NEOSEC Affords Cutting-Edge Ocean Science Opportunities

The New England Ocean Science Education Collaborative (NEOSEC) Network Affords Cutting-Edge Ocean Science Opportunities for Visiting Chinese Scientist who seeks information about a prospective COSEE China.

Contributed by Kim M. Frashure*

Dr. Min Liu, Associate Professor of Fisheries at Xiamen University, Xiamen, China, visited the New England area during the summer of 2010, in order to learn more about cutting-edge ocean science education and outreach activities in the U.S., and to incorporate this knowledge into a new Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) in China. Her goals were realized through the optimization of the well-established, New England Ocean Science Education Collaborative (NEOSEC) network of ocean science resources and partners.

Min Liu’s trip to the U.S. follows and builds upon the work of a COSEE China visit in March, 2010, by fifteen participants from eight U.S. COSEE Centers who met in Beijing, China, with representatives from five Chinese universities, the State Oceanic Administration, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Beijing Office to explore the possibility of establishing a first ever COSEE China. Her trip to the U.S. also included visits to COSEE SouthEast, COSEE-West, and COSEE California.

Upon her arrival in Boston, Massachusetts, Dr. Liu first stop included meeting with Robert F. Chen, former COSEE New England (NE) co-Principal Investigator and Professor from the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston). Dr. Chen was also the Principle Investigator for the COSEE China workshop in Beijing, China.

After a guided tour of the UMass Boston campus, Min Liu participated in a Center of Science and Mathematics in Context (COSMIC) workshop. The COSMIC is a joint venture of the College of Education and Human Development and the College of Science and Mathematics at UMass Boston. The mission of COSMIC is to advance high quality teaching and learning in science and math for all students at K-12, university, both undergraduate and graduate levels.

Next, Min Liu traveled to Cape Cod, Massachusetts with Dr. Ari Shapiro who presented the COSEE NOW project at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. COSEE NOW is comprised of several institutional partners who are using real time information from ocean observing systems to enhance public understanding of the ocean.

The following day, Dr. Liu joined former COSEE New England facilitator, Kim Frashure, for a Behind the Scenes Tour at the New England Aquarium. The personalized tour was arranged by Dr. William Spitzer, Vice President for Programs and Exhibits at the New England Aquarium, and highlighted information about the diet of fish, how the tanks and exhibits are maintained, how sick animals are nursed back to life, and conservation efforts aimed at protecting species.

Her day at was accentuated by a New England Aquarium whale watch trip to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The 842 square mile federally marine protected area is about 25 miles east of Boston and is New England’s premier spot for whale watching. Some of the whale species that Min Liu spotted that day included humpback whales, minke whales, fin whales, and pilot whales. Additionally she encountered shearwater storm petrel and gannet birds, a school of blue fin tuna, and a large school of krill.

Min Liu’s last stop in New England included a visit to the Seacoast Science Center (SSC) and the offices of the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS) located in Odiorne Point State Park in Rye, New Hampshire. The visit was arranged by Cassie Durette of NERACOOS and facilitated by Wendy Lull, President of SSC, Dr. Ru Morrison, Executive Director of NERACOOS, and Perrin Chick, Education Director at the SSC and current chair of NEOSEC. Min Liu enjoyed the SSC’s interactive natural science exhibits and experienced the diversity of live animals that inhabit the aquaria and terraria and then, sat down with her hosts to learn more about ocean science activities in the U.S.

Dr. Min Liu visits the Seacoast Science Center and NERACOOS
Dr. Min Liu visits the Seacoast Science Center
and NERACOOS (From left to right: Wendy
Lull, Min Liu, Perrin Chick, and Ru Morrison)

Ru Morrison gave an informal introductory presentation about NERACOOS. NERACOOS is the Northeast component of the NOAA Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS), and spans the coastal waters from the Canadian Maritime Provinces to the New York Bight. The mission of NERACOOS is to make available information to those who use these waters (e.g. weather and ocean data to fishers, commercial shippers, and emergency managers). NERACOOS also is involved in the advancement of efforts to use data for water quality monitoring, harmful algal bloom predictions and warnings, and coastal flooding and erosion forecasting systems.

Perrin Chick spoke about the variety of programs offered at the SSC including activities for both families and students to learn about coastal environmental history. Perrin also talked about the evolving network of NEOSEC from its early foundation involving the former COSEE New England network to its current status including more than forty institutions from across New England, including aquariums, museums, universities, government entities and science and research centers. NEOSEC’s mission and collective purpose are to leverage New England’s extraordinary assets, to engage the public in understanding the vital connections between people and the ocean.

Next, the conversation among the SSC staff and Min Liu shifted to a discussion about ocean science educational reform efforts in China including the goal of the first ever COSEE China. Min Liu spoke of the need for an increased awareness about ocean science education in China among students and the general public. Wendy Lull shared her lessons learned based upon years of experience in program implementation and educational outreach efforts and success stories during her tenure as President of the SSC.

Min Liu culminated her tour of the SSC by participating in the Geo Adventures program located in the 1 million dollar Gregg Interactive Learning Studio and includes a multimedia production focused on the Gulf of Maine and provides hands on opportunities to learn about human impact on ecosystems through interactive games. As Min Liu concluded her day, she reflected about the enormous amount of work needed for educational reform involving the ocean sciences in China and about how long it will take her colleagues to do so.

Min Liu’s visit highlighted the integration between research and education activities in the New England area and in the U.S. By extending beyond China’s borders, the sharing of best practices among NEOSEC and Min Liu will provide input about the building blocks for developing a COSEE China and ultimately lead to potential innovation and effective collaborations about ocean science educational programming in China and in the U.S.

After Min Liu returned to Xiamen University in China and hosted a second COSEE China planning workshop with the outcome of constructing a COSEE China website and submitting a summary and planning of COSEE China Planning Workshop to National Natural Science Foundation of China and State Oceanic Administration. Min Liu is currently helping to build their own ocean science network which to date includes 11 universities.

Dr. Min Liu’s trip to the U.S. was made possible by Dr. Lundie Spence, the Principle Investigator of COSEE Southeast and by Dr. Linda Duguay, Principle Investigator of COSEE West and the generosity of time by several COSEE and NEOSEC affiliated partners.

*Kim Frashure is a current PhD Candidate in the Environmental Earth and Ocean Sciences department at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, Massachusetts.