Studies suggest that involvement in research helps high school and undergraduate students develop an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Such opportunities, however, are limited along the Oregon coast.
With this in mind, Oregon Sea Grant Extension conducted 11, day-long research cruises for high school and community college students in 2018 aboard the 84-foot OSU research ship Pacific Storm. From OSU, 12 researchers, three graduate students and one undergraduate collaborated on the trips, which were attended by 72 high school students and 25 students from community colleges. They learned how scientists collect plankton, identify organisms in seafloor sediment, track whales and detect green sturgeons.
After the trips, 76% of the students reported that they were more informed about what it is like to work at sea, and 67% said they better understood marine-related careers in STEM. Sixty percent said they were planning to learn more about marine careers and 75% had more confidence they could be successful in a STEM field.
“The goal was to get students involved in real-world research, with the idea that people learn best by doing,” said Tracy Crews, who manages Oregon Sea Grant’s marine education program and who organized the trips.
It was the second year that faculty with Oregon Sea Grant led cruises for students and educators. In 2016, Crews and Leigh Torres led a three-day expedition aboard the OSU-operated Oceanus.