Educational Experiences in Oceanography through Hands-On Involvement with Surface Drifters: an Introduction to Ocean Currents, Engineering, Data Collection, and Computer Science

Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Timothy Anderson, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, United States; NOAA Fisheries Woods Hole Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, United States
The Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s (NEFSC) Student Drifters Program is providing education opportunities for students of all ages. Using GPS-tracked ocean drifters, various educational institutions can provide students with hands-on experience in physical oceanography, engineering, and computer science. In building drifters many high school and undergraduate students may focus on drifter construction, sometimes designing their own drifter or attempting to improve current NEFSC models. While learning basic oceanography younger students can build drifters with the help of an educator and directions available on the studentdrifters.org website. Once drifters are deployed, often by a local mariner or oceanographic partner, drifter tracks can be visualised on maps provided at http://nefsc.noaa.gov/drifter. With the lesson plans available for those interested in computer science, students may download, process, and plot the drifter position data with basic Python code provided. Drifter tracks help students to visualize ocean currents, and also allow them to understand real particle tracking applications such as in search and rescue, oil spill dispersion, larval transport, and the movement of injured sea animals. Additionally, ocean circulation modelers can use student drifter paths to validate their models. The Student Drifters Program has worked with over 100 schools, several of them having deployed drifters on the West Coast. Funding for the program often comes from individual schools and small grants but in the future will preferably come from larger government grants. NSF, Sea-Grant, NOAA, and EPA are all possible sources of funding, especially with the support of multiple schools and large marine education associations. The Student Drifters Program is a unique resource for educators, students, and scientists alike.