Moisan, together with other
scientists and educators, has created a curriculum that will
enable other schools to
do the same thing. It is called Rising Tides and is
available in book form on the Internet. It was distributed
to Virginia schools and describes coastal oceanography.
Dr. Moisan works in the Ocean
Sciences Branch of the Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences
Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops
Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va. The laboratory is
located on Virginia's Eastern Shore.
In 2011, she was awarded an
Education Internal Research and
Development (IRAD) award. She developed a curriculum for
middle school to undergraduate students that utilized an
ocean optics radiometer to measure reflectance and solar
stimulated fluorescence. She led a collaboration with John
Hopkins Talented Youth Program, Baltimore, Md., and Ocean
Optics Company, Dunedin, Fla. that distributed the
instrument and accompanying curriculum.
The curriculum's goal was to
create a hands-on project to
inspire and teach students in biology, optics, physics, and
oceanography, and to explain climate change processes within
the carbon cycle.
In November 2011, Dr. Moisan
and students from the Thomas Jefferson High School for
Science and Technology (TJHSST), Alexandria, Va., worked
together in the field to conduct physiology experiments to
understand how phytoplankton respond to diurnal changes in
light, temperature, and tides to understand how coastal
productivity changes over the day.
Moisan said, "Students got
hands-on experience by using mini spectrometers to
understand the physics of color and the biology on
phytoplankton the base of the food chain. I believe a wider
distribution or library of these spectrometers can be
created for many schools to use at an affordable cost. We
watched with pleasure as students were able to connect
microscopy samples with in situ instrumentation to ocean
The students joined Dr. Moisan
at the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel pier, located on the Delmarva
Peninsula. The Delmarva Peninsula is a large peninsula on
the East Coast of the United States, occupied by most of
Delaware and portions of Maryland and Virginia.
Students experienced how
scientists sample the ocean. Samuel Thompson, a student in
the Undergraduate Student Research Program joined Rachel
Steinhardt of Sigma Space Corporation, Lanham, Md., to
collect water. The samples were analyzed quickly in a
garage, set up like a laboratory, where filtration and
physiological measurements were conducted.
The students worked as research
scientists in the field and applied concepts of oceanography
that they had been reading about in class. They were amazed
to see a combination of high-tech instruments like the
spectrophotometer being used alongside homemade devices such
as a simple winch on the pier. The scientists were doing
what is necessary to collect data and making adjustments as
they were working in the field.
"Working alongside the
scientists emphasized that engineering skills and creativity
are as important in research as core knowledge in math and
science," said Lisa Wu, Director of the Oceanography and
Geophysical Systems Laboratory, at Thomas Jefferson High
School for Science and Technology.
"For some students, knowing
that NASA works in
Earth's inner space as well as outer space was an eye
opener. The fall algal bloom was a bonus."
Later, students returned to
their high school laboratories to witness a dinoflagellate
bloom under a microscope. The students also compared the
water quality analysis to NASA satellite imagery.
Several of the students are
following up with applications for summer internships that
would expand on this work with her during the summer.
NASA contributes a tremendous
data set - called "ocean color" - to the oceanographic
community. Ocean color is the characteristic hue of the
ocean according to the presence and concentration of
specific minerals or substances, such as chlorophyll.
Together with global or
regional maps of pigment distribution of phytoplankton all
over the world and other products, NASA gives unprecedented
global coverage of phytoplankton information to scientists
and the public.
NASA scientists study the
ocean using satellites and at colored dissolved organic
matter, ocean biology, calibration of the satellite,
modeling of the physics of the ocean, etc.
Thomas Jefferson High School
for Science and Technology is a unique Fairfax County public
school offering a comprehensive program that focuses on
scientific, mathematical, and technological fields.
The TJHSST students that
accompanied Moisan attended the Oceanography/Geophysical
Systems Lab at the school. The lab explores the biology,
chemistry, geology, and physics of the Earth's last
As a Governor's school, TJHSST
serves as a resource for other elementary, middle, and high
schools from the five nearby Virginia counties, as well as
around the nation and with the international community. Its
goal is to connect educators, scientists, and students in
real-world scientific inquiry. This is done through video conferencing
as well as face to face during professional conferences or
Moisan said, "NASA's relatively
modest investment in this activity has produced profound
results. It's a great way to interest students in STEM
studies, and I hope we will be able to continuing to do so
in the future.
Hands on activities such as
these are needed in STEM." Moisan said she wanted to be a
scientist ever since she was young. At Texas A and M
University, where she worked in an oceanographic laboratory
as undergraduate, she decided to become a phytoplankton
ecologist and pursue higher degrees. She's traveled to
exotic places such as the Antarctic to study phytoplankton,
something that she hopes all students will be inspired to