Friday, July 27, 2012

Week 6 of Internship: The word at the VC

This week I got to talk to people out in the Visitor Center and get their opinions a little bit.  I had them choose what case study they would want to learn more about, from a set of 14 pictures.  (Species affected by global warming).
Pictures on a white board for visitors to choose from

I wrote down what everyone said and came up with some interesting trends, such as how the majority of women in their 20's and 30's as well as school age girls chose the emperor penguin over the rest.  This wasn't a huge surprise given the options.
So the next round, I removed the penguin and turtle to force a harder choice, so many in that age group switched to the next most familiar and cute creature: the clown fish.  As my fellow intern Nick puts it, they're only interested in "charismatic mega fauna".  :)
However, there was a very large number of people who chose things that were more local and meaningful to them personally.  My favorite comment I found funny was, "I chose Dungeness Crab because I like to eat them.  And I'm interested in keeping that going." :)
The two most surprising comments were from gentlemen who were roughly age 60 to 70.  This demographic is kind of stereotyped as being very skeptical of climate change.  One chose phytoplankton and said, "they are basic foodstuff.  They're at the bottom  of the food chain, so that has effects all the way up."  The other chose algae and said, "some people don't believe [climate change] and think it's 'business as usual', but I don't think so.  Algae will probably be one of the first affected."  Wooohoo!  You go dudes!

So my next challenge is figuring out how to do the rest of my formative evaluations to determine if people will tell a story and what media they want to help with that, as well as getting a more clear picture of what my final product (exhibit proposal) will look like.

I also got to work in the visitor center this week for a day and a half to help out.  That was fun.  I hung out at the touch tank for the first time and learned more about the animals there.  Hoping to do that again soon.  Here are a few pictures.  Sorry some of them are a bit blurry.  One of these days I swear I'll get a decent camera.  Hopefully before I'm 80.

Hatfield Marine Science Center tide pool touch tanks

variety of invertebrates in the touch tank

Giant green sea anemones, orange cup coral,
strawberry anemones, coralline algae

FYI on the above picture, the strawberry anemones are the tiny red ones dotting the rocks to right of the top anemone.  The coralline algae are the crusted pink stuff toward the top and also in circles around the bottom anemone.

Rock scallop
Sea stars galore, red sea urchin,
and sea cucumber (the long orange creature to the left of the urchin)
Leather star- very soft

Monday, July 23, 2012

Week 5 of Internship: Erupting Into High Gear!

This week I had a meeting with my mentor Nancee, as well as Mark and Shawn, other Free Choice Learning guru’s. I showed them all the stuff I had collected and we talked about the next steps. I feel I have a much more clear view of what’s going on with this exhibit and I’m ready to start the next phase. That is to talk with visitors to do some informal research on what things are going to work well for the exhibit. This will help me with my planning. It’s kind of crazy to think that I only have 5 weeks.
I was present when the now locally famous Murre disturbances happened at Yaquina Head last Monday. You can read about it at this post.
This weekend when I was off, my kids and I went to central Oregon and discovered volcanoes! (Hence the “erupting” in this blog title.) I didn't even realize prior to arriving in the area that Newberry National Volcanic Monument just south of Bend, Oregon, even existed!  We got to drive to the top of a cinder cone and walk all around the rim of it, take a hike amidst a huge lava flow, and walk through a lava tube cave. We also went to the John Day fossil beds at Sheep Rock and the Painted Hills, and the High Desert Museum. Super cool! I thought going to central Oregon would be a short and slightly boring trip but I realized after arriving that there was so much to do I could have easily stayed for a week.
Lava Butte Cinder Cone and lava field (Newberry National Volcanic Monument)

Lava Butte cinder cone volcano and the red road we took to the top

The inside crater of the volcano

The slopes were rather steep

The cinder cone is made up of all these "cinders" - colorful lava rocks (basalt)

View of one side of the lava flow from the top of the cinder cone.  The winding trail we walked in the flow is also visible

View of the cascades from the top of the cinder cone - this is an entirely volcanic range

What an awesome place!  I was at the height of geeking out.  I love volcanism.  On our drive back we took a scenic route and saw a lot more lava flows, collected lava rocks now that we were outside of the national monument, and got to visit this way cool observatory (Dee Wright Observatory in Willamette National Forest) where my camera batteries died which was naturally quite upsetting!  But here's what I did get.

Dee Wright Observatory, Willamette National Forest - blends in nicely with the lava field

Steps up to observatory.  Just add a bit of mortar to this big natural pile of lava rocks and voila!

 The setup of this observatory was really awesome.  The inside had these windows that give the perfect view to each volcano/ feature.  All the windows were labeled with what was in the view.  If I'd had more battery power I would have photographed each of them.
View of sister through observatory windows
On the top of the observatory were great views as well as this really cool compass with the volcanoes and such labeled as to their location.
Cool compass on top of the observatory points to all the geologic features in the area

View of the sisters from the top of the observatory
The volcanic stuff was a huge highlight of this Oregon experience for me.  (I'm excited to also go to Crater Lake in a couple weeks.)  It also helped me remember again how much I love volcanism and would love to study it more.  That's what is so cool about geology!  It's not just rocks.  It's all this other cool stuff too- volcanoes, mountains, canyons, earthquakes, oceanography, fossils, dinosaurs!  Who wouldn't like all of that?

Thanks for reading.  Please comment!  I really appreciate feedback! :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Common Murre Disturbance

Monday night I had the pleasure of volunteering to help out with murre research.  Actually I was interpreting to the public while the others watched them through the scopes, and when there weren't people there to talk to I took lots of pictures and watched the excitement through binoculars.  I love getting to talk to people so that was fun, although I felt bad that I was often asked questions I didn't have the answer to since I was completely new to murres (aside from the one introduction I had to them my first week, on June 20th's blog post at the bottom.)
Apparently I chose the most exciting time to come.  There was a constant string of disturbances the entire time I was there.  A disturbance was explained to me as an event where a larger bird comes in and scares murres away and sometimes tries to eat them (as in when a bald eagle will come to eat an adult, the others scatter, and sea gulls come in and snatch up all the eggs).  At this point the chicks had all hatched but were too small to fledge (leave the colony).
Instead of bald eagles though, it was juvenille California Brown Pelicans causing all the trouble that night (and could be still happening, which if it does, the rocks may be cleared by the end of the week).

The Pelicans came in and went through this infuriating (to me) routine of flapping their wings to scare away the adult murres, and at this point many of the chicks fell down to the water. All they seemed to be after was to steal whatever fish the parents had brought to feed their chick. When the murres got scared they would drop it and the pelican would eat it. Sometimes the pelicans would eat small chicks, and sea gulls being the opportunists they are rushed in to eat many chicks with the parents scared away. The pelicans were also seen swallowing a chick then spitting it back out then swallowing again and repeating until the chick was dead. I don’t know what the pelicans got out of this since they didn’t eat these chicks.
Juvenile California Brown Pelicans and Sea Gulls severely thinned out the Common Murre colony

The colony was thinned to a fraction of its original size that night. It was sad to watch. I also went down to the beach the next day and saw many dead chicks washed up. Apparently hundreds of them were further down on the beach.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Global Warming's Six Americas

If you need a quick overview, see the video on this post.  Click to view info and resources appropriate for the audience.  (Under construction)







Info on local (Pacific North West) impacts of global warming

Some personal thoughts:
Climate change can be scary.  Many museums, zoos, aquariums, etc. shy away from the topic because it feels so doom and gloom.  However, I feel that shying away from it only adds fuel to the idea that scientists aren't in general agreement on the topic, which is false.  Also, having a timid approach with it I believe could also fuel that as well.  I don't think we should be afraid of having a bold stance about it.  The evidence is becoming more and more obvious (take the current heat wave for example) to everyone and I think the message is going to be more accepted. And I think it's a crucial message to get out.
Birch Aquarium in San Diego has an awesome exhibit on global warming.  Here are a couple videos about it:

Click here for another one that shows the science behind the exhibit

More general info:
NASA's key indicators of climate change:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Science Center Spree

ASTC is the Association of Science-Technology Centers.  They have a passport program in which if you buy a membership at any of their participating centers, you can have free entry into all the others (with a couple restrictions- click here to learn about it if you're interested in getting one).
So, I bought a membership from Pacific Science Center and we took advantage of that and 3 other centers in the past 5 days.

Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum
McMinnville, Oregon
When I first saw this on the list I didn't think much of it except that it was probably a bit too far off I-5 to be worth the trip.  Boy was I wrong.  I pulled up their website and found that they have the actual Spruce Goose on display!  Yes the actual thing built by Howard Hughes.

Spruce Goose @ Evergreen Aviation Museum
Notice the tiny people standing below the nose
 And more surprises were in store- a water park.  Are you kidding me?  A water park at an aviation museum?  This place looks dang awesome with a wave pool, water slides, and a water science museum.  We didn't go to this part because it was an extra cost, but I would love to go there some day, it looks like a blast.  Very out of the box and an excellent attraction that probably puts McMinnville on the map.
The aviation museum and the Spruce Goose...all I can say is- wow.  Wow!  That thing is HUGE.  My jaw was dropped open most of the time and I was happy to get to go inside and we even paid a little extra to go up into the cockpit.  Amazing.

8 Huge propellers powered this giant

Tail of the Spruce Goose

Yup, it's actually made out of wood!  View inside passenger area

The cockpit - notice the tube on the back of the pilot's chair on the left - this was the special ventilation system for Howard Hughes.  Hepa filters were based on his invention.  We got to sit in these chairs and imagine what it would have been like to fly the old girl.
Spruce Goose Cockpit

Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum - If you're ever in the vicinity it's worth the detour.  And it's really not that big of a detour anyway, just a different route.  (Click to visit their website.)

Pacific Science Center
Seattle, Washington
(Click to go to Pacific Science Center website.)  I remember this place when my family went several years ago when I was a teen.  I had vivid memories of the cool water guns outside, the giant furniture, and the exhibits that explore the senses.  Those things were still there and we got to explore some music exhibits, space, ...  They have an exhibit of King Tut that I'm sure must be fabulous but it would have been an extra $40 for myself and my two boys, so we passed on that.  We did get to see a movie To the Arctic which was fantastic- it's the story of a mother polar bear and her two cubs.  Very beautiful 40 minute 3D IMAX film.
My big splurge that I justified as a birthday present to myself was They Might Be Giants "Here Comes Science" CD and DVD together for $35.  I thought that was a pretty killer deal.  The kids already know the songs by heart.

Portland, Oregon
When I was remembering my long ago visits to Pacific Science Center and OMSI I thought that Pacific Science Center would be the better one.  I was wrong again.  I think OMSI was way better.  (Click for OMSI's website.)  They had a great exhibit on natural disasters that went through earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and volcanoes.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  They had a computer program where you could "create a volcano" by setting high or low gases and high or low silicon in the lava, and by adjusting those two settings you can create the 4 types of volcanoes (shield, cinder cone, stratovalcano, and lava dome).
Exhibits on life science and earth science thoroughly geeked me out and the kids loved the sand and water table in the earth science lab.  They also have a "science playground" meant for ages 6 and under that is pretty sweet.
Then we went into an awesome physics exhibit- many machines, laws of motion, etc. being explored here.  And one very cool feature was the inventor's ball room where you can hook up pipes and valves to create new pathways for blue foam balls to catapult around the enclosed room.  Major coolness factor.  There are also Chemistry, Physics and I think one other lab off of this area but they were closed by the time we got there.  The center stays open later- 7:00- which is great, but the labs close at 5 or 5:30.
There is also a submarine tour that I didn't find out about until 15 minutes to close.  It does cost extra though so we might not have done it anyway.  They have an actual sub in the river next to the center so it could be pretty neat.

A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village
Salem, Oregon 

Another surprising find.  They have 3 houses and then a huge outdoor play area with a maze, giant chess board, mammoth skeleton, and more.  In the houses were exhibit rooms such as the China room, China room, fossil room, and my favorite - the bubble room.  This is a place I think I will take the kids to anytime we have to pass through Salem or even close because it's a great way to kill a few hours and very educational stuff disguised as wicked awesome fun.  (Click for the website.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Week 3 - A Climate Change Enthusiast is Born

I can't believe it's been 3 weeks... time is flying, but at the same time I feel like I've been here longer.  It's probably because it's like living in a dream world where I'm surrounded by other science geeks, environment geeks, animals, volcanism, teaching and learning, kids, awesome elderly folks, amazing research and incredibly intelligent and talented people constantly.  Time seems to stand still as I cram my brain with cool new stuff!  I can hardly contain the geeking out that is welling up inside me!

I'm going to explain more about my climate change project.  The way in which the exhibit will relay the info is unique.  It will take input from the visitor and then give them personalized information that they are more likely to understand and be open to.  It follows the "Global Warming's Six Americas" study done by Yale in which the researchers wanted to find out what "camps" people fall into in relation to their views on climate change.  They found there were 6 distinct groups from alarmed to dismissive.  So this exhibit we will design is going to take input from the visitor and then give personalized information to them based on which of the 6 categories they fall into.  The wonderful Free Choice Learning folks will then use this to study how this type of personalization affects learning.

I'm excited about this because I think it's a wonderful way to approach the subject.  Climate change has become so political and polarized, so you really can't make a "one size fits all" message about it.  I think this type of exhibit will be much more effective at meeting each individual where they are.  In education we call it the "Zone of Proximal Development" - teaching something that is neither too basic nor too advanced for the student.

Here's a video that gives a quick overview of the Six Americas study if you want to know what the 6 groups are.

Education is power.  It moves us to action.  It causes us to share with others.  It opens our minds to new possibilities and ideas.  Could there be any greater work on this earth than to learn?  And blessed are the ones who find themselves in the position to walk along this journey of learning with those who are new to the path (this is sometimes known as "teaching").
My greatest joy is to see a person have an "aha" moment because something they are trying to figure out finally clicks.  Or to see a child get excited about something new.  (And almost everything is new to a child, which is why they are so fun to learn with.)  If only we all kept that childlike wonderment and curiosity about the world throughout our lives.

This week has been about the power of my education in climate change.  I'm more motivated to act and share with others.  Anyone who has read my earlier posts this week could see that.  Heck, I even emailed my mayor back home to encourage him to become more involved for our city!

I will end with a complete tangent: the Newport 4th of July fireworks were awesome!  Here's a sampling of photos:

And in typical Bio Geo Nerd fashion, everything cool should have some science connected to it... So, go to this site to learn how fireworks work! :)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Alaskan Methane

Here is an interesting video I found of some research on Methane. Methane is being released due to thawing of the permafrost at the bottom of lakes near University of Alaska Fairbanks. It's short and explains it well so I'm not going to attempt it. And there are even cool pyrotechnics for your pleasure. :) This video was found on the National Snow and Ice Data Center website.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Climate Change

More on climate change or global warming.  You know, it's interesting.  They started out calling it global warming, and then they started calling it climate change, and these are kind of "buzz words" that get people all riled up and they fall into different camps on whether or not they "believe" climate change is really happening.  I personally prefer to call it climate change because some people hear "global warming" and think that because they've had record cold winters lately, the planet can't possibly be warming.  This is a confusion about weather vs. climate and a general lack of information about the topic.

I'm surprised at the variety of info I've run across in my research about climate change as a "hoax".  I'm sorry, that's bull.  It is very well established, and look at the weather this week if you're not convinced.

Today's forecasts (click to go there)

Huge heat waves are becoming more and more common, sea level is actually rising like it or not, ice is melting, hurricanes have been going crazy the past few years due to the warmer ocean water feeding the storms, the earth is getting warmer.  If you're unfamiliar with this here is an excellent overview in 17 minutes.  You can also see my previous post which has a 3 minute overview from National Geographic.

I have been delving deep in to the world of climate change with all this research, and to be quite honest it's gotten me scared.  Scared because most of the world seems so unconcerned.  And they continue with the lifestyle they've always had with no regard to the environment, or even less "tree hugger" factors such as the fact that fossil fuels are exhaustible.  That means they won't last forever.  At some point they will run out.  But long before that happens, the seas and temperatures will rise even more- perhaps so high that many of us won't be able to survive.

Coal Plant...can I just say?  Ew.  (Click for source and an article about coal power issues in Georgia
Did everyone else know that a huge portion of the power created in the world is still done by burning COAL?  I thought that was an archaic method we had gotten past and stopped using long ago because we know how disgusting and bad for everyone's health it is. You can go here to the US Energy Information Administration website and click on your state to find out what kind of power is being used.  It also shows you what renewable energies could be used in your area.  Here are a couple examples.  Notice the legend showing the types of energy, as well as the various shading across the state which indicates what types of renewable energies could be harnessed there.

California sources of energy:

 Texas sources of energy:

Oregon sources of energy:

Please go to this site if you would like to see your state's results.  You may be surprised.  Writing to the power company and congress could be a good idea.
If you are not from the US, visit the International Energy Agency site to see if your country is a member of the agency and find some info for your area.

I know there have been issues of "eco scaring" or "eco phobia", whatever the terms are... well I think people should be scared.  It might help if they had a little fear to motivate them to turn the lights off, stop buying (and making) gas guzzling SUV's, ride a bike, and recycle.  I do think there are a good number of people who are conscious of these things and I salute them.
I will have to strike a balance with my project to be able to get the information across without turning people away.  I am shocked at politicians who I don't much like anyway, and the way they try to cover up climate science.  Scientists can't even use the phrases "climate change" and "sea level rise", and they have to include the last 100 years of data which skews the seriousness of the situation that is quickly escalating.
Watch the video and realize that you can make a difference- the sea level is still going to rise and it's going to get hot (and already is), but if we don't stop our emissions, it's going to get so bad that I don't think any of us humans will even be here.

If you'd like to learn more, there is a two episode BBC documentary TV show that is really awesome and it looks at every angle.  It's entertaining and enlightening.  They're an hour each.  Well worth your time in my opinion.

Climate Wars episode 1:

Climate Wars episode 2:

I hope that some of this information has been helpful.  I hope that people will become more educated on this issue and take some action.  Since I'm working on this I'm sure there will be more posts to come that in the near future will include some helpful information on action items you can take beyond what most already know.  Such as stop driving as much, use reusable shopping bags and water bottles, recycle, plant trees, buy products with less packaging, etc.  I'm hoping to find some more info on products and companies that are ecologically responsible and worth supporting, so if I find info I'll be sure to post it.  If you know of any resources PLEASE let me know.  Thanks for reading, please click on the comments below and leave your own.  You can also follow this blog with the links on the right.  Happy 4th!