Career Connection

Go Green!

There are only so many hours in the day, but still, students in the second session of Digital WAVE this summer managed to build an entire 3D house in a virtual world in just 2 weeks. The goal was to show all the ways that we can use “green energy” in our houses, schools, and communities, with solar panels, wind turbines, energy-saving appliances, and lots more. During the program, they also went on a field trip to Oleta River State Park with the Museum’s Reclamation Project Director Fernando Bretos, put together electrical circuits powered by water, wind, and solar power, built and tested remotely operated vehicles, and even climbed into a real OceanGate submarine in the Museum. They also met with Mark Spalding, CEO of the Ocean Foundation, from within the virtual world. Mark (through his avatar) talked about the importance of blue carbon, which is the atmospheric carbon absorbed by coastal environments like mangroves and seagrass beds.  Students even met with a Museum employee who lives “off-the-grid” without electricity or running water – proving it can still be done! All of these experiences, along with their own research, helped students design our energy efficient virtual house. Enjoy our photo slideshow!


Students built solar-powered circuits and tested them in the sunlight outside the Museum… took measurements of trees at Oleta River State park to determine the carbon they absorb from the atmosphere… built and tested ROVs in a tank at the Museum’s Sea Lab…


…climbed into a real OceanGate submarine at the Museum…  and tons more! All of this resulted in an energy efficient, environmentally friendly virtual house with a green roof, solar panels, CFL light bulbs, energy efficient appliances, just to name a few.



One green energy source was a solar chimney, which provides power by heating air which then rises and powers the turbine. The bathroom has CFL bulbs, a ceiling fan for cooling without AC, and a water efficient toilet. And at the end of the program, students presented their projects, including this bird-friendly wind turbine, to their families and Museum staff. Jobs well done!




Restoring Mangroves on Virginia Key

Being in south Florida, we are literally surrounded by precious natural environments – the ocean, the coral reefs, mangroves, the Everglades, to name a few. That means we are in a position to negatively affect our surroundings if we don’t pay attention, but we are also in a position to make a positive difference if we are willing to try. Thanks to Fernando Bretos and the Museum’s Reclamation Project, which works to restore mangrove environments in south Florida, Digital WAVE students were able to contribute to the restoration effort. After learning about the Reclamation Project in the morning, students saw just how interconnected everything in the world really is. Everyone was assigned to be a plant or animal in a mangrove habitat (i.e. fish, seagrass, humans, mangroves, etc), and stood in a circle. One student started out with a ball of string, and that person threw it to another person who represented a plant or animal directly connected to them by the food chain. The second person threw it to the third, and so on, until we had a literally interconnected web, showing that if one thing is in trouble, we are all in trouble. With this inspiration in mind, Fernando took the students to a mangrove restoration site on Virginia Key. Students stepped into the ankle-deep muddy water (sometimes knee-deep when you least expected it), and planted mangrove seedlings, doing their part to help all of us.

Mangroves in Action

This summer, Digital WAVE is all about what we can do – what we can do for our environment, what we can do in our homes and schools, and how we can create a better future. Through our virtual world, students met with Martin Keeley, Education Director for the Mangrove Action Project. Students’ avatars and Mr. Keeley’s avatar were all together at our virtual campfire, even though students were in the Museum’s computer lab and Martin was in his office in the Cayman Islands. Martin has lived and worked in East Africa, Asia, Alaska, Canada, Central and South America, as well as the US, as a teacher, photo-journalist, and environmental educator, and has founded award-winning wetland education projects. Students learned from Martin all about the importance of mangrove environments – they are vital marine and coastal habitats and also protect coastal communities from storm surges. Martin shared his unique career path, showing that all you have to do is follow your passion in life, work hard at what is important, and you can make a difference in the world. You just might have to put up with your feet getting a little bit muddy.



June 26th, 2012  in Career Connection, Events No Comments »

Science Can Find You if You’re Lost at Sea

Many young people wonder… How do I take what I’m interested in, and turn it into a career? For Dr. Arthur Mariano, it was a a simple love of fishing and being on the water that sparked his career. He is one of the world’s leading experts in ocean dynamics, and is a Professor of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Dr. Mariano recently came to speak to students in the Museum’s Digital Wave program about his work and his career path. His research concentrates on modeling and predicting ocean variability, and he spoke to students about various research methods of understanding ocean dynamics. Methods include numerical circulation models as well as direct measurements using a system of buoys and satellite observations. Two applications of this knowledge really made students stop and think about how science applies to our everyday lives. 1) How can we best predict and stop the spread of oil after a spill? 2) How do we find someone if they’re lost at sea? The answer to both questions is: Go to scientists like Dr. Mariano, who can predict, based on knowledge of the ocean and currents, how the oil is moving through the water, or where to search for the missing boater. And all of this knowledge, and this amazing career, all started with a young boy’s love of fishing.

Dr. Mariano and Digital Wave participants

May 20th, 2012  in Career Connection No Comments »

Watching the Earth Breathe

Dr. Annmarie Eldering works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. She recently met with students in the Digital Wave program, to tell them about her job and what inspired her to follow her career path. That career path has been pretty amazing, and students had soooo many questions. Dr. Eldering work involves extracting information about clouds, aerosols, and trace gases in the Earth’s atmosphere with satellites and remote sensing instruments. And she is the Deputy Project Scientist on the soon-to-be-launched Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) satellite, which will map CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, basically “watching the Earth breathe.” And how did this awesome career path begin? It’s simple. An interest in chemistry and math, and wanting to know what stuff is made of.


March 9th, 2012  in Career Connection, Events No Comments »

Carbon Dioxide: The Missing Link

When a NASA scientist meets high school students, you may automatically think that it is always the NASA scientist that would be teaching the students. But at the Museum’s Digital WAVE: Warming Winds and Water program, the scientist taught the students, AND the students taught the scientist. At Digital WAVE’s first virtual speaker event of Fall 2011, Dr. Mike Gunson from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California met with Digital WAVE students in Miami to talk about climate change. The event took place in the virtual world of Second Life, and everyone communicated through his or her avatars. Dr. Gunson is an atmospheric scientist and works on the OCO (Orbiting Carbon Observatory) satellite that will map carbon dioxide from space and will “watch the Earth breathe.”

Dr. Gunson speaks to students around the Digital WAVE campfire.

Dr. Gunson talked about how carbon dioxide was “the missing link between soft drinks, forests, ocean acidity, wild fires, cement production, and volcanoes” and how records and observations from ice cores and satellites show how carbon dioxide levels have increased, and how humans have contributed to the problem.

Dr. Gunson explains The Keeling Curve, which shows direct observations of increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1958.

Then… students had the opportunity to show Dr. Gunson what they had been working on in virtual worlds. Their avatars led Dr. Gunson’s avatar to where the students are building 3D objects as part of their projects to create virtual climate change exhibits. Getting feedback from a NASA scientist is pretty special. And getting his attention so much so that he asked for an invitation to come back to see their final projects – that’s saying something.

The beginnings of students' virtual exhibit projects on climate change. See the glaciers?

What is Schlerochronology?

Most everyone was told growing up about how when a tree is cut down, you can look at the tree rings to figure out the tree’s age, and also how much the tree grew each year. Dendrochronology deals with this type of science, which can help us understand environmental conditions in the past – and even tell us whether a Viking ship was built in the year 819 or 820. Dr. Kevin Helmle, who is a research scientist at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) and NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), talked to students participating in the Digital WAVE program about another way to “tell time.” He works in sclerochronology, which means using layers in coral cores, in a similar way as rings in tree trunks. Annual layers of coral growth can be studied to provide information on environmental and climate history over many past centuries. Dr. Helmle brought real coral cores to show, and also showed students x-ray images of interior coral layers (see image below). By looking at the size and density of the layers, scientists like Dr. Helmle can determine things like the water temperature, water chemistry, and exposure to light the coral experienced at that time. Students then looked at the coral x-ray images, identified layers that corresponded to important years in their lives (or in history), and looked at real data for that year to find out what was going on in the oceans at that time. Just like real sclerochronologists!

X-radiographic positive print (left) with annual density bands (dark bands = high density, and light bands = low density) and a photograph of the coral slab (right). Helmle, K. P., and R. E. Dodge (2011), Sclerochronology, in Encyclopedia of Modern Coral Reefs; Structure, Form and Process, edited by D. Hopley, pp. 958-966, Springer Verlag. Doi:10.1007/978-90-481-2639-2_22

July 11th, 2011  in Career Connection No Comments »

If a Mosquito Can Make a Difference, So Can We

There is a saying that goes: if you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito. When it comes to the subject of climate change, it seems unbelievable that we can each make a positive difference on the Earth, but it’s true. This week Dr. Amy Clement came to speak to students in the Digital WAVE program at the Museum. Dr. Clement is a professor of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. She studies the behavior of the Earth’s climate system, and Digital WAVE students are working in virtual worlds designing 3D objects related to climate change, so it was a great fit. Dr. Clement talked with students about things humans can do to help, like conservation, renewable energy, carbon capture, land use planning, and ecosystem management. The image below shows what Florida coastlines would look like with a 1 meter (about 3 feet) sea level rise – all of the red areas would be underwater! It’s clear we need to do what we can to slow or reverse the effects of climate change. We may be tiny compared to the Earth, but so are mosquitoes compared to us.

June 24th, 2011  in Career Connection No Comments »