2012 Annual Science Immersion Workshop Agenda

14th Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists
Coastal Impacts: Global Change in Coastal Ecosystems
June 3-8, 2012
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Day 1

Science From the Ground Up

Evening Presentation
The Building Blocks of Scientific Knowledge
Although scientists see peer review, which occurs prior to the publication of a study, as an essential stage in the development of scientific consensus, the average news consumer is not exposed to the process of peer review. Familiarity with the different stages of scientific inquiry is critical to understanding the culture of science. Presenters will review the culture and practice of science, ranging from the identification of research questions and the nature of scientific uncertainty to the peer review process.

Day 2
Measuring Climate Change Impacts

Science Translation I
Graphing for Communication of Complex Data
LEANNA HEFFNER, GSO Graduate Student
This session will provide an introduction to the basics of interpreting graphs and some commonly used statistical tools. Fellows will review techniques for visualizing data and apply these techniques in an informal challenge to interpret more complex graphs.

Science Translation II
Deconstructing a Scientific Publication
For this Science Translation session, Fellows will partner with scientists in five groups. Using a pre-assigned paper as a model, each group will discuss tools that can be used to effectively read and “translate” a science journal article for a news audience. At the end of the exercise, each group will present the main ideas in the paper and share a specific translation tip gained during the session.

Fieldwork (John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge)
Measuring Sea Level Rise Impacts on Coastal Habitats
MARCI COLE EKBERG, Save the Bay; ERIN KING, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; LEANNA HEFFNER, GSO Graduate Student
Although scientists can make reasonable predictions about expected physical and ecological changes resulting from climate change, considerable uncertainty remains. As these changes occur, the development of effective and scientifically sound coastal management policies will depend on sustained monitoring and accurate mapping of coastal systems.

Salt marshes provide an early warning of possible sea level rise effects, as the marshes act as natural barriers to protect upland areas from storm surge. These marsh ecosystems also provide important habitat: they serve as nesting, feeding, breeding, and nursery sites for many species of marine and terrestrial species, especially birds and fish. The sediments in wetlands are also hotspots for biogeochemical activity: plants, algae and microbes are constantly transforming chemicals and nutrients in the mud and water of wetlands. These chemical transformations are critical for the functioning of the ecosystem and can help wetlands act as pollution filters or nutrient providers to surrounding ecosystems.

Mapping changes to these complex environments requires baseline information about their current status. This program will examine some of the tools used to assess the current state of salt marsh habitats and the value of long-term data sets for tracking changes.

Arrive John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge also known as Pettaquamscutt Cove. Scientists will provide an overview of how sea level rise might affect salt marsh habitats, the measurements needed to assess change in these ecosystems, and the new salt marsh assessment that the state of Rhode Island is undertaking, including the use of Surface Elevation Tables, or SETs.

Metcalf Fellows will split into two groups of five. Each group will rotate between two stations, one managed by Marci Cole, the other managed by Erin King. Leanna Heffner will help with both groups as needed.

Station 1: Fellows will assess salt marsh health using two methods. A soil penetrometer will be used to collect sediment cores for analysis of biogeochemical and sediment characteristics. Fellows will also assess diversity and biomass of the vegetation by analyzing randomly selected plant fragments within a pre-defined sampling zone.

Station 2: Fellows will assess bird habitat using a previously erected mist net and will use an alternative method to assess vegetative cover using the point-intercept method.

Public Lecture
What Are Climate Models Good for?
GAVIN A. SCHMIDT, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Climate change is ongoing, and the key scientific task of trying to explain what is happening now and what might happen in the future requires large-scale complex climate models of the atmosphere, ocean, land surface and cryosphere. But how well do such models perform? Can they predict climate changes in the face of the chaotic dynamics of weather? How have they performed so far? Schmidt, a climate modeler for NASA, will discuss how the credibility of model results can be established and will describe the current limitations. This involves assessing short-term climate variability, the response of the climate system to external factors (such as variability of the sun or large volcanic eruptions), paleo-climate information and how model-data discrepancies get resolved. Schmidt will demonstrate that while climate models are by no means perfect, they can be very useful.

Day 3
Measuring Ecosystem Impacts

Fieldwork and Data Analysis (Greenwich Bay)
Hypoxia as a Global Change Issue
Nutrient loading and shifts in water circulation are often overlooked aspects of global environmental change. Both of these phenomena can lead to hypoxia, or low oxygen levels in the water column. Scientists and regulators have worked for decades to manage the nutrient inputs from storm water runoff, for example, typically through advanced wastewater treatment. Scientists also study the hydrodynamic processes that transport water in order to understand how circulation contributes to water quality. Systems that are well flushed are less susceptible to hypoxia than those that have long retention times. Flushing characteristics depend on environmental forcing conditions, such as river runoff and wind. With coastal populations continuing to increase and climate shifts potentially leading to stronger or more frequent storms, estuaries like Narragansett Bay must find ways to mitigate additional nutrient input and prolonged water retention.

Today’s immersion activities will examine water quality issues and coastal circulation at multiple scales from local to global. Our case study will be Greenwich Bay, a sub-estuary of Narragansett Bay, where Fellows will measure coastal circulation and standard water quality variables from two very different locations. We will discuss how nutrients can enter Greenwich Bay and the physical factors that can make coastal waters vulnerable to nutrient enrichment and hypoxia.

Data Collection for Assessment of Water Quality
Arrive at the first sampling site¬–Greenwich Cove, an inlet of Greenwich Bay. This site is near a wastewater treatment facility outfall in the narrow, poorly flushed cove. After a short walk past the treatment outfall, Fellows will return to the Greenwich Cove dock to take three types of water quality measurements. They will deploy a water sampling device (YSI) to collect various water quality data–including light penetration, temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen concentrations–view a demonstration of chlorophyll sample collection using syringes and filter cartridges, and test the strength and direction of air currents as a proxy for water current measurements.

Arrive at the second site: Sandy Point, at the mouth of Greenwich Bay. In contrast to Greenwich Cove, this site is further away from intense development and well flushed. Fellows will observe scientists deploy the YSI for water quality data collection, and Fellows will repeat the air current experiment done at the first sampling site and compare results.

Data Analysis and Discussion
Interpreting Water Quality Data
Researchers often employ a variety of tools and methods for analysis of water quality samples. GSO researchers will describe how scientists analyze water quality data such as those collected this morning and discuss the significance of these water quality measures. The discussion will then turn to the issue of scaling scientific research: how do the Greenwich Bay samples relate to Narragansett Bay as a whole? Are the underlying chemical, physical, and biological mechanisms influenced by the same factors? What are the implications of these water quality issues for the world’s coasts and estuaries?

Public Lecture
Deep Breathing: Climate Stressors in the Coastal and Open Sea
LISA LEVIN, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Both coastal and deep water ecosystems can be affected by hypoxia, or low oxygen concentrations. The causes vary, with coastal hypoxia typically resulting from decomposition of rapid microbial growth fueled by nutrient runoff, and deeper hypoxia occurring naturally or as a result of climate-driven changes. Hypoxia can affect so-called structural aspects of benthic communities, such as abundance and species composition. It may also affect community function, such as shifts in the relationships of predators and prey or enhanced roles for alternative energy pathways such as chemosynthesis. Levin will discuss the different causes and manifestations of low oxygen in the ocean, and explain the near and long-term consequences for ocean life.

Day 4
Long-Term Research: The Importance of Establishing Baselines

Fieldwork and Lab Practicum (Narragansett Bay)
Assessing the State of Fisheries
ANNA MALEK, GSO Graduate Student
Fellows will gain an appreciation for the development of a long-term data series by participating in a fish trawl modeled on the GSO Fish Trawl Survey. The GSO survey celebrates its 53nd year in 2012, and the data gathered from this effort have informed scientists around the world.

Depart for fisheries trawl in Narragansett Bay, rain or shine. Steam to either the mouth of Narragansett Bay or Fox Island, depending on weather. GSO graduate student, Anna Malek, will show Fellows how measurements are taken of surface and bottom water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and salinity as part of the trawl data. She will also demonstrate how to collect a plankton sample. At our destination there will be a 20-minute tow of the trawl. Fellows will learn how to sort and identify species; count and weigh the catch; and log catch data. As time permits on the boat, Fellows may discuss the implications of the catch numbers for the biology of Narragansett Bay and/or other fisheries management issues. On the return trip, Fellows will help clean up and store the trawl equipment in preparation for docking.

A Window into the Sea
Compound microscopes will be set up with water samples from the plankton tow on the R/V Cap’n Bert. Fellows will view the phytoplankton and zooplankton common to Narragansett Bay.

Science Translation III
Telling the Story
For the next Science Translation session, Fellows will again gather in five groups. Building on the science translation tools identified on Monday morning and with the help of participating scientists, Fellows will read and translate a science journal article and identify one or two key conclusions from the paper. Fellows will then take the lead to help scientists identify a news hook for the article and develop a pitch to cover the paper. For each group, a journalist will summarize the conclusions of the scientific journal article, and the scientist will give a brief pitch for a news story relating to those conclusions.

Public Lecture
Down the Drain: Emerging Contaminants in the Marine Environment
EDWARD T. FURLONG, U.S. Geological Survey
The past ten years have seen an exponential increase in research about chemical pollutants that are widely used in consumer products such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products. These pollutants, often referred to as emerging contaminants, typically produce chronic sub-acute effects like endocrine disruption. Although most research on emerging contaminants has focused on freshwater environments to date, researchers have become increasingly concerned about the introduction of these pollutants to estuaries, where they have the potential to affect juvenile fish of commercial importance. Furlong will describe the present state of knowledge about these contaminants in aquatic ecosystems and the potential impacts on water systems

Day 5
How Local Science Can Yield Global Answers

Fieldwork and Lab (GSO Dock and Horn Laboratory)
Measuring Pollution and Regulating Uncertainty
Researchers have been tracking water quality since shortly after the Clean Water Act was passed in 1973. This law required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set standards for contaminants in surface waters, with the goals of making U.S. waters “fishable and swimmable.” In the intervening decades, some additional pollutants have raised concerns among scientists and regulators. These so-called “emerging contaminants” are not necessarily new pollutants, but are pollutants with perceived health threats for which there are insufficient toxicological data to support health standards or guidelines. In this session, Fellows will learn about some of the methods used for detecting pollutants that are often present in minute quantities within coastal waters.

Fieldwork (GSO Dock)
Understanding Natural Variability and Sample Size
SHIFRA YONIS and KARI POHL, GSO Graduate Students
Fellows will gather at the GSO dock for introductions and an overview of the sampling equipment. Fellows will split into three groups to participate in three sampling activities, with 20 minutes at each station. Fellows will walk to the Horn Laboratory at the end of the field exercise.

Fellows at the first station will retrieve passive samplers that were deployed earlier to collect sufficient data. Wearing gloves, Fellows will use wire cutters to take the polyethylene (PE) samplers off of the line, and place the PE within pre-cleaned aluminum foil swatches. Each group will collect a field blank to act as a control sample. After labeling the foil-covered samples with the sampler name, depth, and date retrieved, Fellows will deploy pre-cleaned PE samplers onto the same line.

At the second station, Fellows will deploy and retrieve samples using an active water sampling apparatus, polyurethane foam (PUF) samplers. Fellows will squeeze the water out of the PUFs and place them into their individual air-tight containers which they will then label. As the filter is inserted and removed, Fellows will record the amount and rate of water used in the active water sampling.

At the third station, Fellows will collect sediment samples using a Van Veen sediment grab sampler. The sediments will be transferred to a collection vessel and then placed into pre-cleaned glass jars and labeled. At each station the participants will fill out data sheets provided within the binders.

Lab Practicum
Environmental Pollutants
SHIFRA YONIS and KARI POHL, GSO Graduate Students
Fellows will split into two groups to observe the analytical methods for detecting concentrations of very dilute contaminants in water and sediment samples. Fellows will observe the use of an Accelerated Solvent Extractor, silica column, turbovap, and gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer.

Why Are Emerging Contaminants Important?
SHIFRA YONIS and KARI POHL, GSO Graduate Students
Building on the day’s field and lab activities, Fellows will discuss the broad ecological and human health relevance of emerging contaminants. Beginning with well-understood food web effects of compounds such as DDT and PCBs, Yonis and Pohl will describe the concerns regarding the much less well-understood compounds referred to as emerging contaminants. They will also summarize a more recent concern: the effect of mixtures of compounds. Given our simultaneous exposures to multiple contaminants, it is important to understand what these interactions mean for organisms across food webs.

How Can You Regulate Something if You’re Not Sure It’s a Problem?
NOELLE ECKLEY SELIN, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Understanding and regulating emerging contaminants is a major challenge linking scientists and policy-makers. Selin will address this issue by focusing on linkages between science and regulation at multiple scales: local, national, regional, and global. Giving examples from regulation of mercury and persistent organic pollutants, she will explain how scientific information and modeling presently incorporated in policy decision-making, and identify major challenges for linking science and policy.

Public Lecture
Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food
PAUL GREENBERG, Journalist and Author
Our relationship with the ocean is undergoing a profound transformation. Whereas just three decades ago nearly everything we ate from the sea was wild, rampant overfishing combined with an unprecedented biotech revolution has brought us to a point where wild and farmed fish occupy equal parts of a complex and confusing marketplace. Greenberg, author of the James Beard Award winning New York Times bestseller, Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, will talk about the fish that dominate our menus, where each stands at this critical moment, and how healthy and sustainable seafood can be the rule rather than the exception.

Evening Presentation
A Fish Tale: Bringing Sustainability to the Dinner Table
PAUL GREENBERG, Journalist and Author
Greenberg has covered issues of ocean sustainability for a wide variety of outlets, including popular food and lifestyle magazines. In this short presentation, he will describe his career trajectory and the opportunities for reaching new audiences with environmental stories.

Day 6
Connecting Research to the Big Picture

Using Web-Based Tools for Data Visualization
ROLAND DUHAIME and ALYSON MCCAIN, URI Natural Resources Science
Google Earth and other web mapping tools are often used as virtual portals to distant lands. They can also be used as powerful tools for visualizing scientific information. This session will provide an introduction to the ways that Google Earth, Google Maps, Bing Maps, and ArcGIS can inform and supplement your reporting.

Public Lecture
Climate Change in the American Mind
ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ, Yale Project on Climate Change Communication
Leiserowitz, a research scientist at the Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, is an expert on public opinion about climate change and the environment. His research investigates the psychological, cultural, and political factors that influence environmental attitudes, policy support, and behavior. His presentation will describe and explain recent trends in public opinion on climate change and the current state of Americans’ climate literacy. He will also discuss Global Warming’s Six Americas, six different audiences within the public that respond to the global warming messages in unique ways and require tailored education and communication strategies.

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