By: Claudia Koerting, UConn ECE Faculty Coordinator, Marine Sciences
The annual Marine Sciences Symposium took place again this year, even though it looked a bit different than in past. The symposium featured student research that has been conducted over the academic year. This year over 80 students from six high schools joined in WebEx to present their work. The students who presented at the symposium are currently enrolled in MARN1003: Introduction to Oceanography with Laboratory or MARN 1001E: The Sea Around Us. The MARN 1003 students demonstrated the true experiential nature of the course by applying the fundamentals of oceanography to their field work and laboratory experiments. In addition, one Marine Science Magnet High School of Southeastern CT student enrolled in MARN 1001E presented on human interactions with the marine environment. The high involvement in this event was a testament to the dedication and creativity of high school teachers and the commitment of their students to find ways to meet and “do” science.
While some teachers, such as Mrs. Emily Lisy from the Morgan School and Mr. Kirk Shadle from The Bridgeport Aquaculture School were able to meet with their students regularly, others had to get creative. There was a presentation on methods for disrupting harmful algal blooms, as well as a study on shark behavior and how to entice bivalves to consume starch based microplastics. The Morgan School took advantage of their proximity to the water and went on field trips to conduct field sampling and analyses on Long Island Sound ecosystem quality. Ledyard High School students conducted thoughtful sampling on the Thames River and the shoreline for microplastics. Even though they had to analyze their samples either at home or safely spaced apart in school, they were still able to yield very interesting and surprising results. Mrs. Laura Francis’ Coginchaug High School students also presented very impressive research in the face of multiple hurdles throughout the year. What do basil and raising tilapia have in common? A Coginchaug High School student can tell you through his sophisticated hydroponics experiment he conducted at home! Lastly, Mrs. Kathy Howard’s student from her MARN1001 course did an outstanding job presenting on the state of plastics in the world’s oceans.
After hearing all the great research that has gone on this year in the morning presentations, the day concluded with Mr. Mike O’Conner’s Waterford High School students who introduced a community service component of their yearlong project with a 20-minute recording. The inspirational project showed students who are working with the town of Waterford to develop signage for Alewife Cove in Waterford. The signage includes information on the ecology of the marsh, its importance, and threats to its existence. Students have also proposed a new kayak launch to help protect the marsh.
This year, presenting a group project virtually at the Symposium made the most of limited time the students could be together. Even with all the obstacles the students faced this year, their work was very impressive. We appreciate the flexibility and willingness of the instructors and students to make this virtual format a success, and we look forward to next year when we can once again spend the day at UConn’s Avery Point campus together!