10 June, 1999
TEACHERS EXPERIENCING THE ARCTIC
JUNE 10, 1999
Thursday morning is finally here, but guess what? I will not be making that much anticipated trip after all. Yes, I was looking forward to it with great anticipation, but on the other hand nothing was really finalized, and I was also asked to be very flexible while on this trip. It turned out that on one of the islands that I was supposed to conduct the deer pellet survey, there were sightings of bears, and one was shot. This resulted in some sort of investigation and a halt of visits to the island. Therefore, the trip was postponed to Friday and Saturday. Obviously I could not make it since I was returning to Maryland on Friday evening. So, what will I do today? OK Nancy, pull one idea from your hat of many.
Nancy was really great with finding alternative activities for me. On Thursday morning she invited me to attend a software presentation that was held at an off-center location. The system dealt with maps of areas, GIS systems, and the types of responses one can make when a location has been identified as a safety hazard, or an area where a disaster such as an oil spill has occurred. The visualization was excellent, and so were the detailed maps. What was very fascinating to me was the degree of thought and detail that was put into designing this program, so as to ensure that all safe guards were in place. It was also apparent that no one ever wanted a repeat experience of the catastrophic events of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, so every detail was taken into account. The presentation was very informative and the cost of the program very expensive too! At this session I was introduced to Vince Phillip, the Visualization and Mathematics Modeler Systems Specialist, graduate and former professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. His visualization software system is currently being used by scientists at the Prince William Sound Science Center for the Acoustic studies in the Prince William Sound area (Jay's, Shari's and Tom's research that I mentioned in an earlier journal). Vince and I chatted for a while, and soon realized that where he lived in Maryland, was about 10 minutes maximum from where I currently reside, and also we knew some of the same people at College Park.
With time on my hands, I checked my e-mail and responded to my students' questions about their assignments, and all other inquires on arctic biology. You see, my students were assigned to Calculate my travel time taking into account the time changes, Trace my journey on a map, determine the air miles to scale of the map, read my journals from last year and answer specific questions on the river otters and adaptations to arctic biology. My electronic responses took longer than I expected. However, I was able to respond to all of them. Following that, I visited a book store made a few purchases, and then headed back to the center. On my way back to the center I stopped in to visit Belle Mickelson at the Alternative School. She too was preparing for her summer camps. Since it was close to lunchtime, we decided to go out to lunch at the monument park by the waterfront. It was a wonderful meeting and through our conversations we recognized that we shared the same passion about teaching ecology, and the philosophy that all students can learn, but they learn differently. She delightfully shared some of her success stories with me, and while at lunch, I happened to meet one of those success stories, who greeted her enthusiastically, as they talked about the year that was just completed.
After lunch, the rest of the afternoon was spent reading literature and publications of Shari's , Tom's & Jay's research that they had given to me on their research. Overwhelming? Yes, but very interesting and unique. I also sat in on one of the plenary sessions for the Center's summer camp. The plans sounded great and the students who were attending were certainly going to have exciting experiences. I later chatted with Penelope Oswalt, the Center's Finance Director, whom I learnt was born in Southern Maryland, Lexington Park-Patuxent Naval Base, St. Mary's County. Small world indeed.
After leaving the center for the day, the rest of the evening will be spent reorganizing my luggage to travel back to Maryland. Later that evening, I also spoke with Mark King, the owner of the B&B where I stayed, and he enlightened me about his job with Fish and Game. One of his responsibilities was to monitor the shorelines for dead sea otters after the winter in the Prince William Sound Area, and determine their ages using dental markings of the first premolar. This data is used in population studies of animal species that occupy the sound. Even though the population has rebounded from the catastrophic Valdez oil spill, the mortality rate is still relatively high. He also shared some of the frustrations and hardships that the local fishermen/anglers face following the spill and all of the litigation that has taken place. Is it going to get better? Who knows! I guess time is the only factor. Looking on the bright side of things, the day was well spent, and there was little room left for me to wallow in disappointment for not being able to make the trip. I guess I could not do everything, but yet there were loads of opportunity for me to do a number of exciting things, and these I thoroughly enjoyed.
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