Archive for the ‘Expedition 3’ Category

Follow a Researcher®: Developing and Using Models

Monday, November 27th, 2017
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Developing and Using Models

Catching up, looking ahead, and more scientific practices

In last week’s video, Lynn described planning and carrying out her investigation as she set out to collect data in the field. In our final video of this expedition, Lynn discusses how she will use those data to help tell the story of the Ross Ice Shelf and its behavior by developing and using models.

First, let’s talk about what we mean by “models.”

Models give us simpler ways to represent complicated situations or phenomena from the real world that we might    not actually be able to see. Scientists use models as tools for “thinking with, making predictions, and making sense of experience.” Models also help scientists develop questions and explanations, and communicate their ideas and understanding to others (NRC, 2011, pp. 56-57). As you can see, models are involved with lots of scientific practices!

Let’s keep in mind that models simply represent and explain “the real thing.” While we might think of a model as a physical replica like a globe used to model the earth, models exist in many different forms.

Some examples are:

  • diagrams,
  • physical replicas,
  • mathematical representations,
  • analogies,
  • mental models,
  • and computer simulations.

It is important to remember that since no model is exactly like the thing that it describes, all models have their merits (things they are good at describing), as well as their limitations (things they aren’t so good at describing).

Investigate the model with Lynn!

Lynn demonstrates how she will be using the GPS data that she gathered to describe how the surface of the ice shelf is moving. If you haven’t had a chance to do the experiment using flubber, download the activity (PDF).

We would love to hear about your investigation! Send us some pictures and let us know what you found out by emailing us at umainefar@maine.edu.

What do you think?

Here are some questions to discuss with your class, or to investigate on your own!

  • What were some of the models used by Lynn in this video? What did they represent? Why is she using more than one source of data?
  • What models have you used before in the classroom? Outside of school?
  • Why are models important for both teaching and learning?
  • What might cause a model to change or be improved over time?

Have more questions?

Thank you so much for joining us!

We are so glad that you took part in Lynn’s journey! We hope that her story has sparked your curiosity and given you an inside look at the life and work of a scientist!

Please stay tuned to our website and Twitter feed in the coming weeks. We will be sharing more videos and pictures from Lynn’s trip to Antarctica!

Finally, we are already planning our expedition for Spring 2018! Be on the lookout for more info and registration details!

Follow a Researcher®: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Friday, November 3rd, 2017
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Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Catching up, looking ahead, and more scientific practices

In last week’s video, Lynn described collecting and evaluating information to direct her focus on the problem of global sea level rise, and its connection to the stability of Antarctic ice shelves. Another step in Lynn’s process was to define problems and design solutions to keep the team safe as they work in the field.

This week, we put the pieces together to plan an investigation. Lynn has developed her three research questions and decided what information she will need to gather to help her answer them. The next step is making plans to identify the best locations and methods to gather those data. Lynn will discuss how she will be planning and carrying out investigations.

Like we have mentioned before, these are all practices of scientists and engineers. You might notice that some of these practices will show up more than once and rarely by themselves. This is because the practices are so connected to one another that it is difficult to imagine using only one without one or more others at the same time.

If you’ve ever been on a camping trip, you know how much planning and preparation are involved. You might have experienced a time when you brought too much, or even worse, forgot something important. These mistakes can impact your goals for the trip by affecting how you will meet them, and if they can still be met.

Setting Goals

Lynn must clearly define her goals, or criteria, for the trip. “Criterion” (singular) is a term often used in engineering to define a measure for success. Lynn will be successful if she meets criteria such as:

  • staying safe and healthy while in the field,
  • reaching her destinations,
  • collecting enough data,
  • keeping detailed notes, and
  • using the data to answer her research questions.

How will we increase our chance for success?

The task doesn’t end there. Now that Lynn’s criteria for success are defined, she needs to figure out how to meet them most efficiently.

As observers, we have the luxury of imagining the best ways of accomplishing these goals. However, using jetpacks to get from place to place on the ice shelf, or using x-ray vision to locate crevassing may not be the most realistic options when it comes to Lynn’s available resources.

Things like time, money, people, equipment, and weather conditions are referred to as constraints in engineering. “Constraints” limit us to doing what we can with what we have. Unfortunately for Lynn, the life of a field researcher is typically not one of luxury. Operating with limited resources means that careful planning is required, as the room for mistakes is much smaller when you are so far from home on a slab of ice with no cell phone service. Since Lynn must endure harsh weather conditions and will have limited access to local resources, the constraints are significant. An expedition like Lynn’s is something that must truly be “engineered.”

Putting the pieces together

To meet the criteria while considering the constraints, Lynn must revisit her research question: “Is the Ross Ice Shelf speeding up or changing its flow pattern?” As Lynn explains in the video, answering this question involves lots of smaller, but important questions that the team must answer to be well-prepared.

Long before heading out to the field site, answers must be carefully considered to questions such as:

  • What are we trying to find out?
  • What do we think our results might be?
  • What information will we need to use as evidence that can be used to evaluate our predictions?
  • Where will these data come from?
  • How much data do we need?
  • Where do we need to go?
  • What do we need to bring?
  • Should I pack my bathing suit, or my snowsuit?
  • What will we eat?
  • How will we cook?
  • How many days will we need? and
  • How do we get the samples back home safely?

You, the scientist

In the process of planning and carrying out her investigation, Lynn must use additional science and engineering practices. Lynn will have to think and act like an engineer by defining problems and creating solutions to answer questions she has as a scientist. You may notice that in your science experiences both in and out of school, you too are using multiple practices when planning and carrying out investigations.

What do you think?

Here are some questions to discuss with your class, or to investigate on your own!

  • What are your experiences with planning a trip and the gear that you would need?
  • What kind of information did you need ahead of time to know what to pack?
  • Why is a field notebook so important? What do you think Lynn is writing in her notebook? What kinds of equipment should scientists bring with them on remote expeditions?
  • If Lynn doesn’t find data that supports her hypothesis, did she fail? Is the information that we get still important? What would you pack with you on a trip like this?
  • Do we plan and carry out investigations like scientists in our daily lives? In what ways have you thought like a scientist lately? An engineer?
  • What are other ways that engineering is incorporated into Lynn’s expedition?

Have more questions?

Join the next live chat on Thursday, November 9 at 1:00 PM (EDT) by searching the hashtag: #umainefar. Subscribe to 4-H Follow a Researcher® calendar: iCal HTML

Follow a Researcher®: How do scientists know what data to collect and how to collect it?

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017
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How do scientists know what data to collect and how to collect it?

Catching up, looking ahead, and more scientific practices

In last week’s video, Lynn described asking questions and defining problems to direct her focus on the problem of global sea level rise, and its connection to the stability of Antarctic ice shelves. Another step in Lynn’s process was to gather and evaluate information from suggestions made in previous research studies and observations of past events to help develop some testable research questions.

This week, we revisit those questions as Lynn explains how they are used to make decisions about what data will be needed to help answer those questions, and making plans to identify the best locations and methods to gather those data. Lynn will discuss how she will be gathering and analyzing data, planning and carrying out investigations, and designing solutions to problems.

Like we have mentioned before, these are all practices of scientists and engineers. You might notice that some of these practices will show up more than once and rarely by themselves. This is because the practices are so connected to one another that it is difficult to imagine using only one without one or more others at the same time.

For example, if you saw a puddle of water in the middle of the floor (hopefully before you stepped in it), you would immediately start thinking about how it got there, coming up with possible explanations, planning some ways of testing those ideas, and more! It’s just what we do! It’s what makes us all scientists!

Like us, Lynn is doing what scientists do by using many of these practices to answer questions about the Ross Ice Shelf.

Research questions and how they might be answered

Lynn is asking three questions:

  1. Is the Ross Ice Shelf speeding up or changing its flow pattern;
  2. Are there indications of crevassing within the ice that can tell us more;
  3. What areas of the ice shelf are most important in pushing back glaciers?

In order to answer these questions, Lynn will need to rely on observations of events like the collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf, and the research of other scientists. These sources tell us that as Larsen B began to break apart, ice began to enter the ocean much more quickly than before. We also know that there are some signs that indicate how stable an ice shelf is, such as changes in its flow and crevassing below the surface.

Is the Ross showing any of these signs? How can we measure them?

GPS, GPR and DANGER!

Lynn’s team has decided to collect data from a region called the McMurdo Shear Zone. As we see in the video, this is where the two ice shelves, Ross and McMurdo meet. Since the two ice shelves are moving at different speeds and in contact with each other, a force is caused between the ice shelves called “friction.” This force causes the Ross to move more slowly than it would without McMurdo rubbing against it.

Illustration showing friction between the McMurdo and Ross ice shelves

Friction also causes the ice between them to “shear,” or stretch and break, as it is pulled and stretched by the ice shelves, creating an area of crack and crevasses. Gathering information about these crevasses will also help Lynn answer her questions about the future stability of the Ross.

Is the motion of the ice shelf changing?

  • Thanks to Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, Lynn will be able to collect very accurate data tracking the position of points on the ice shelf using satellites to locate the GPS receivers installed by the team. Later, she will be able to notice if the motion is changing over time.

Is there evidence of crevassing in the shear zone?

  • Using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) technology, Lynn’s team will collect information about the ice below the surface. As she mentions, the size, distribution, and orientation of crevasses will tell her more about how stable the ice is.

Illustration showing how using transmitters and receivers of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) technology, Lynn’s team can collect information about the ice below the surface.

Watch your step!

Antarctica is a dangerous place to work, with many of the hazards hidden beneath seemingly flat snow cover. Thanks to problem solving efforts of Dartmouth engineering students and their project director, Dr. Laura Ray, Yeti is up for the challenge. This Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) will drag the GPR unit across the ice to make data collection safer for the team. Additionally, the team has spent the past few weeks participating in extensive safety training before heading out to the field site.

What do you think?

Here are some questions to discuss with your class, or to investigate on your own!

Specific questions:

  • What are some other ways we could use GPR and Yeti?
  • What places would it be helpful to send a robot instead of a human?

Broader questions:

  • Can you think of another time when you needed more information before trying to answer a question of your own?
  • How did you decide where to get the information, and how did it inform your next steps?

Have more questions?

Other resources:

Join the next live chat on Thursday, November 2 at 1:00 PM (EDT) by searching the hashtag: #umainefar. Subscribe to 4-H Follow a Researcher® calendar: iCal HTML

Follow a Researcher®: How do scientists know what to research?

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017
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How do scientists know what to research?

Throughout our journey, we will be getting more familiar with the things that scientists and engineers do. Not only are these practices central to the life of a scientist but also to your own experiences in the science classroom and beyond. We’ll start by asking questions and defining problems.

Despite the various work settings of science, one thing is certain: no matter where science is happening, questions are trying to be answered. Lynn describes her team’s mission to study the Ross Ice Shelf and determine how stable it will be in the future, but why did they choose to go to Antarctica and how do they know what to study?

Exploring Antarctica

Twice the size of Australia and 98% covered in ice, Antarctica has captured the imaginations of adventurers, explorers and scientists for centuries. 1897 marked the beginning of an era known as the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration,” during which the continent became a major focus for scientific investigation[i].

Today, around 82 research bases in Antarctica are collectively home to 5000 scientists during the summer time, and 1000 during the winter season[ii]. Much of the current focus of research is on global climate change and its impact on the continent over time. Because of the enormous amount of ice, the effects of changes in Antarctica will be experienced around the globe, particularly, rise in sea level.

Building on the Work of Others

Lynn didn’t know what questions she was trying to answer before she started. She did not wake up one day and say, “Hey! I’m going to Antarctica to study changes in the Ross Ice Shelf!” Instead, her work is in response to previous events, such as the collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf, and the work of other scientists. Likewise, Lynn’s research will inform future studies. Scientists often get ideas from one another, which speaks to the importance of sharing their information with other researchers so that someone else might pick up where the first left off.

In order to begin research, you need to figure out what you know through making observations and learning from the knowledge of others. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information is another practice that scientist engage in during their work. These were the steps that Lynn took by talking to others and reading science articles and research papers to develop the questions that still needed to be answered.

Investigating the Ross Ice Shelf

As Lynn showed in the video, ice that is already in water, such as the Ross Ice Shelf, will not affect water level from breaking up or melting. However, from observing past ice shelf collapses, we know that without the ice shelf, glaciers and other ice will be able to move into the ocean more quickly, increasing sea level. This knowledge led Lynn to the following testable research questions she will be trying to answer:

  1. Is the Ross Ice Shelf speeding up or changing its flow pattern;
  2. Are there indications of crevassing within the ice that can tell us more;
  3. What areas of the ice shelf are most important in pushing back glaciers?

Lynn and her team are using these questions to help them decide what data they will need to collect and how to collect it.

[i] Larson, E. J. (2011). An empire of ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the heroic age of Antarctic science. Yale University Press.

[ii] Davies, B. (2014). Living and working in Antarctica. http://www.antarcticglaciers.org/antarctica/living-and-working/ (accessed 10 October, 2016).

What do you think?

Specific questions:

  • What sort of data would you collect?
  • How would they help answer Lynn’s questions?
  • How would you collect them?

Broader questions:

  • How does a scientist choose what they want to study?
  • What is something that you would like to study?
  • What other interesting questions do you think might develop about Lynn’s adventure?

Have more questions?

Join the next live chat on Thursday, October 19 at 1:00 PM (EDT) by searching the hashtag: #umainefar. Subscribe to 4-H Follow a Researcher® calendar: iCal HTML

Follow a Researcher®: Welcome to Expedition 3!

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017
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Welcome to Expedition 3: Antarctica!

Welcome all youth, educators and folks who are just-plain-interested in the next 4-H Follow a Researcher® expedition, and thanks for joining us!

This is the first episode in our weekly video series over the duration of Lynn’s expedition. We hope that these videos will help spark curiosity and rich discussion as you use this program to compliment the work you do, no matter the setting.

Here’s what to anticipate over the next six weeks or so:

  • Weekly videos
    • Printable video guide with discussion questions
    • Learn how Lynn “does science” by using the same science and engineering practices described by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
  • Weekly live Twitter chats with Lynn and the Follow a Researcher® network
    • Ask Lynn your questions and get them answered!
    • Follow and communicate with classrooms from other parts of the state or country
  • Regular website updates
    • MapShare – Follow Lynn on the map as she conducts research in Antarctica
    • Archived Twitter chats
    • Photos, news and more!
  • Have a Follow a Researcher® story to tell? We’d love to hear about it!

What do you think?

Here are some questions to discuss with your class, or to investigate on your own!

  • Do you have any questions about sea level rise?
  • How have you acted like a scientist outside the classroom?
  • What does “doing science” mean to you?

Have more questions?

Join the next live chat on Thursday, October 19 at 1:00 PM (EDT) by searching the hashtag: #umainefar. Subscribe to 4-H Follow a Researcher® calendar: iCal HTML