Ocean Views: Discovery Voyage

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Last week the students at Kennedy and Pescadero Middle had a blast on the R/V Robert G. Brownlee.

BrownleeThe R/V Robert G. Brownlee, a 90- foot research vessel, was the first ship designed and constructed specifically for the safety and science education of elementary and high schools students on the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento River Delta. In November of 1998, the R/V Robert G. Brownlee replaced our old ship, R/V Inland Seas, that served close to 300,000 students since the Institute was founded in 1970. Read more about the Brownlee here: http://sfbaymsi.org/aboutus/robertGbrownlee.html.

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Each day the students experienced different types of weather. On Tuesday, it was sunny and beautiful. Wednesday morning had a downpour but that didn’t stop the students from enjoying themselves. Thursday and Friday ranged from rain to sun. Continuing their exploration of watersheds, the students delved into the idea that the San Francisco Bay Estuary is where water drains to and is connected to the Pacific Ocean via the Golden Gate.

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During their adventure on the bay, the students used an otter trawl to collect fish to touch, identify, and release. An otter trawl is characterized by two large wooden planks called “doors” attached to each side of the net, which allow the net to stay open. As it trawls through the levels of the water, fish are caught in the “cod” end of the net. Once all the fish are caught the net is brought on board and the fish are placed in the starboard tank were students can see what they’ve caught.

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The students ventured deeper into the bay by using a Peterson mud grab. They pulled up a nice smelly glob of mud. This mud smells like nickel due to the components of the soil. As the kids take the mud oath they smear some on their faces. Taking a closer look the students discovered tube worm casings and other invertebrates that live in the mud.

mud faceWhat about the microscopic organisms that are a part of the watershed? The students trawled for plankton, which are drifting aquatic plants and animals. Using a microscope and camera the students were able to see what they collected. There were two main groups of plankton that the students found: zooplankton (animal drifters) and phytoplankton (plant drifters).  Due to the influence of the rain, there wasn’t much plankton in our sample, but we still saw a lot of copepods!

Thrplankton copyoughout the various field trips that the students have completed so far they have collected water samples to test different parameters. One of the stations that the students completed on the Discovery Voyage was hydrology, which is the study of water. The students found the temperature, density, and salinity of the water at different points and times in the bay. This is a great knowledge for the students because it helps them see the health of the bay.

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Keep reading about the Ocean Views Students. In January they will be  learning all about the Snowy Plovers.

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