1999 Workshop Agenda

First Annual Metcalf Institute Workshop for Journalists
URI Graduate School of Oceanography
Narragansett, Rhode Island
May 22-26, 1999

Measuring Change in the Coastal Environment:
Water Pollution, Fisheries, Beach Erosion

The first Metcalf Institute workshop for journalists focused on measuring and analyzing change in the coastal environment. Metcalf fellows studied water pollution, fish populations, and beach erosion, working closely with scientists and public policy experts in the field and laboratory. The workshop emphasized the basic methods of scientific research, the principles and ethics that guide scientific inquiry, and how to analyze and interpret data. The program emphasized the connection between public policy and science, communication between scientists and journalists, and the process of scientific inquiry. There were opportunities to discuss disagreeement within the scientific community, how to approach scientific uncertainty, how to interpret statistics, and how to decipher good science from bad.

The Metcalf fellows worked in the field and lab to gather and analyze water samples for pollutants and bacteria; used computers to access and plot fisheries, erosion, and water pollution data; observed natural geologic formations on the southern coast of Rhode Island; took beach transects to measure coastal erosion; participated in a sampling trawl on Narragansett Bay; and worked with Geographic Information Systems.

In addition to lab and field work, there was a series of public lectures and one debate. David Baron, NPR science reporter, moderated a debate entitled “Getting it On the Table: Why Can’t Journalists Get It Right? Why Can’t Scientists Speak English?” Other speakers included NPR radio producer, Sandy Tolan; New York Times Science Editor, Cory Dean; and Dr. Scott Nixon, GSO Oceanographer.


May 22-26, 1999
Measuring Change in the Coastal Environment:
Fisheries, Water Pollution, and Beach Erosion

Day 1
Measuring Water Pollution in an Estuary: Kayak Field Trip on Narrow River

Paddle the Narrow River in kayaks; take water samples; test and analyze samples in the lab using standard EPA guidelines. Learn how numerical data are manipulated and interpreted; discuss how public policy is shaped by science, economics, and politics.

Debate: Getting it on the Table: Why Can’t Journalists Get it Right? Why Can’t Scientists Speak English?
Moderator: David Baron, NPR, Science Reporter
Panelists: Ellen Ruppel-Shell, Professor, Boston University Graduate Science Communications, Art Gold, URI Professor, Natural Resources Sciences, Trudy Coxe, CEO, Preservation Society of Newport County, Phil Hilts, Writer, The New York Times

Evening Lecture: Impacting the Policy Process through the Media: Fishing Vessel Safety, Quonset Point, North Cape Oil Spill, Dennis Nixon, Professor, URI Department of Marine Affairs

Day 2
Assessing Fish Stocks: Fisheries Trawl on Narragansett Bay

Conduct a fish trawl aboard the research vessel Cap’n Bert; access a long-term data set by computer; analyze and plot data, draw conclusions.
Lecture: Nutrient Enrichment, Scott Nixon, Professor of Oceanography, GSO
Evening Lecture: Lobster Populations: Creating a Lobster Management Tool for Fishermen, Richard B. Allen, Captain, F/V Ocean Pearl

Day 3
The Shifting Coast: Measuring Coastal Erosion

Take transects on a south-facing beach on Rhode Island Sound; learn how beaches move, change shape and how coastal change is measured.Visit a Geographic Information Systems laboratory; see how numerical data are accessed, analyzed; how visual data are interpreted.
Public Lecture: Going Public: Why Scientist Must Explain Their Work, Cory Dean, Science Editor, The New York Times
Evening Lecture: The Principles and Ethics of Scientific Research, John Merrill, GSO, Professor of Oceanography

Day 4
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

An introduction to the latest in GIS applications, new developments (wetlands restoration, hazards mapping, global positioning systems).
Workshop Evaluation

Public Lecture: Sandy Tolan, NPR, “From Gloucester to Gaza: Social Tensions over Scarce Resources”

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