California State University, Northridge (CSUN) professor Dr. Peter Edmunds and his graduate students have been working with Campbell Hall high school students for the past several years to bring a meaningful, real-world scientific project to the classroom.
This collaboration has resulted in new findings that have concerning implications for mustard hill coral on the coast of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The species, first thought to be thriving despite climate change, now show signs of a depleting population.
Dr. Edmunds and his research team have collected data on the coral recruitment and growth for many species including Porites astreoides (mustard hill coral) in the relatively pristine Great Lameshur Bay of Virgin Islands National Park for over 30 years. Campbell Hall Marine Science students learn to use ImageJ, which is National Institutes of Health-funded software, to measure the relative surface area of these mustard hill coral colonies on several hundred images taken in the field during successive seasons in St. John. The data analyzed by the high school students were checked by Edmunds’ graduate students and then by Edmunds himself to ensure accuracy.
Campbell Hall students are taught hypothesis development and principles of experimental design and are also provided the opportunity to work directly with this important research data. “Researchers on this project have been able to ‘crowd-source’ ecological analyses to test for the demographic implications of changing coral cover” says Karl Frank, former Campbell Hall Science Department Chair and High School Science teacher (CHAI Environmental Science Honors and Marine Science).
Working in close partnership with teachers, the objective is to provide opportunities for meaningful student involvement in ongoing field research. Frank notes: “By connecting classroom lessons to field activities, students develop foundational skills that they can apply to real world problems.”
Ultimately, Campbell Hall students, in conjunction with students from Viewpoint School in Calabasas who were tasked with the same research project, helped identify a growing problem in the warm Caribbean ocean waters, one that perhaps, these future scientists might one day help find the solution to.
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