Salish Campers Explore the Shoreline, Build ROVs

August 25, 2016

buoyteamswDuncanIn July, Salish Education Director Dan Hannafious led two summer camp sessions on Bainbridge Island and Whidbey Island. Here is his report from the field:

Salish Summer Camp is a dynamic blend of traditional Salish Sea Expeditions investigation of the marine waters, but with more exploratory activities within the watershed.  The overall aim of the camp was to allow campers the opportunity to explore broader connections between the watershed and the marine environment.

Early on the campers had great fun collecting tracks and following the tracks of small animals in the near-shore forests.  They used sooted aluminum trays baited with tidbits of food stuff to collect tracks of the critters in the forest.  They “lifted” the tracks from the trays with tape and pasted them into their journals to catalog their findings.  The trays were often covered with the tracks of mice, voles, squirrels, birds, beetles and even slugs.

fluorescentpowderThey also used non-toxic fluorescent powder to follow the tracks of critters along the forest stumps and downed logs.  They set up baited tubes coated in powder to entice critters in, and then followed their tracks using black-light flashlights. So much fun!

Along the way we collected water samples in the streams and ponds of the forest for later analysis.

The camp progressed more towards the sea with activities focused on exploring the physical and biological properties of the local marine waters.  Campers built buoys to deploy temperature and light sensors for collecting data around both Bainbridge and Whidbey Islands.

Campers collected plankton and examined their catch through microscopes. The waters are rich with plankton during the summer and serve to support much of the marine food web. During our session on Whidbey island a large school of forage fish swam by while we were discussing connections between sensor data and the biology of the nearshore – right on cue!

testingROVsTo further connect the camp activities with real world exploration, campers on Whidbey Island spent a day designing, building and deploying ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles). The activity took a team effort, and the great folks at the Atlantis ROV Team helped make it a success. On Bainbridge Island, campers visited with our friends at the Puget Sound Restoration Project shellfish hatchery and learned about their efforts to raise sea cucumbers, abalone, sablefish and steelhead to help in the recovery of these species.

Our week came full circle as campers concluded activities by analyzing water samples collected during the week and compared and discussed their findings.  They studied parameters including temperature, pH, salinity, silica, copper, nitrates and phosphates.  Collecting information over time and space can provide a good sense for how systems work and can even show indications of human influence.

watertesting4Besides getting wet and dirty every day (the mark of intrepid scientists), campers went home with a journal of activities and memories which chronicled their adventure.

Many thanks to all the campers and families who joined in the fun this summer. We can’t wait to do it all again next year!


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