To record monthly mortality and growth, students retrieve one of their experimental oyster cages at the Cooperative Oxford Lab pier.
The Partnership of Scientists and Students for the Environment (POSSE) is a program which matches scientist mentors to high school students, and promotes and supports community partnerships. Mentorships range from interviews, emails, and phone calls to active engagement in research, whereby students work side by side with their respective scientist mentors.
Working alongside their mentor, students are learning how the experts assess the bats and how to record data accurately. They are also learning that bats contribute crucially to the food web, including their beneficial consumption of mosquitoes, and thus stability and health of an ecosystem.
Initiated in Fall 2008, POSSE began with 31 students and 9 scientist mentors. It has grown to include 62 students and 35 scientists on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Projects include research on oyster growth and mortality, where students and a mentor scientist with the Department of Natural Resources, collected data their senior year in high school up through their freshman year in college. Their work is expected to be published in a professional journal.
Mentoring another student project with a hands-on approach, a DNR veterinarian and marine mammal stranding team biologist expose students to issues facing seals, sea turtles and cetaceans (whales and dolphins), and the role scientists play in strandings. A recent student team researched the effects of sound and blast trauma on the hearing of cetaceans, while another team is interested in the overall causes of strandings. Mentees have participated in the stranding volunteer training, observed necropsies of affected animals, and assisted in data collection.
DNR mentors are also assisting students with investigation of White-nose Syndrome in bats, a condition associated with the deaths of over 100,000 hibernating bats in the NE United States. Students participate in the data collection, learn proper protocol during necropsy, and use USGS distribution maps to follow the spread of this disease.
Other projects include an oyster documentary, a study of mycobacteriosis, an amphibian and reptile study, harmful algal blooms, aquaculture techniques, and horseshoe crab biomedical uses.
This year’s POSSE students will present the annual Environmental Issues: A Science Symposium at Horn Point Laboratory on Thursday May 20, 2010. The event is free and open to the public. For details, contact LeeAnn Hutchison at firstname.lastname@example.org.