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CERF Presentations Include ODU Science Outreach to Children

By Jim Raper - InsideODU - November 21, 2011

Victoria Hill and Fred Dobbs, Old Dominion oceanographers, had some fresh news to report during a presentation earlier this month at the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF) 2011 meeting in Daytona, Fla.

In Norfolk, just before Hill and Dobbs left for Daytona, they had joined with other faculty members, including Jenifer Alonzo and Stephen Pullen of communication and theatre arts and Amy Adcock of STEM education and professional studies, to produce the first science outreach program for children sponsored by the newly formed Science Alliance Live organization at ODU.

More than 300 children and their parents attended the Nov. 5 inaugural session, which included two entertaining plays written by Alonzo and a Web-based children's game developed by Adcock, all of which explain and support the research of Hill and Dobbs.

Alonzo's plays are about Hill's climate change research in the Arctic region and Dobbs' water quality/public health research. "Tuk in the Arctic" invites the audience to help Tuk, a Canadian Inuit working dog, understand the importance of collecting data from sea ice. "Enzo Murray: Science Reporter" challenges the audience to assist Enzo and Dobbs as they navigate confusing media messages while defeating hazardous bacteria found in seawater.

Hill gave the presentation at CERF 2011 on behalf of the research team. It was titled "Scientific Awareness Through Theatre: Inspiring Young People to Value Scientific Practice as We Adapt to Climate Change." She described a collaborative effort among arts, education and science departments at ODU to communicate the effects of climate change to children and their families through interactive theater.

Science Alliance Live was born out of this collaboration and plans call for it to continue to expand and develop (http://sciencealliancelive.org/). The effort is part of the one-year-old Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Initiative launched by ODU President John R. Broderick.

The university's Office of Research gave $45,000 in seed money to start the "Scientific Awareness Through Theatre" project.

Hill's Science Alliance Live presentation was one of seven given by ODU faculty members and graduate students at CERF 2011, which was held Nov. 6-10. Others were:

Hill, associate research professor of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences (OEAS) together with OEAS Professor Richard Zimmerman, Paul Bissett from Florida Environmental Research Institute and David Kohler from WeoGeo, presented "Exploring the Utility of WorldView2 for Investigation of Near Shore Coastal Environments." This research described the use of commercial ocean color satellite images to identify and help judge the condition of sand and grasses on the sea floor along the Florida coastline.

Malee Jinuntuya, a graduate student working with Zimmerman and Hill, presented "Simulating the Effects of CO2 Enrichment on Nitrogen Metabolism in Eelgrass." Data from this study provide a first-order physiological estimate for eelgrass responses to changing climate.

Meredith L. McPherson, another graduate student working with Zimmerman and Hill, presented "Environmental and Physiological Influences on del13C of Zostera marina L." This study investigated the influence of carbon dioxide permeability on photosynthesis and the carbon isotopic composition of eelgrass from the Chesapeake Bay, integrating theoretical calculations, laboratory measurements and in situ measurements of light, carbon dioxide, and environmental conditions.

Wenda Li, a graduate student working with Dobbs, presented "Are Organic Marine Aggregates 'Hotspots' for Viruses?" This ongoing research indicates that viruses may grow on and be spread by the ubiquitous specks and flecks of organic matter found in oceans, lakes and rivers.

Manju Nagarajan, another graduate student working with Dobbs, presented "Urban Runoff and Bacteriological Water Quality of a Chesapeake Bay Sub-estuary." Nagarajan summarized her weekly sampling of fecal-indicator bacteria (FIB) in Norfolk's Knitting Mill Creek over the past two years. Much of the year, the creek exceeds EPA criteria for safe recreational waters. During heavy rains, runoff carries very high loads of FIB into the creek.

Margaret Mulholland, associate professor of OEAS, together with George Boneillo, a recent Ph.D. graduate who worked with Mulholland, and her lab manager, Peter Bernhardt, presented "Factors Affecting Brown Tide Blooms and Productivity in Mid-Atlantic Coastal Lagoons."

The CERF mission is to promote research in estuarine and coastal ecosystems; support education of scientists, decision-makers and the public; and facilitate communication about these ecosystems among these groups. It has approximately 1,650 members.

Original content from InsideODU