North Carolina Sea Grant
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Coastwatch Currents

March 30, 2015 |

Text and Photos by Hannah Aichelman, Sarah Davies and Matt Kanke

Posted March 30, 2015

Hannah Aichelman, Sarah Davies and Matt Kanke are in the 2015 class of the Researcher Educator Exchange Forum. Also known as REEF, this professional development workshop trains scientists to communicate their research to general audiences. Scientists will collaborate with educators to present an outreach program at an informal science center. REEF is sponsored by the Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence SouthEast.

Crayons on a table

Kids used fluorescent crayons to create colorful drawings that glowed under a bright light.

Kids used fluorescent crayons to create colorful drawings that glowed under a bright light.

Aichelman, Davies and Kanke are members of the Castillo Laboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Lab manager Aichelman has seen much of life above the sea, including sailing a tall ship from Tahiti to Hawaii. She will next study life under the ocean, as she researches corals in Belize and Panama.

Davies is a postdoctoral researcher at the lab. Her marine science career began in Canada, where she sank a pig leg in the ocean just to see what fed on it. Her current research is far more advanced, focusing on the dispersal of corals in the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.

Kanke, a lab volunteer, was born in Wisconsin, moved to Texas for graduate school, and recently became a North Carolina resident after completion of his doctoral degree. Despite studying the genetics of fruit flies, his true passion is marine science, an endeavor that has taken him to many islands across the Pacific.

Drawing of saber-toothed tiger.

Children visiting the science cart got the chance to draw their favorite animals on black paper using fluorescent crayons and then enter the darkroom to visualize their artwork using black light. This local artist drew a saber-toothed tiger.

On a Saturday in February, we made our way from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences to educate museum visitors about the fascinating differences between fluorescence and bioluminescence in the ocean.

Fluorescence is the visible or invisible light emitted by some animals in the ocean as a result of absorbing light energy. Bioluminescence is when the animal can produce and emit its own light.

To teach the public about these different forms of exciting color in the ocean, we used a combination of fluorescent crayons, glow-stick bracelets and glowfish with black lights.

It was great fun for all involved. That day, we chatted with more than 100 children and their families about the wonders of light in the ocean.

Here are some pictures from that day.

Girl drawing on black paper

This budding little marine scientist couldn’t choose her favorite animal so she drew every sea creature that came to mind.

Scientist talks to children

Hannah Aichelman teaches a family about the difference between fluorescence and bioluminescence.

Potential names for glowfish written in fluorescent crayon

In the dark tent, artists were asked to list their name selections for three glowfish. These fish now live in the Castillo Lab at UNC Chapel Hill, awaiting their next outreach adventure.

Man letting girl into dark tent

Matt Kanke was in charge of helping the artists view their drawings under black light inside the dark tent. At this point, the children got a chance to see the live glowfish.

Read more about REEF in Coastwatch magazine: Meeting of the Minds: Scientists and Teachers Connect and Coastal Scientists Boost K-12 STEM Education.

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