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Coastal and Marine Geology Team Helps Guide More Than 1,000 Students Through USGS Earth Science Week Exhibits

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Bruce Rogers
Bruce to the rescue: When the fast-arriving students began to overflow the hallways of Building 1, Bruce Rogers (in back) got creative and held groups outside, pointing out crystals in a granite slab that faces the walkway and using them to explain how granite crystallizes, how the Sierra Nevada mountains were formed, and why the granitic rocks of the Sierra attract so many rock climbers.

On October 14, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) personnel in Menlo Park, CA, hosted more than 1,000 students, mainly 4th- through 7th-graders, as the kids and their teachers visited nearly 30 exhibits set up around campus for Earth Science Day, a 1-day celebration of this year's Earth Science Week (Oct. 12-18).

Members of the Coastal and Marine Geology (CMG) team were important contributors to this event, in which school groups arrived at one end of campus and followed a prescribed route to presentations in several buildings. The first stop was "The Microscopic World of One-Celled and Multi-Celled Organisms," presented by CMG scientist Mary McGann in a conference room in Building 1.

First impressions are important, and Mary gave a fine first impression of the USGS as she interacted with the students and offered vivid analogies to help them understand why planktonic foraminifers (or forams) have the shapes they have, how abundant benthic forams are in sea-floor mud, and just how tiny most forams are.

She told of a Japanese foram (Trochammina hadai) that has recently invaded San Francisco Bay, demonstrated how foram-rich mud samples are collected and processed, and, of course, invited the students to look through numerous microscopes set up around the room. The energetic Mary worked without a break during the student tours, from about 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., and she must have made it look easy—one of the parents accompanying a school group asked, "Do you offer this every day?"

When buses began arriving one right after another, the student groups had to be held back and entertained while they waited their turn to enter the room housing Mary's exhibit. Luckily, many CMG team members had volunteered to monitor Building 1 hallways and help the students view the numerous posters and displays on the hallway walls. The creativity and positive energy of these volunteers were critical to the day's success. They were (in alphabetical order) Carolyn Degnan, Venilda Dominguez, Greg Gabel, Helen Gibbons, Melissa Ingraca, Dan Mosier, Carol Reiss, Kevin Orzech, Bruce Rogers, Laura Torresan, and Florence Wong.

Although the student groups were a bit more spread out by the time they reached the Coastal and Marine Geology team's second exhibit across campus in Building 3, the scene was still what CMG scientist Susie Cochran-Marquez described as "controlled chaos."

Below left: Mary McGann asks students what shape they think would best help planktonic forams float (she's holding a clue in her hand).
Mary McGann asks students what shape they think would best help planktonic forams float Gerry Hatcher and Tom Reiss
Above right: Gerry Hatcher (left) and Tom Reiss showed students how the USGS has used current drifters (instrumented orange saucers hanging at each end of frame) to track coral larvae in Hawaiian waters.

She helped bring order to that chaos by ushering students in and out of the area where presenters Tom Reiss and Gerry Hatcher showed how the USGS has been "Using Current Drifters to Track Coral Larvae in Hawai'i." For this exhibit, Tom Reiss built an easy-to-assemble, lightweight frame that supported a video player and monitor on a central shelf and two large current drifters, one suspended on each side of the frame. Gerry and Tom took turns talking the students through a short video that showed the underwater spawning of corals off West Maui, the deployment of current drifters above the spawning corals, and the recorded tracks of the drifters as they floated along with the coral larvae (view an animation of the drifter tracks - 16 MB MPEG file). After the video, Gerry and Tom fielded questions and gave the students a chance to pick up handouts and view the video components—drifter shells, global-positioning-system (GPS) unit, radio for transmitting position data to shore, strobe light to warn boaters of the drifter's presence, and so on—up close.

It was about 3:30 p.m. when the last students finally left the conference room where the drifters were on display. It had been a long day, but the unflagging good cheer and creativity of USGS volunteers all over campus had helped make the event exhilarating for everyone.

Related Web Sites
Earth Science Day 2003
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Menlo Park, CA
Western Region Coastal & Marine Geology
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Menlo Park CA

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in this issue: Fieldwork cover story:
Southern California Gas Hydrate Discovered

Gulf of Mexico Deep-Water Coral Habitats

Impacts of Hurricane Isabel

Research 2003 Hokkaido Earthquake and Tsunami

Outreach Marion County Springs Festival

Earth Science Week Exhibits

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Sally Ride Science Festival

Meetings Blacks in Government

Awards Estes Receives Meritorious Service Award

Maender Receives Communicator of the Year Award

Staff & Center News Marincioni Farewell

Publications November Publications List

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