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Freshman Learning Community Have Hands-On Experience with Marine Life

New Rochelle, NY (November 5, 2014) On a recent educational excursion, Drs. Frances Bailie and Joseph Stabile brought their freshman learning community and Dr. Peter Letourneau brought his ecology course on a research vessel cruising the Long Island Sound.  The research vessel left from the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT.
Students and faculty from the departments of Biology, Computer Science, Mathematics and Science and Technological Literacy (STL) participated in the trip that took place in early October. The experience provided students a first hand opportunity to study the abiotic and biotic factors important to the health of Long Island Sound.   The trip helped the students better understand scientific content from their courses from a different perspective through hands-on experiments and data collection on a research vessel.
The theme of the Computer Science-Mathematics- STL learning community is Estuarine Environmental Science.  Concepts and skills from the STEM courses are integrated so students can better understand the connections among computer science, mathematics and natural sciences.  Students from the learning community are learning science by conducting research on the Long Island Sound and other select estuaries around the United States.  Skills learned in the STEM courses will allow the students to analyze and present their research at a symposium to be held at Iona College in spring 2015.  On the excursion students’ collection of scientific data included plankton tows and bottom dredge sampling. The students and professors were also provided with a “behind–the-scene” tour of the Maritime Aquarium. 
“Students began their exploration of estuarine and nearshore ecology by conducting plankton tows and bottom dredge sampling,” said Dr. Peter Letourneau. “Observations of exhibits on Long Island Sound and diverse marine ecology zones rounded out their experience at the Maritime Center.”
Student Reflections
Cynthia Mattick ’18
The trip in general was a positive experience. There were many learning objectives that were valuable. I really enjoyed the showing of the plankton because it was something that was unique and cannot be seen by the human eye. 
Joshua Miller ’18
I enjoyed the firsthand experience of a field study, going inside the aquarium and spending time on the research vessel.
Dominic Fernandez ’18
The trip was an unforgettable. Learning about the sea, and how the ecosystem works was such a fascinating experience, learning how the littlest things can affect the ecosystem was eye-opening.
Yaritza Ayala ’18
Overall, I enjoyed the boat trip very much. The opportunity for our class to go out into the water and collect specimen was great. I liked being inside the aquarium and being able to go behind the scenes of the exhibits.
Emily Kantner ’18
I thought the trip was interesting. I liked being in the aquarium and being able to explore on our own. My favorite part of the aquarium was being able to touch the jelly fish.
Noah Kyme  ’18
It was great to see the plankton and other organisms in just one drop of water. Having the opportunity to see the aquarium with a “behind-the-scenes” look was especially fun.
Rebecca Perri  ’18
 I found it useful to be able to interact and conduct experiments ourselves and seeing all the different types of shellfish and plankton we have learned about in class.
Diamond Wollaston ’18
I think the trip was very interesting and I enjoy when we bottom trawled. The aquarium was a new and amazing experience.
Patrick Nuanah ’15
We tested water samples from the surface to determine that phytoplankton and zooplanktons are the main dwellers on the surface.  We sampled shells of crabs, mussels and Slipper shell clams from the bottom to demonstrate the type of organisms that live in the deeper waters.