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SD Department of Education August 2014  



The dog didn’t eat his homework, but Spencer Cody did get to eat some of his summer research.

Cody teaches 7th-12th grade science in the Hoven School District. From May 27-June 11, though, he was a Teacher at Sea, traveling along the Gulf Coast in Pisces, a fisheries research ship.

Teacher at Sea is a selective program (Cody says 13 percent of 2014 applicants were accepted) run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Teachers get extensive hands-on experience with marine science by serving as fully participating crew members.

The Pisces traveled to the Flower Gardens, coral reefs that weren’t officially documented until the 1960s. Researchers onboard were studying fish populations, which required catching some fish in order to determine age and sex.

And when your research involves fishing, Cody explains that the rewards can be delicious: “We often ate what we caught earlier in the day because we had to kill the fish that we were [studying].”

“The amount of research being carried out during the trip was so immense that it required the full use of our time,” Cody says. “We used all available daylight hours to collect stills and video of fish populations and live catches while using acoustics equipment to map sea floor features at night.”

“My duties included working with the science party,” says Cody. “I worked in almost all areas relating to the science of the mission: live catches on the bandit reels, fish measurements, data entry, camera array work, data collection, data organization and cleaning.”

Cody documented his entire trip in a blog: http://teacheratsea.wordpress.com/category/spencer-cody/. Don’t miss video clips of a shark interested in one of the ship’s fishing lines and a spotted moray eel that came in with a catch.

Cody is excited to bring the sea to his students with a virtual field experience: “Overall, I plan to incorporate my experience into my teaching to help connect the dots for them [students] on how their lives are related to the ocean and marine science and those job opportunities in NOAA-related fields.”

He will share the virtual field experience with fellow teachers and give a presentation about Teacher at Sea at this October’s annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. In addition, he’s been collaborating with people he met on the ship to recreate some of his experiences for classroom use.

In his final blog entry, Cody introduces readers to the wide variety of professionals who helped make this Pisces research mission a success. And whether students’ interests lie in meteorology, oceanography, engineering, computer programming or even cooking, “NOAA needs you!” is his enthusiastic refrain.

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