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Students Experience Sea Life Up-close at the Upper Newport Bay Estuary

19 October 2012 admin 2,047 views No Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

By Alexis Rodriguez-Oscar, Grade 12

Last week, 15 students from the Upper School marine science class visited the Back Bay Science Center located in the Upper Newport Bay Estuary. Once inside the science center, students were able to connect concepts such as watersheds, water runoff that drains into the estuary, and the different habitats of an estuary. Students were then divided into groups of three, while half the class tested water quality; the other half took a mud-grab.

Instructed by volunteers at the Back Bay Science Center, students learned how to take samples of the mud at the bottom of the estuary alongside the docks, and examine the organisms living inside the mud. After separating the organisms from the mud, students were able to examine through microscopes what looked like a worm to the naked eye was in actuality a baby arthropod shrimp, or witness a mollusk clam extend its “foot” in saltwater. One group of students even caught a baby fish in their mud-grab, further solidifying the concept that mudflats can be shelter and protection for a wide range of organisms in an estuary.

Students were also able to look at some continental shelf organisms without traveling to the continental shelf because of the touch tanks at the Back Bay Science Center. Inside the touch tanks, students were able to feel the rough exterior surfaces of sea stars, the smooth, slimy surface of sea cucumbers, and receive a sea urchins hug as the tentacles attract to one’s finger. Some brave students even petted leopard sharks and sting rays that have been raised in captivity inside the bigger touch tanks. Students also tested the turbidity, temperature, and salinity of the water, three concepts the students had prior knowledge of before visiting the estuary. Students made educated hypotheses about the visibility and density of the water compared to an open ocean habitat.

While sitting on the docks, students observed and appreciated the wildlife within the estuary. They became expert bird watchers, identifying ospreys, western sandpipers, brown pelicans and ring billed gulls. The morning was filled with fun, educational activities that reinforced the concepts taught in the classroom with the natural processes and life species in the Upper Newport Bay Estuary.

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