August 1, 2005
Hi, y'all! My name is Judy Reeves. I teach science at a high school of 1200 students in one of the two coastal counties in Alabama-but in my rural community, where I take my kids each year to participate in Coastal Cleanup, I often have at least one student who has never been to the beach! This year I am teaching Marine Science and Aquascience, so my research experiences should transfer right into my classroom. The Tidal Creeks Project seeks to create a model for assessing environmental pollution problems in coastal watersheds using a variety of parameters, including some really cutting-edge science! The ARMADA Project only selects twelve or thirteen teachers a year to participate in pairing scientists with teachers, so I'm really excited to be a part of this!
The Hollings Marine Laboratory is one of NOAA's three Centers for Oceans and Human Health Initiative, which means that Hollings is developing new methods and approaches to identify and evaluate threats to marine ecosystems and human health. Scientists track pathogens and chemical contaminants, and test the impacts of these "stressors" on marine organisms. It's a partnership laboratory shared by NOAA, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the College of Charleston, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Everybody talks about the need for collaboration within agencies, but Hollings actually makes it happen-no projects are allowed with less than two partners!
The Tidal Creeks Monitoring Project investigates how land development affects the environmental quality of tidal creeks and salt marshes. Studies indicate that when impervious cover (paved or hardened surfaces that water can't penetrate) equals or exceeds 20 percent, physical, chemical, and biological processes are so altered that these habitats become less suitable nurseries for fish and shellfish. Researchers are working on creating a model that includes identifying the stressors (population density, pollution, impervious surfaces, etc.), the physical and chemical effects on the creeks, and the responses of marine organisms. Hopefully, the model can then be used to develop recommendations for conserving and/or restoring tidal creek health. Tidal creeks and salt marshes provide us with recreation, seafood, commerce, and environmental processes for filtering and cleaning our water, and when environmental quality is compromised, all of these benefits are adversely affected.
My first day at the lab was spent in meeting all of the players, and seeing how all the partners fit together. Susan Lovelace, the education coordinator, prepared a full day's schedule of interviews and tours of the various labs. Hollings Lab has an incredible array of instruments and equipment that perform the most amazing functions. I was very impressed and awed! The only detractor is that there's not enough office space, so all these Ph.D.'s are parked in the hall in "offices" made of room dividers with just enough room for desk, computer, one file cabinet, and two chairs! Obviously, the labs came first in priority!
The tidal project office is in the "outback"-literally a trailer parked "out back". Construction on a new building that will house a super-MRI that will examine marine organisms has made their usual office unavailable for the present. The tidal creek scientists are Dr. Guy DiDonato and Anne Blair, and they are both very knowledgeable, very enthusiastic, and very nice. They will be great to work with!
I'll try to introduce another scientist and his lab each day rather than detail my day's agenda-otherwise this journal entry would be ten pages long! I left the lab with my head spinning, very excited to be starting my field work the next day!