A Scientific Approach to the Coast

From Upper Campus Science Department Chair, Kim Hudson
This is an annual junior-class field trip for all students taking biology and honors biology. This year, however, we participated in a new project, splitting the day between the tide pools in Pacific Grove and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Our group began the day in Pacific Grove working with LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students), a citizen science project that trains students to help monitor coastal ecosystems in the five marine sanctuaries along the California coast. Data collected by our students on our field trip went into a huge and growing database that can then be accessed to study populations and ecosystems. Students worked in small groups using quadrats to identify sample areas, and then recorded animals, algae, and plants within each quadrat. We had half the students working on data collection at a time. The other half of the students used their phones to capture photos of as many species of animals, plants, and algae as they could find. The students will be loading their best pictures into an app called iNaturalist to help correctly identify each organism. iNaturalist is the biggest citizen science project in the world. Students can use the artificial intelligence algorithms in the app to ID their species, and then experts from around the world can also view the pictures and confirm the identification. When this happens, the picture and ID are labeled as "research grade.” The experts, in turn, get information on species locations and abundance for their own research.

Once we were done at the tide pools, we headed over to the aquarium where students got lunch. By this time they were hungry! While in the aquarium, students were tasked with a photographic scavenger hunt that brought them to each key exhibit area. 

In everything we do at Pinewood, our goal is that our students would grow in each element of WISCR. Here’s how that growth was encouraged during this field trip: 

Well-rounded: Everyone got to be a scientist for the day, as well as get out of their school comfort zone and get out into nature one-on-one. Insightful and critical thinker: Students gained a better understanding of how an ecosystem functions and as whole while being made up of lots of smaller, interacting parts. Self-motivated: Students assumed new and important responsibilities contributing to large scientific projects, and they needed to monitor themselves and their efforts along the way. Clear communicator: Students had to successfully communicate verbally while working together in the tide pools to record accurate data. Students will be communicating the species they've found on iNaturalist with scientists and experts, and they will be sharing all their work with their teachers. Respectful character: Students were asked to demonstrate respect for their tasks and the new environment they were in, including the living organisms they encountered.

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