Long Beach Island Students Virtually Connect With Scientists to Learn About Whale Research

Jan 10, 2018

Earlier this winter, sixth-grade students at the Long Beach Island Grade School collaborated with scientists in Antarctica to delve into actual investigations related to humpback whales. The classes utilized virtual communication to connect with the researchers, who shared their findings and answered the students’ questions.

“Using authentic, near real-time data collected by scientists involved in research of Antarctica and the polar regions, students have been exploring cutting-edge tagging technology, and how it is applied to studying humpback whales in the southern ocean,” Superintendent Peter J. Kopack and teacher Cathy McBride explained. “Using the data collected by this technology, students have been investigating and analyzing whale behaviors, and learning about the unique feeding habits of humpback whales, and how these animals interact with their environment.”

To help deepen their understanding, the students first participated in a Skype video conference with Ari Seth Friedlaender, a scientist from the University of California at Santa Cruz who studies whale foraging behaviors using the new tagging technology.

The students later joined in a virtual teleconference with scientists, including Friedlaender, at the Palmer Long Term Ecological Research site in Antarctica, which is funded by the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs. Scientists at the site focus on marine ecosystems along the West Antarctic Peninsula, and are primarily interested in effects of changes in sea ice in this region.

“Our students had great questions for the scientists, and we appreciate the time they spent with our students and teachers,” said Kopack. “Even though they are so far away, the students and teachers were able to make these connections via video conferencing. The students were really excited, and these were fantastic experiences.”

“It is our hope,” Kopack and McBride remarked, “that by engaging our students in real world scientific investigations, they will develop an interest in learning about science and the natural world.” —J.K.-H.

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