Annual Meeting: Scientists, Graduate Students and TeachersTHIS YEAR'S Annual Meeting, on February 7, at UNH, was a lively meeting in which teachers, graduate students and scientists talked about their research.
Dr. Kirk Broders, a plant pathologist who specializes in fungi, told us that the big 2010 needle cast event may have involved not 3 but as many as 15 different species of fungi. Dr. Broders and his students are trying to identify several fungi which have never been classified before.
Stephen Wyka, a masters degree student in Dr. Broders’ lab, told us how he isolates one fungi from another. Another graduate student Cameron McIntire talked about how he measures the speed of the sap flow in white pines. Both Wyka and McIntire visited the St. Johnsbury School to talk with students about fungi and to help students collect tree cores.
A third student Matt Wallhead introduced us to a new portable spectrophotometer. Matt and Dr. Rock have been comparing results from the portable instrument with results from our beloved Visible Infrared Intelligent Spectrophotometer. The red edge inflection points are almost exactly the same, an exciting discovery for Dr. Rock. Matt is using his instrument to monitor apple tree foliage on a UNH orchard.
Teachers also shared their research in teaching. Otto Wurzburg and Heather Froehring from St. Johnsbury School, St. Johnsbury, VT, shared some of their inter-disciplinary team projects. Forest Watch is part of math, English and science at their school. Ms. Froehring’s math students, for example, use math to calculate the area of oak leaves.
Mike Handwork and Shani Scarponi, from the Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, NH, talked about their recent classes which use the scientific method and inquiry-based learning. Mr. Handwork studied with Dr. Rock and Martha Carlson, Forest Watch coordinator, last summer as an EPSCOR teacher. Mr. Handwork took his summer discoveries back to school. His 9th grade students and Ms. Scarponi’s 10th grade students used inquiry to do their own research projects on ultraviolet light and chlorophyll in maple leaves.
Dr. Antoinette Galvin also joined the meeting. Dr. Galvin is director of the New Hampshire Space Grant Consortium, a NASA fund which has supported Forest Watch since it began. Partnerships between schools and research scientists, such as Forest Watch, are a “critically important part of developing the next generation of NASA scientists,” Dr. Antoinette Galvin told the group.
Although there are no forests on the sun, Dr. Galvin shared some of her scientific research which involves the particles in solar wind. Teachers asked questions about the solar wind and whether it affects Earth, the northern lights and our climate. Several times, Dr. Galvin smiled and said, “We don’t know the answer to that question yet.”