CHECKING THE WATER AT CHETCO POINT
November 12, 2002 11:00 pm
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It was a gloomy day at Chetco Point, but the teenagers scrambling over the rocks didn't seem to mind.

Dressed in hip waders and carrying clipboards, the group went about their usual task of being junior scientists.

Students from teacher Maggie Prevenas' homeroom class volunteer their time every other week after school to gather at the rocky point at the end of Wharf Street in Brookings.

There, the students conduct a series of studies, using the beach as a natural laboratory.

They check the water turbidity (clearness), the ocean temperature and gather specimens on the beach to take back to class and study.

"We record the data we collect on charts then download it into a computer," explained eighth-grade student, Brianna Rose.

"Then we send it to the GLOBE scientists."

According to Prevenas, GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Earth) is a group of scientists working with hydrology who collect data and publish it on the World Wide Web. This data is utilized by scientists internationally.

"They can't have scientists everywhere," said student Alyssa McClelland-Bain. "So they use our data and they can compare it to other parts of the world."

A bucket attached to a rope is cast out into the waves to collect sea water. The water is then poured into a long plastic tube marked with measurements.

Rose explained that the tube was used to measure the clarity of the water.

"It starts at 120 inches," she said. "There's a secchi disk at the bottom and if you can see the disk, the water is clear."

Rose held her finger over a hole at the side of the tube near the bottom. She drained the water out little by little until Rebecca Noland, peering into the top of the tube, said she could see the bottom. At that point, there was hardly any water left.

"The ocean is rough today," Rose said. "It's really stirring up the sand."

Prevenas said she chose that particular spot for the research because of its proximity to the sewage treatment plant.

"We could have picked any place," she said. "But we wanted to go to a place that had some potential questions. We wanted to see if there were different species or organisms where the water is being treated."

At the beginning of the school year, Prevenas asked the students in her homeroom if they would be interested in embarking on the project, which she expects to extend throughout the school year. She hoped the students who got involved would want to stick with the project well into their high school years.

She ended up with an ambitious group made up of eighth graders and one seventh graders.

"She approached us ‘cause she knew we were into the weird science kind of thing," McClelland-Bain admitted.

"I love marine biology and figured this was a good way to get started," Rose said.

"We will get to communicate with other scientists and learn what effect the sewage plant has on the water."

"The scientists can use our data to monitor global warming," said Chaz Watson.

Seventh-grade student Donna Stevens said she had an interest in biology and already knew how to use a microscope.

"A lot of people in high school don't know how to take samples and look at them under a microscope," Rose added.

"By the time we get in high school, we'll already know how."

Prevenas is one of those rare teachers that can combine learning and fun; the students readily admit they have a good time conducting their science projects.

"It's really fun climbing up and down the rocks and finding new stuff to look at under the microscope," said Michelle Salas.

"Normally, mom wouldn't want me to wear hip waders and get all wet and muddy," Rose said.

"But since it's a school thing, it's OK."