A week on the Pacific Coast

As I reflect upon our group’s experience in Los Angeles with the COSEE- West Ocean Observing Systems Workshop, a couple of highlights emerge.

First, as a land-locked Coloradoan, I am always surprised by the vastness of the Pacific Ocean no matter how many times I see it.  As a biologist, I am fascinated by the complex ecosystems under that expanse of water.  We definitely had the chance to glimpse a bit of the interesting life forms.

Here is a brief list of some of the most fascinating:

  • Kelp- lots of it!  It is always neat to see the flotation bladders up close and personal.
  • Dolphins- We went through a pod of about 100 some with babies.  The babies swim directly beside the mom, using her slipstream to draft off of.
  • Giant starfish and other great marine invertebrates.- fascinating adaptations!
  • Seals and sea lions in rehabilitation at the Marine Mammal Rescue Center.
  • Brown pelicans at the Bird Rescue Center- fishing line survivors.
  • Humans- they were plentiful all over the LA area!

Second,  we had the opportunity to hear from a number of scientists about their research. ROVs (Remote Operated Vehicles) are becoming a sophisticated tool for understanding parts of the ocean previously unexplored.  At the Ocean Institute, we also had the chance to modify and drive our own ROVs.  It is true, we need more video gaming experience in order to be better drivers!  The presentation about the TOPP program (Tagging of Pacific Predators. www.topp.org) also reminded me that there is so much we don’t know about how large animals travel and use the Pacific Ocean.  Finally, at the Jet Propulsion Lab/ NASA, we saw the future of Mars Exploration, Curiosity, being built.  While the current Mars rovers are the size of VW bugs, Curiosity is a beast the size of a SUV.

Finally, collaborating with teachers from other schools and Colorado and California led to many thoughtful discussions about the role of Marine Science in the classroom.  I, for one, am looking forward to incorporating more Ocean Literacy into my science classroom.   I am also thrilled to introduce my students to many more scientific opportunities and careers as a result of this week.