We are tied to the Ocean

The Exploratorium, particularly the Environment Group, have very close ties to NOAA. From my time at the museum I’ve learnt that both parties feel they have benefited greatly from their relationship. For instance, the museum hosts a number of NOAA pieces of equipment and sensors for the atmosphere and the ocean. The Bay Observatory’s giant screen plays many visualisations from NOAA (and NOAA are happy to get feedback particularly from Ron Hipschman if a bug is discovered).

The partnership between the Exploratorium and NOAA is even strong enough to warrant it’s own feature on the Exploratorium’s website! This kind of commitment to collaboration with scientific agencies is one of many things about the museum that makes it successful.

Last Tuesday, the Environment Group were delighted to have two visitors from NOAA visit at the Exploratorium. Dr John McDonough from the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and Commander John Crofts, who is part of the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) and NOAA Corps.

John McDonough (left) and John Crofts (right) discussing ideas with Mary Miller and Kate O’Donnell. Quite a few ideas about how NOAA OMAO’s work can be supported, showcased and presented by the Exploratorium’s Environment Group. It was delightful to eavesdrop on a logistical/brainstorming conversation that also pretty much sounded like a ‘geek out’!
Some of the remote sensing equipment owned by NOAA and the USGS mounted on the Exploratorium’s Pier 15.

Although I haven’t been privvy to very many discussions between scientific agencies (like NOAA) and Exploratorium staff, eavesdropping on the one between the two Johns and Mary & Kate sounded this kinds of meetings are more like a the kind of chat you would have in a staff room over cups of tea/coffee and a sandwich rather than formality. John & John talked about some really exciting things they were getting up to (one example below) and Mary & Kate were bouncing about similar things the Exploratorium showcased in the past, or how they could bring some of the work our NOAA reps were talking about to the museum in the near future.

John Crofts told us about some new ‘Saildrones’. These are automated self-powered sailing drones used by NOAA to collect oceanic and atmospheric data.

The drones are based in Alameda, which is just across the Bay from the Exploratorium. Of course, the folks at the museum emoted that they’d love to have these ‘little’ red bots to come visit Pier 15! So discussions moved onto that possibility and, as has happened in the past, having the possibility of a NOAA ship (like John Croft’s ship the Reuben Lasker) moor at the Exploratorium to have ship staff and/or the Explainers inform visitors about their operations.

Our guests were given a tour of the Exploratorium, it’s facilities and more impressively to me, the sustainability features of the Pier 15 building, which I will focus more in-depth in a later planned post.

NOAA guests get a tour of the Pier 15 building (home of the Exploratorium). Here, building operations manager Chuck Mignacco shows the system that uses sea-water to regulate the temperature of the whole building.

The ocean: inspiring veterans and amateurs alike

While John McDonough and John Crofts have been in the game of ocean research for a while, there are plenty of young enthusiasts aspiring to do so. Cerys Maryan is an ex-GCSE Geography student of mine who, in my experience, doesn’t just have the aspiration to do the kind of work John, John and their colleagues do, but also has the determination.

I was delighted to hear that Cerys gave a talk about ocean sustainability. She is hoping to start an undergraduate degree in September, and so starting on the front-foot in displaying this level of passion both in a topic and in communicating ideas to the public will certainly serve her well.

With Cerys’ kind permission, here is her presentation:

“As an aspiring Marine Biologist, I believe that it is my duty to not only explore our wonderful oceans, but to educate as many people as I possibly can on how we can all do our bit to protect our environment. I decided to do some extra reading and research in​to the current state of our oceans and was saddened by the devastating impact that we have had on our beautiful Blue Planet. In the wake of Sir Attenborough’s thought-provoking documentary series, I still believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but to make this light become a reality we need to make some changes immediately – primarily reducing our use of the dreaded “single-use” plastics and to source our fish sustainably.” 

Sadly, I’m now done at the Exploratorium. However, I’m not yet ready to write a ‘farewell’ or reflection entry… I’m working on something which I will share as soon as it’s finished – I want it to be reflective of my amazing time there. Of course spending quality time with the family (who I haven’t seen in 2 months) is a priority, so it’ll be done when it gets done! 🙂

zzlogoP.S. My sabbatical is self-funded and un-paid. Please check out my paid resources at TES and Teachers-Pay-Teachers! If you are looking for teaching resources for all subjects, not just Geography, please check out ZigZag education’s catalogue by clicking through my affiliate link here. If you do find something useful and purchase, I’ll get some commission to help me pay for a public transport fare etc! 😉


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