TIDE campers in Lewes, Del. Photo by Lisa Tossey
Cole Flynn never hoped to become a marine scientist. But after a day spent mining the coastline for Delaware’s most interesting marine creatures, the high schooler said he hopes his future career involves the ocean.
“We got to see lots of animals, catch them, and study them,” he said. “I definitely didn’t expect to find a full-blown live horseshoe crab.”
Flynn, an incoming senior at Brandywine High School, was one of 10 students who participated in the first ever College of Marine and Earth Studies (CMES) TIDE Camp this July. TIDE, or Taking an Interest in Delaware’s Estuary, is intended to give high schoolers an up-close look at the scientific processes of Delaware Bay.
And that’s just what it did. For two weeks, campers got to do things like build their own underwater research vehicles, interact with faculty members, visit state-of-the-art research labs, tour marshes, and study wildlife at the beach.
Seining, the activity that turned up Flynn’s horseshoe crab, had students dragging nets across the ocean bottom to see what kind of critters they could find. As they got the hang of it, their nets came up heavy with horseshoe crabs, jellyfish, seahorses, and all kinds of fish — silversides, lookdowns, and pipefish.
One of the students eagerly studying the nets’ contents was Andrew Tobias, of Lebanon, Penn. Tobias, who named seining as his favorite camp activity, said he’s always had an interest in oceans, oceanography, and estuaries. The camp only strengthened that, he said.
“The instructors gave us deeper insights on issues like the physical and biological aspects of marine biology,” he said. “I learned how delicate the different marine ecosystems are.”
For the students — all of whom demonstrated an interest in marine science and showed they have solid math and science skills in their camp applications — TIDE was a rare opportunity to get personal with the inhabitants of the world beneath the waves. It also was a chance to see how scientists study the ocean and coast.
“We wanted to make sure we touched on all the different aspects of marine science,” said Frank Newton, assistant dean and one of the camp’s organizers. “So the students learned about everything from mapping to oceanography to air-sea interaction to the ocean’s connection to climate and climate change.”
In a seminar given by Associate Professor of Marine Policy Willett Kempton, they learned about Delaware’s extensive offshore wind resource and each took a ride in the electric car Kempton and his UD colleagues developed. A tour of the Air-Sea Interaction Lab showed the students the importance of understanding the physics behind the movement of wind over water and waves.
Another popular event not only showcased UD scientists’ work but also tested the students’ teamwork skills. The “build your own underwater research vehicle” competition let groups of campers create mini versions of machines used by scientists to study life on the ocean floor. The students received all the materials they needed — PVC tubing, propellers, and motors from bilge pumps — and were asked to do everything from constructing the vehicles to wiring the motors. Once the machines were fitted with an underwater video camera to help with navigation, the teams then faced off to see whose worked the best at doing things like retrieving objects from the bottom of a pool.
“Ours had trouble seeing in the water, but it moved really well,” said Claire Hoelmer, of Newark. “It won the mobility test.”
Looking on as the students competed in the research vehicle challenge was Trevor Metz, TIDE camp adviser, seventh-grade science teacher at Fred Fifer Middle School in Camden, Del. Metz, a UD alumnus, applauded the camp for challenging students intellectually and giving them unique hands-on experiences.
“To have that type of technology, to have access to all the research facilities a university has to offer, and to have the opportunity to experience marine science like they did,” he said. “Absolutely, they are lucky.”
For more on CMES, visit www.ocean.udel.edu.