bay.
The first day was really easy for me, it was "Scanfish" day.  The Scanfish is an undulating towed vehicle that measures conductivity, temperature, oxygen, fluorescence, turbidity and depth as the boat moves through the water.  It has very high resolution and it gives scientists a real time profile of the water in the Bay.
Ginger, the lab tech from Dr. Pierson's lab (and the go-to person when you really wanted to know what or how to do something on the boat), put the Scanfish in behind the ship around 8:00am, north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Watching the seagulls, pelicans and osprey from the back of the ship was a beautiful sight.  But there was trouble in paradise.  The Scanfish has technical difficulties.  With cool high-tech stuff comes not so cool high-tech problems.  The Scanfish quit monitoring, and after much struggle, the techs resorted to the old ways, stopping the boat and dropping the other CTD in and taking readings with it instead.  So, down the Bay we went, stopping and dropping the CTD every 5 miles, gathering good data, just not as easily and not as complete a profile.  Ah well, you do what you can.

More technical issues caused us to have to pump water instead of using the Niskin bottles attached to the CTD.  Not sure what the exact problem was, but it gave me an opportunity to stand very close to the edge, (properly attired in life vest) and rinse and fill several bottles of water during the day.

So what were we doing with all this water?  Me, I was filtering to determine the amount of phytoplankton and their nutrients that are in different areas and depths of the Bay.  I also collected sample bottles to be analyzed later in the lab.  We were looking at areas that haddifferent levels of oxygen.  Oxic, hypoxic and anoxic areas of the Bay exist and scientists are looking at some of the life and chemistry that is going on in them.

More to come later...gotta go wading for a scientist to measure virus counts on my hands after being in the Bay.  Exciting....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Digital Images and Online Data Reflection

So I've been on a research boat with no internet for a week and I'm a bit behind.   Please be patient with my latest rant....

I get aggravated when I see my fellow teachers, (most of whom I respect and adore), showing random videos in their classes, saying things like, "Well, there is biology/history/chemistry in this film.", and they show the entire movie of Avitar/The Patriot/Fern Gully for several days.  Ok, I like these movies, no, I love Avitar, but come on now, we are obviously wasting time here.  It would be so much more effective to show clips of the pertinent parts of films that actually line up with a concept framed within a lesson.  Short clips, that can be discussed before and after viewing would be a much better use of class time.  Students can and do watch films on their own.  What is the point of showing the whole thing?
Now that I've gotten that off my chest, here is my dilemma:  How do I get these clips?  Just putting the DVD into the player/computer and searching for the particular part or worse-- parts, is time consuming.  In fact, students will immediately start in on wanting to see the whole film while I'm doing my hunt.  I want just the clips available, so there is no hunting and no discussion about watching the film in its entirety.
I have the same sort of issue with PowerPoint lessons.  Cute pictures and funny clip art can add humor and perhaps there is a trade off there. Humor helps learning, but too much can be a distraction.  I agree with the authors in that the time I spend looking for cute/funny pictures to "spice up" my PowerPoint could be better used looking for pictures or videos that actually connect the concepts; pictures with purpose clarify and connect. I think having pictures that students have taken would also bring relevance to the lesson.  For example: asking students to bring in a picture of a physical or chemical change and assembling them into an Animoto would be so much more effective that the boring 'here's what physical and chemical changes are and look like' PowerPoint 
This section of the book has made me rethink my labs as well.  I think I will work on making videos demonstrating lab techniques and lab equipment set ups.  I have used, in the past, a picture showing what the lab station should look like after the lab is cleaned up.  I think I will take it a step further, now, and make short videos of the particular lab techniques students are supposed to be learning, using the equipment we actually have on hand.  Another idea is to make a set of safety hazard videos that could be put together to show the safety hazards for the particular lab we are doing.  Sort of a quick snippet before lab starts.  It would also make sure I didn't leave any important safety instruction out for each class, and I really like that.  Perhaps even a whole safety video done at the beginning of the year by the AP students would help keep lab safety on our minds.  I actually have a skit somewhere, that I used to have my AP students from the previous year come back and do for my new first year students.  It was fun, but pretty time-consuming for them and me.

I don't know why I didn't think of this, but asking students to look for the reason a picture is presented to them makes sense.  The textbook pictures could easily be used this way and made more beneficial.  I think it is true that students often just look at the pictures for the aesthetic value and not what the picture is trying to convey.  Learning how to include JCE videos in my lessons would be great, but again, I don't want to be messing around during class looking for the demos or animations.  Also, I don't like using "cool" demos just because they are "cool" and get attention for the sake of getting attention.  They need to be tied directly to what the lesson is over.  My time with students is so precious, I want to waste as little as possible.
Granted, sometimes, during a grading crunch, I will be tempted to put in a chemistry video or try an online chemistry lecture during class, but inevitably, it doesn't really benefit anyone.  Students are either bored and off task during the video or I have to reteach whatever the lesson was because they didn't get any part of it.  Perhaps if I spent time before-setting the stage so to speak and after, summing it up, they would get more out of it.
I really like the screen capture of Logger Pro.  I could use that to demonstrate what the graph vs color change  look like in a titration lab. I'm hoping I can get the same effect with the LabQuest since the students will be using them most often.  That makes me think of another idea: taking pictures of my students while they are doing labs and putting them together in an Animoto for next year's group. That would be fun! (I did a PowerPoint of the hot air balloons we've done over the years, added music and everything.  It was ridiculously time-consuming and difficult for me. The Animoto was about the easiest thing I've ever worked with, so I'll be doing a lot more with it I think.)
After spending time this year with the scientists at the Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, MD and on their research vessel, I'm more knowledgeable about the kind of data I could use in the classroom.  I helped gather data on the water quality, oxygen levels, and organisms and their nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay.  I'm sure the same data is available on Gulf of Mexico, which would be more relevant to my students.  I'm sure I can find it from GLOBE or NOAA.  And TrackStar sounds like a great way to organize the websites students need to visit to find the data.  I will be checking that out.
Using real world data for a topic I have had experience with, I think, will help me get over that "inquiry wall" that I always seem to run into every year.  I think my confidence in using data gathered on the water quality of the Gulf will bring the students over the wall as well.  Hmmm, I think I see a scientific argument forming....

Monday, July 4, 2011

My Glogster

I had some fun with Glogster.  It was easy to use, I wasn't particularly creative with it, but then I don't think I could blame Glogster for that.  I'm a bit distracted right now.  I would like to try it with some pictures from my "cruise" this week and see how well I can pull them into the work.
Here is the link to my attempt:
(Haven"t figured out how to embed yet.)

I also tried out Animoto.  Wow, that was fun and so easy.  I think I may have to make an investment in this program.  30 seconds just isn't long enough. :)  Here is my video, hope my son forgives me, but I think it's cute.
Every year I take pictures of my chemistry students doing hot air balloons and then try to put together a ppt of them with music. It's been a pain.  Animoto is so much easier and looks way cooler!

I'm working on a screencast using jing, gimp and inkscape.  I keep running into issues.  Hope to post it soon tho.