Sunday, December 21, 2003

Students get feet wet with oceanic study

Extreme 2003: To the depths

By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

ANDERSON TWP. - Deep on the Pacific Ocean floor, one wonders, will Alka-Seltzer make bubbles?

Stephen Heis, a student in the biology class of teacher Kevin McFawn at Anderson High School, feeds a largemouth bass.
(Gary Landers photo)
This question, posed by Anderson High School aquatic biology student T.J. Beck, 17, was so interesting to marine biologists exploring hydrothermal vents that they chose to conduct an experiment on it last week.

"I was trying to think of things that reacted with water and Alka-Seltzer popped into my mind," said Beck, a senior taught by biology teacher Kevin McFawn.

Beck's hypothesis was that extremely high water pressure at the bottom of the ocean would prevent bubbles from forming and that the gases from the bubbles would be absorbed into the water.

Beck was right. No bubbles formed.

The experiment was performed as part of "Extreme 2003: To the Depths of Discovery," a 23-day research expedition 1,000 miles offshore from Manzanillo, Mexico.

The expedition, which started Nov. 29 and concludes today, aims to educate young people about ocean science by allowing them to interact with scientists at sea.

The expedition is being broadcast internationally via the Internet. More than 45,000 middle- and high-school students from around the world are tuning in, including McFawn's 110 aquatic biology students.

"If a new species is discovered, these kids will actually be part of a discovery," McFawn said.

McFawn, 32, worked several years as an environmental chemist in Columbus before coming to Anderson High a year ago. Students gravitate to his aquatic biology class because of the hands-on approach he takes with projects like Extreme 2003.

The class, an elective for juniors and seniors, has become so popular that four classes are offered.

About 'Extreme 2003'

What: "Extreme 2003: To the Depths of Discovery," a 23-day research expedition 1,000 miles offshore from Manzanillo, Mexico, that concludes today.

Participants: Started as a pilot program in 2000 with 800 students in Delaware. Today, more than 45,000 middle and high school students are participating.




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