There are three basic objectives for this course. They are: (1) to make students aware of their marine environment and its vital relationship to their lives, (2) to help develop potential scientists and (3) to suggest ways to both teachers and students of using marine-related material in nearly all subject areas.
The study of oceanography readily adapts itself to a multidisciplinary and varying classlevel approach. Our life is greatly influenced by the oceans and other aquatic environments; they appear in all areas of our culture: music, art, history, literature, industry and mathematics, as well as the natural sciences. Because we depend so much upon the ocean, we are never too young to learn to appreciate our natural resources or the consequences that can result when we disturb delicately balanced plant and animal dependencies, exploit the aquatic environment or add pollutants to land, air or water. Marine education will help students to later make decisions affecting the protection and conservation of the coastal zone, the oceans and our own fresh water.
The scientist’s future is in jeopardy; yet we need a continuing supply of scientificallytrained people to carry on important research. According to Melvin Kranzberg, President of the Scientific Research Society, science enrollments have declined. We must find ways to capture potential scientists for the research that needs to be done for the generations to follow.
It isn’t necessary to have to squeeze one more course into a loaded curriculum. It is important to let it flow, so to speak, throughout the total school curriculum so its importance to life will be recognized. We here in Connecticut are extremely dependent upon the sea. In colonial times, goods were traded via the sea routes to the world. At one time, New Haven was very special in having the longest wharf in the United States. The map in Fig. 1 will give you some idea of its extension into the harbor ; why it was needed will be obvious If you look at the 1939 map found in Fig. 2. The study of our harbor in the last hundred years is a fascinating story.
figure available in print form.
figure available in print form.
The learning experiences I want to share are adaptable to various grade levels and learning abilities. Parts of the curriculum may be introduced into any existing course. There will be an introductory section to prepare students for the kinds of physical, chemical, and biological situations that exist in the marine and aquatic ecosystems. There will also be a brief introduction to the early glacial history of Connecticut and to the slow formation of Long Island Sound, We will also study the life forms which madethe transition from fresh, more peaceful tideless waters to different environments, each of which placed different kinds of stress on the various species, Those which adapted survived not only the rigors of tidal living, but also the enmity of currents, winds, storms, and of other organisms—whether predators or competitors for space and food.
Not only did these organisms have to cope with natural enemies; they also had to adjust to the human factor. Surely, at first it was hardly noticeable. Unfortunately, as our population increased, so did our explorations and exploitations. Long Island Sound certainly shows the results of the pressures placed by man. A look at the Sound in Fig. 3 will show the enclosed or congested area at the western end reasons can be seen for the high pollution of this overly-populated end. On the other hand, the eastern end has a good exchange of Atlantic Ocean water and is relatively unpolluted.
Our lives depend upon the sea. It is the ultimate source of our drinking water. One person uses about 30 gallons a day for all water requirements. Seventy percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere is produced by the photosynthesis of phytoplankton. From space, it looks like all our world is water. Actually it does cover about seventyone percent of our surface. Also, most of our world’s populations are centered around harbors. Slowly we are realizing the importance of our salt and fresh waters. Instead of giving only sewage back to the waters, we can become informed and make planned use of our water resources.
Students in the course will explore together problems in the marine sciences and will eventually research independently questions they would like to solve. This course is designed to introduce students to many marine oriented subjects. I hone to arrange visits to a marine museum, an art gallery to look at sea paintings, and the library to inspire students to learn about marinerelated topics and seamen’s crafts. The library’s collections of poetry and sea chanties and its books on macrame and scrimshaw attract even “unscientific” students, At least one field trip to a shore and tide land will be scheduled. If we could spend a day on a boat, we could expand our program by testing more oceanic equipment and learning a little navigation.
The student should be introduced to the diversity of marine related jobs. The marine biologist or oceanographer are only two jobs in a long list of interesting careers. New opportunities are increasing in the fields of fish farming (aquaculture), communications, marine law and education. The marine services—the Coast Guard and the Navy—will be asked what they can offer. I also hope to involve Coastal Management in a discussion of our waters’ future.
Marine research probably is the most exciting of an endeavors, for there is a great need to explore the many unknown areas in the relationship of sea plants and animals to their surroundings. The study of the chemistry and physics involved in maintaining life will eventually answer some of the questions of medical research and improve the quality of life on earth. With tagged molecules of radioactive substances, scientists can follow pathways of unseen materials. Using this technique, it was found that seals have evolved a singular method of preventing the dreaded “bends” that scuba divers sometimes experience when they rise to the surface too quickly. The reduced pressure changes the normally dissolved nitrogen in the bloodstream into tiny bubbles in the blood and tissues of the body, which causes severe pains. The diver must either return to the depth he/ she was at or come to the surface and be put into a decompression chamber that will help the nitrogen to go back into solution. Yet every day, diving animals seem unmindful of these serious physical conditions. The seal, the animal studies discovered, has a mechanism that allows a minimal amount of blood to flow
between the brain and the heart.
From a medical point of view, scientists at John Hopkins University have found the horseshoe crab a valuable animal. An extract from the horseshoe blood can detect poisons in vaccines called endotoxins. The extract, called limulus amebocyte lysate, or LAL, is simply mixed with the test substance . If clotting occurs, the vaccine is discarded and someone’s life is saved. The same substance is also used to diagnose a form of the often fatal spinal meningitis. Research in the marine sciences is beginning to give us rich rewards both by satisfying our curiosity and improving our health.
But for a few species of organisms, all living things have similar requirements. Most important is oxygen; then come food and water and a means of getting rid of body metabolic wastes. (Reproduction is not vital to the individual, but only to the survival of the species.) By observing these organisms and their relation to their environment, we will become more aware of our own place in it.