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Notes from the Field

Bring SPURS and Aquarius Into the Classroom!

September 13th, 2012 by Maria-Jose Viñas

By Eric Lindstrom

“Why do sharks swim in saltwater? Because pepper water makes them sneeze!”

Jokes aside, why is saltwater so important? Find out using our educational resources about ocean salinity.

Along with our expedition, there are many web resources for educators wishing to incorporate oceanography and salinity into their curricula. This post highlights some of the resources and points of contact for Aquarius and SPURS expedition.

First, the Aquarius mission teamed up with Annette DeCharon and the Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence-Ocean Systems (COSEE-OS) over the past several years to create educational materials on the Aquarius mission website. Created throughout the life of the Aquarius mission, these materials include classroom activities and data-driven tools that allow non-scientists to see the implications of ocean change on the environment. Here you will also find standards-oriented lessons, such as “Salinity Patterns & the Water Cycle,” which are organized according to grade-level and highlight the role of salinity in Earth and Ocean processes.

Test your knowledge of salinity on the Aquarius web page.

In addition, the COSEE-OS website has a variety of resources related to the Aquarius mission and ocean salinity. These include the COSEE-Ocean Systems/UMaine publication “Teaching Physical Concepts in Oceanography: An Inquiry-Based Approach,” and content-driven webinars and interactive concept maps created by NASA Aquarius scientists. These webinars focus on the technology and scientific process involved in measuring ocean salinity from space, emphasizing the role of salinity in regulating ocean circulation and Earth’s climate and weather.

View of the concept map created by Aquarius Principal Investigator, Gary Lagerloef, explaining the science goals and broader implications of studying sea surface salinity.

Example of one of the many freely-available assets from interactive concept maps and searchable on the COSEE-OS website.

Second, Phoebe Jekielek, also from COSEE-OS, joined us in Woods Hole for the pre-expedition media event. She certainly got up to speed on SPURS if you have questions! Currently available resources on the SPURS website include a Sampling Strategy Challenge, using the JPL Trajectory Tracking Tool, designed for in-class use to introduce teachers and students to one of the modeling tools SPURS scientists use to plan their cruise. Check back for more materials, pictures and interviews highlighting the scientists, technology and instrumentation of the cruise and the importance of understanding ocean salinity. Phoebe collected much of that information last week.

Example of the viewing window in the JPL Trajectory Tracking Tool showing “balloons” representing deployed drifters, long/lat coordinates and the “drifter track”output after running the simulation.

Dr. Andrey Shcherbina aboard the R/V Knorr with seagliders being deployed during the SPURS cruise.

Other, more general, resources include the NASA Physical Oceanography Program production on ocean motion dedicated to providing materials about ocean surface currents using figures, movies and links to other resources. Additionally, this site provides useful data visualization tools for use by teachers and students.

The BRIDGE also provides a wide selection of teacher-approved marine-related resources.

But the biggest resource for the next month is the team at sea on Knorr working on SPURS. I would welcome feedback and questions from students and teachers on my postings. Your questions might stimulate fresh directions on the postings and there is interest from those aboard ship in helping to answer your questions. Hope to hear from you soon!

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