Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Up On Cripple Creek: TMA Students Pair With Top Scientists

Students from the Environmentors program took to the banks of the Chesapeake Bay last Tuesday in search of fish, creek farts and a few good scientists.

On the first of a full schedule of environmental science field trips planned for this year, students visited the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, MD and got their hands dirty conducting research with volunteer scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In one of several explorations of the conservation area, a group of students and NOAA scientists canoed a quiet creek near the SERC campus. TMA junior Nadean Talley drove her paddle deep into the murky water and a slew of bubbles emerged on the surface. A minute later, an unpleasantly familiar odor wafted across the cluster of canoes gathered in the middle of the creek.

Ms. Talley’s face crinkled. “What’s that smell?” she asked.

“Creek farts,” replied the group’s guide, Julia Elkin. She explained that deep within the water’s muddled depths lay a collection of methane gas, a substance that sours the nostrils when emitted from creeks and humans both.

Environmentors spent the rest of the day fishing the Bay with nets to count marine species, digging up earth worms to analyze their effect on plant life, and traversing the Bay in a boat. The participants from NOAA—top scientists in their fields who volunteered to work with TMA students for the day—accompanied the groups and worked with students on every project. At the end of the afternoon, each team presented their findings.

For the TMA students who plan to continue in the Environmentors program, it was the start of a year of scientific inquiry and research alongside scientists from all fields of study. TMA students interested in joining the program should contact Ms. Johnston in room 112 or Mr. Bein in room 210.

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