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PCC science instructor sets sail with NOAA research team

06 July 2017

A Pratt Community College science instructor is spending two weeks at sea participating in a research project with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) this summer. Biology and Science instructor, Dave Chambers, is one of 29 teachers across the United States participating in the 2017 class for the Teacher at Sea (TAS) program sponsored by the NOAA.

According to their website, the TAS program mission is to provide teachers hands-on, real-world research experience working at sea with NOAA scientists providing them with experiences in oceanic and atmospheric research crucial to the nation. The TAS program gives kindergarten through college-level teachers an opportunity to sail aboard NOAA research ships to work under the guidance of experienced scientists and crew members.

“I am thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to participate in the NOAA Teacher at Sea program,” said Chambers. “Even though Pratt is more the 600 miles away from our nearest ocean I have always been fascinated by the immensity, power and beauty of our oceans.”

Chambers will be a part of the research team aboard the NOAA ship Reuben Lasker conducting a West Coast Sardine Survey. According to the TAS website, the vessel is the fifth in a series of Oscar Dyson-class fisheries survey vessels and one of the most technologically advanced fisheries vessels in the world. The ship’s primary objective is to support fish, marine mammal, and seabird and turtle surveys off the U.S. West Coast and in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

"NOAA's Teacher at Sea Program gives teachers the professional opportunity of a lifetime with a chance to participate in cutting edge science, on the ocean, working side-by-side with world-renowned scientists,” says Jennifer Hammond, the program’s director. “Teachers describe this authentic research experience as transformative and one that allows them to bring new knowledge and excitement back to their classrooms.”

During the survey, which sets course July 17, from San Francisco, Chambers will be keeping a log of both his research findings and personal experiences at sea. Chambers hopes to bring back a treasure of knowledge to share with his classes and the community.

“One of the overall goals of the TAS program is to bring what we learned at sea back to our classrooms and the community,” said Chambers. “We want to connect students to real world situations and challenge them to think critically about science, research and outcomes from that research.”

Chambers passion for water began when he was young, and he wants to bring knowledge to students and the community about why rivers and oceans are not only a big part of Kansas history, but also why it’s important for our future as well.

“I have often been asked what do oceans have to do with Kansas,” said Chambers. “For many of my students and people in my community there can be a lack of understanding of how our oceans affect all of us, and how critical they are to maintaining the biogeochemical cycles and energy flow that make life possible on the planet.”

“It is my sincere hope that through my experiences with the TAS program I will become a more effective communicator and stronger advocate for relating the importance of protecting our planet’s most valuable resource, our oceans,” said Chambers. ”One of my goals related to this experience is to use the process of education to help people in our area better understand how our oceans determine the overall health of our planet.”

Chambers will be working alongside NOAA researchers to study populations of sardines in the Pacific Ocean.  The data from that research will be used to implement regulations that will help to ensure Pacific sardines are harvested in a sustainable manner. Data collected from the survey will be provided to NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center scientists that along with other agencies, manage coastal pelagic fisheries resources in the California Current ecosystem. An important part of fisheries research cruises are to perform biological and physical surveys to ensure sustainable fisheries and healthy marine habitats are protected.
Chambers explains that there are two components to the research he will be assisting with that are vital.

“There is an economic component to the research.  The Pacific sardine fishery is a multi-million dollar industry that is important to the economy and provides jobs and money to those who work in the fishing industry,” said Chambers. “There is also an ecological component to the research.  Pacific sardines are an important part or our marine ecosystems, and they are an important food source for many marine vertebrates including marine mammals, fish, birds and turtles.  The data collected from these types of surveys is critical to making sure our fisheries are harvested sustainably so these resources will be available in the future for economic and ecological purposes.”

This expedition is not the first for Chambers. In 2002 he traveled to the Bering Sea in Alaska to conduct research with the National Marine Fisheries Service. He is also a certified scuba diver.

Chambers works with the Kanas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism in Pratt each year with his Environmental Science class where they explore the ecosystem of rivers and collecting data to take back to the lab.

Chambers will be keeping a log of his mission and experiences during his expedition. The log can be found at teacheratsea.noaa.gov/#/2017/Dave*Chambers/blogs.

Upon returning from the survey and back home to Kansas he is required to submit lesson plans for his classes that address the science and research that was conducted on the vessel.  In addition to lesson plans related to the research Chambers’ will also incorporate information related to careers in science and research related to our oceans into his classes.

“This program is extremely valuable not only for myself as a participant but is a great tool that I can use to show my students the opportunities associated with careers related to science and our oceans,” said Chambers.

For more information:
NOAA Fisheries Homepage: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/
NOAA Teacher at Sea Homepage: http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/
Dave Chambers’ blog: http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/#/2017/Dave*Chambers/blogs