Guest blog post by Science Educator Robin Chernow
What organisms do barnacles prefer as hosts? Do plankton species change at different times of day? What is the biodiversity of intertidal animals near Two Bush Island compared to the Sandy Beach?
Our High School Field Marine Ecology students asked these questions before designing research projects to investigate. They spent two weeks here on Hurricane Island, deepening their understanding of the scientific process, in addition to learning about the island’s sustainable systems, enjoying waterfront time, and strengthening friendships.
This was the first time the Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership offered a two week program, and the time flew by! Week one focused on scientific research processes and developing questions, while week two was dedicated to collecting and analyzing data. By the end of week one, students pitched their project ideas to staff scientists and solicited feedback to improve experimental design. After numerous afternoons of observations and data collection, students analyzed their data and presented their findings to the Hurricane Island community!
Of course, students did not solely partake in academics and science research. Two weeks on the island would not be complete without rock climbing, sunset hikes, rowing, star gazing, card games, and several nights of s’mores and campfires. Each day, our students took advantage of opportunities to take running jumps off the pier and to take time for reflection. Other highlights include a morning spent naturally dyeing bandanas with Rachel (blueberries make a vibrant purple), and a few hours learning about marine debris with members of the Rozalia Project’s crew. We even went lobstering with Captain Oakley and harvested kelp from our own offshore aquaculture site!
As an instructor, I am thrilled our students had two weeks to both grow as young scientists and to take advantage of all the island has to offer. I am grateful for each student’s curiosity and willingness to take on new experiences. I appreciate the hours spent laughing and chatting, hiking among the natural beauty of the island. And I am proud of the progress our students made in both opening up socially and understanding the scientific process.
What did our scientific process uncover? Our data suggests that barnacles are more abundant on periwinkle snails than on dog whelks or crabs, plankton species do differ from day to night, and even though more species and organisms were counted at Two Bush, biodiversity is higher at the Sandy Beach.
I hope this two-week introduction to scientific research prompts our students to continue to grow as critical thinkers and as both providers and receivers of feedback. I hope students feel confident to pursue science later in high school, in college, and beyond. Most importantly, I hope our students left the island with an increased regard for the natural world and all it has to offer.