WSG News Blog

Solving an Environmental Mystery at NOAA Science Camp

July 24, 2019

Where in Seattle can middle and high school students interact with real marine scientists, get hands-on research experience and even – if they dare – pick through seal poop?

NOAA Science Camp! We just wrapped up another fun and educational year for Washington Sea Grant’s summer program middle and high school students.

One of the highlights for the Middle School Science Camp was solving an environmental mystery. Camp staff presented the students with a scenario involving a big fish die-off. Then, campers visited various stations hosted by NOAA offices in which they learned about marine topics while they pieced together the clues to solve the puzzle. The photos below show this detective work in action.

In the National Marine Fisheries Services lab, students learned to identify a variety of fish species and check for signs of wounds, trauma or disease.
At the oceanography station, campers learned about properties of ocean water including dissolved oxygen and pH, and practiced measuring these properties in actual samples. Could a change in the water chemistry caused the fish to die?

The students went home having solved the environmental mystery – and, more importantly, with skills to think through tough questions as a scientist. “I like science camp because I get to learn about the kinds of things I want to do in the future,” one camper said.

At the NOAA Dive Center, students got familiar with scuba equipment, how to plan a dive and the importance of following the buddy system while underwater.
Meanwhile, the high school students in the Junior Leadership Program built Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS) buoys equipped with sensors to measure temperature and light. Then they deployed the buoys in the water to gather data over the weekend.
In the National Marine Mammal Lab, students analyzed seal scat for clues, looking for remnants that could help to identify what the animal had for dinner. “Otoliths!” one student exclaimed. “I think they’re from a walleye pollock!”