Professor reports to class from the ocean
Published: Monday, April 16, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 16, 2012 00:04
Professor Teresa Greely tried to distinguish the faces of the students filing in to her Introduction to Marine Life and Habitats class Thursday.
To her, they looked like a “Van Gogh painting,” she said.
Though Greely was sitting aboard the JOIDES Resolution in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, she is still able to share her adventures and research with her class via the video-calling software Skype. Greely has been meeting with students in France, Germany, Guadeloupe, Martinique, the United Kingdom and South Africa through Skype since she set out to sea in March and is expected to return to Tampa on Tuesday.
Though the class of fewer than 30 students meets every Tuesday and Thursday in the John and Grace Allen Building, Greely has Skyped with students three times since she left for her first-ever voyage in March. While she is away, graduate student Suzanne Stickley and marine science professor Angela Lodge conduct the classes on shore, where students learn about the biology, chemistry, geology and engineering of ocean life.
The JOIDES Resolution is a 470-foot ocean-drilling research vessel that is currently collecting cores of sediment from about 400 meters deep in the sea floor off the island of Martinique in Lesser Antilles. The scientists aboard, who have traveled around the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, study the formation of volcanoes, earthquakes and landslides by sampling marine deposits of volcanic debris on the ocean floor that have existed for millions of years.
“We’re doing something that hasn’t been done before,” she said. “We’re able to drill in areas we haven’t drilled before ... (This is an) opportunity of a lifetime for marine scientists. Sailing on the JOIDES is a one in a million shot to be aboard in any capacity — geologist or educator.”
From the ship, Greely shares the crew’s research findings with students.
On Thursday, the class was cut short because of technical difficulties when a drill got stuck to the ocean floor and explosives had to be used to free the pipe from the vessel.
Yet Greely was still able to regale the class with stories from the sea, such as how she witnessed a school of squid chasing after flying fish that day.
During the Skype sessions, Greely has given students tours around the ship, even going through the labs and showing them when researchers pulled up samples.
Matthew Barthe, a sophomore majoring in computer science and a student in the class, said he thought the labs were particularly impressive.
“The ... really neat thing is the labs,” he said. “There’s no lab on land that has all of the equipment right there.”
The seven-floor, 12,000-square-foot vessel has chemistry, microbiology, paleontology, X-ray and geophysics laboratories on different decks of the ship.
Amanda Koslow, a freshman majoring in mass communications, said seeing Greely’s experiences with research firsthand makes the course more understandable.
“With USF having such a high focus on research … we know how important it is to be involved,” Koslow said. “It’s a lot better than, ‘Here’s a book and I’m going to teach from it.’”
Stickley said she one day hopes to do work similar to Greely’s.
“Seeing the work that I do with her put into this format (Skype), is really inspiring for me,” Stickley said. “I want to go into a similar field. She’s turned me from wanting to be a strict research scientist. To see the impact she can make (with her ocean research) … is really inspiring.”