Hot Topics in Marine Biology and Oceanography

 Hot Topics in Marine Biology and Oceanography
Post Conference Overview
An excellent panel presentation on contemporary topics in marine science with a specific focus on access to curriculum and resources for educators who work in ships.

Starting the discussion was Austin Becker of Stanford University, who gave a thorough overview of global warming and sea level rise. He specifically addressed the potential implications of storm surge in seaports.

Jenan Kharbush of Scripps Institution for Oceanography followed with a presentation on the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The incident, BP and government response, large dilute areas of oil at great depth, dead and dying corals, use of dispersants, and the large body of unknowns associated with dispersants and oil in these quantities were all covered.

And bringing it all together was Gwen Noda of The Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE-West) who offered a very thorough list of resources for educators and presented a number of hands-on examples for teaching ocean science concepts on ships. The list of resources assembled for this session are available on the COSEE website at [add URL here]. She talked about COSEE’s role in connecting scientists to educators and encouraged all to take advantage of COSEE’s resources.

Ken Neal of Call of the Sea talked briefly about curriculum elements they have added to programs aboard Seaward and his work on education units for ocean power. Jan Wagner added that SEA will be working on a shipboard program in the Gulf this spring and spoke briefly about SEA’s historical work with tarballs.

Original Summary
 Many topics vie for attention in our programs. Local, national, worldwide. From oil spills in the Gulf to climate change, there are numerous topics relevant to the waters we sail. Come learn about current hot topics in marine science and oceanography and leave with resources to enrich your shipboard program.


 Austin Becker, Stanford University
Austin Becker

Austin Becker is a Ph.D. student in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program for Environment and Resources at Stanford University. Austin researches the risks and vulnerabilities that climate change pose to seaports and the socio-political systems that depend upon them. To understand how best to approach climate-change adaptation, he works across the fields of engineering, policy, sociology, and climate science. He earned a Master of Marine Affairs (2005) and Master of Environmental Science and Management (2006) at the University of Rhode Island. Before returning to graduate school, he worked as a captain in the Sloop Providence and various other sailing ships. Austin holds a 500-Ton U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license for ocean-going vessels. 

Jenan Kharbush, Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego
Jenan Kharbush

My fascination with the ocean and its contents (from whales to microbes to molecules) began when I was a child growing up in Wisconsin. Despite these landlocked origins, I have always felt a strong but inexplicable connection to the ocean. I remember reading Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us as a child and wanting desperately to see the things she described for myself.

I learned about SEA’s Sea Semester while attending Ripon College in Wisconsin and, perhaps driven by some lingering recollection of my childhood dreams, decided on what was probably the most extreme semester-abroad program option possible: sailing onboard the Robert C. Seamans across the Pacific Ocean to Tahiti. Although those six weeks (four without sight of land!) flew by, I think they were probably the happiest days of my life. And one night on bow watch, watching the bioluminescence in the water, I decided I wanted to make a career out of studying the ocean.

I am now a second year graduate student in the Marine Chemistry PhD program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. Currently I am exploring the connections between the activities of marine microbes and the inventory of organic molecules found in the oceans, in an effort to learn more about the large-scale cycling of nutrients that affects all life in the oceans. Eventually, I would like to help educate others about the ocean and its importance to all of us, as well as somehow finding a way to incorporate more sailing trips into my future research.


Gwen Noda, UCLA, COSEE-West
Gwen Noda

Gwen is the co-Director at UCLA for COSEE-West, just one of a network of COSEE (Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence) Centers around the United States that is funded by the National Science Foundation.  She earned both a B.A. in Marine Biology and an M.A. in Biology from UCLA.  She has worked and volunteered in a variety of field and lab science research positions as well as in informal and formal education settings, including shipboard instruction and summer outdoor science camp in the Sierra Nevada.  Her current volunteer efforts are dedicated to diving in the Kelp Forest exhibit in the new Ecosystems wing at the California Science Center.


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