Thursday, February 23, 2012

Scientists for the day - become a work shadow at BIOS!

Carlita Franks and Stephanie Every, S3’s at Cedarbridge Academy, spent their annual work shadow day studying alongside some of the scientists here at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.

The young ladies started off by helping Dr. Andrea Bodnar and Research Associate Mae Lortie in the collection of hemolymph samples from two different organisms; sea hares, known locally as “headache fish”, and purple sea urchins.

Hemolymph is the fluid that makes up the circulatory system of these creatures and it’s equivalent to our blood. As part of her research, Dr. Bodnar is investigating the differences between the two species. In the pictures above Mae is covered in purple ink and the thick, sticky mucus that the sea hares secrete to deter predators.

At the end of the extraction and preparation process, Carlita and Stephanie studied the cells they’d collected under the microscope.

If you’d like to read more Dr. Bodnar and Mae’s work, you can visit our website.

In the afternoon the young ladies were given the grand tour of our labs and learned a bit more about some of our specialist equipment, such as the flow cytometer used by Stacey Goldberg in the Plankton Ecology Lab. Next they tried their hand at coral identification and were introduced to a few of the techniques the scientists here at BIOS use to look at the plants and animals that make up Bermuda’s coral reefs. Great job, ladies!

The Ocean Academy would like to extend a special thanks to all the staff members who helped make Carlita and Stephanie scientists for the day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Gizmos and Gadgets A-Plenty to Study the Ocean: BIOS Explorer Splashes Into its 6th Year

Our mission: to explore the ocean around Bermuda. Your challenge: to understand the tools scientists use to study it! Don’t forget your passport!

In January 2012 over 1,100 primary school students participated in the Explorer program at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, under the auspices of the newly established ‘Ocean Academy’.

Our young scientists started off by taking a trip underwater with two new videos about Dive Science and the Warwick, featuring BioNauts from the 2011 Waterstart program.  Did you know that colors disappear the deeper you go underwater? So, can you guess what color disappears first? I will give you a hint: if Ariel from the Little Mermaid is a red head on land, she would be a brunette under the sea! The BioNauts also explored pressure, density and volumes both in the lab and beneath the surface.

The second video focused on Castle Harbor, where the Warwick, a wooden ship bound for Jamestown, Virginia, was refueling in Bermuda in 1619 when it sunk in a gale. A group of marine archaeologists from the National Museum of Bermuda, in partnership with Texas A&M University, have been excavating and mapping the wreck for the last couple of years and will continue to do so in 2012.  So how on earth do you uncover a ship buried under 400 years of silt? Well, you use an underwater vacuum cleaner of course, known as a dredge!

Every student was given a passport to record their discoveries on our 2012 expedition, ‘Tools and Techniques of Exploration’ and then let loose in Hanson Hall to learn about some of the gadgets and gizmos, ranging from special underwater paper to Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), that scientists in Bermuda use to study the Sargasso Sea.

BIOS Educator Kaitlin Baird talks about an important tool scientists use to study Bermuda’s coral reefs: the transect tape. Students from West Pembroke put on their masks and splashed into the Coral Tunnel to help her count the corals!

At each of the eight stations around the Hall the students got hands on experience of the equipment and methods that our scientists use every day: underwater paper, artefact recovery and sketching, transect tapes and counting coral, underwater photography and videography, lionfish hunting, piloting ROV’s, and SCUBA gear.

BIOS Educator Dean Lea introduces students from BHS to SCUBA gear, helping them try on the vests known as BCD’s (Buoyancy Compensation Devices) and letting them take turns breathing off a compressed air cylinder, just like the marine archaeologists studying the Warwick.

All these tools help our scientists to understand the marine environment and just like them, we are happy to report all of the primary school participants splashed right in!

The BIOS Education Officer, JP Skinner, shows Northlands Primary an important archaeological tool, the paintbrush. Students participated in a “dig” for marine artefacts in which they uncovered an unknown object, sketched it and thought about what it might have been used for on a 17th century ship like the Warwick.

Our two lionfish, Simba and Nala, really stole the show. Unfortunately, lionfish are an invasive species that are eating all of our baby reef fish! Besides the nets and spears we use to capture them, the best ‘tool’ for controlling lionfish is actually us! Eat ‘em to beat ‘em! A special thanks to the Ocean Support Foundation for their assistance with this exhibit.   

Finally, a few ‘thank yous’ for a another successful year:  Ms. Leona Scott and the Department of Education, the Bermuda Transportation Authority, the Ocean Support Foundation, the Sargasso Sea Alliance and the National Museum of Bermuda. Thank you!