February Break Fun

Last week was February break in our area so all the local k-12 students were on vacation from school . While its been a long time since I got a February break 😦 this year’s February break was special because the Beach Sister Peer Leaders from Girls Inc. and I decided it was a perfect opportunity to plan a trip to the Marine Science Center. First off, let me explain who the Beach Sister Peer Leaders are. The Beach Sister program is collaboration between the MSC and Girls Inc. of Lynn in which MSC outreach staff (and sometimes grad students like me) provide marine/environmental science based after school programming. The Peer Leaders are a small group of especially interested high school girls who help run the programs for the younger Beach Sisters and also plan and attend cool events in the area related to marine/environmental science and advocacy.So last Wednesday, after some hard work and planning by the Peer Leaders, a group of their peers from Girls Inc. came to see what we do at the MSC and learn about how they can get involved in the Beach Sister program.When the girls first arrived we went on a tour of the MSC. I showed them all the fancy equipment we use in my lab to analyze the nutrients in water and seaweed, and all the not so fancy equipment (i.e. tupperware and pvc) that we use for mesocosm experiments and fieldwork.  Then we toured the surrounding grounds, soaking up the sun and beautiful spring-like weather. I wowed the girls with fun facts about the MSC’s military and cinematic (i.e. Shutter Island) history.

Then we sat down while the Beach Sister’s told us about some cool things they had learned in the program. It was great to see them talk about the issues that are important to them and share their experiences in Beach Sister with their peers. After the girls taught us a bit about the importance of biodiversity and the horrors of the Pacific Garbage patch (see video below), we got to meet the local animals and seaweeds impacted by these issues, in our touch tanks.

Next, we were lucky to have two of my fellow grad students come to talk to us about their research. Lara told us all about lobster, lamprey and jellyfish neurons and even gave us a tour of the jellyfish room. One of the girls was amazed to learn (and see!) how juvenile jellyfish live in sessile polyp form until they mature into their free-swimming adult medusa form. Kate taught us how predators not only eat their prey, but also can change prey behavior by scaring it. Learning about the research in her lab inspired some interesting questions about barnacles.

Finally, being so inspired by the research and environmental advocacy going on at the MSC and with Beach Sister, we got our gloves and garbage bags and spent some time cleaning up Canoe Beach. We made it into a little contest: who could find the weirdest thing? Some of the winners included a pair of jeans, a knife handle, and what looked like pieces of a tire.

Overall it was an awesome visit that ended with a great sense of satisfaction as we threw away two huge bags of trash that we had collected from the beach.

So despite not getting the week off, I am certainly looking forward to next February break!

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