The 39th Massachusetts Marine Educators' annual conference and meeting was once again held at the world renown Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Mass., on May 2. This year’s theme was "Adventures with Marine Technology.” Attendees enjoyed listening to stimulating speakers, and many took part in enriching afternoon options.
Dr. James Yoder, Vice President for Academic Programs and Dean at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, welcomed us and gave a WHOI update. Our first speaker, software engineer Gwyneth Packard, spoke about "REMUS AUV’s: Autonomy, Tracking, and Imaging.” She described the range of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) that have been used for a variety of challenging tasks and missions, from examining underwater tunnels to finding plane wreckage on the seafloor. To better understand shark behavior, the REMUS SharkCam has been deployed on several occasions. The footage was fascinating, especially when a shark bit the vehicle tracking it! The use of AUV technology has improved our capacity to attain data and make new discoveries.
The second speaker, Liz Magee, gave an engaging talk entitled "Two Weeks Living Under the Sea: Research and Daily Life on Mission 31.” Liz, who is a diving safety officer at Northeastern University, was an aquanaut who participated on Mission 31 last June with Fabien Cousteau. She spoke about the research scientific divers conducted off the coast of Florida while living underwater in the Aquarius habitat. Being saturated gave divers the unique opportunity to collect two years worth of data in just a few weeks. Intriguing videos illustrated the many aspects of climate change being studied, including sampling coral polyps and giant barrel sponges, as well as collecting zooplankton. Liz knows this adventure was a chance of a lifetime, and we were fortunate to have her share the experience with us.
After a delicious lunch of Roland’s clam chowdah or Joe’s bean soup, participants enjoyed receiving eclectic and sometimes useful door prizes. This year, instead of having an afternoon speaker, the MME Board decided to offer more afternoon field trips and tours. Attendees could choose from five options: the zephyr cruise, a tour of the Marine Biological Laboratories (MBL) Marine Resources Center, an extended WHOI dock tour, a piloting lesson at Nobska Light, or a self guided tour at WHOI’s Ocean Science Exhibit Center.
It was a beautiful day to be outside, and see more that Woods Hole has to offer. Those who journeyed out on the water were pleased to be able to collect and examine a wide range of organisms. Dock tour participants were thrilled to get the opportunity to go aboard the Knorr, which discovered the Titanic. The tour of the Marine Resources Center excited those interested in seeing a diverse array of organisms. Since the exhibit center had the "shark cam” on display, many attendees took a trip across the street to check out the bite marks! And the new Nobska piloting lesson challenged those who took part to use math and navigation skills while enjoying the scenery. The afternoon concluded with a relaxing social reception at Sea Education Association.
Thanks to all who attended, and to all those who did so much to make this conference run so smoothly. Hope to see you next year!
- Carolyn Sheild, MME Conference Chair