“One of the best and most rewarding experiences of my high school career.” That’s the review from a student participant in Community Science, one of the many Aquarium outreach programs that exists with your support. This hands-on, inquiry-based marine science education program is designed to stimulate science inquiry in historically underrepresented high school students in the Puget Sound area.
In 2018, the program completed its twelfth year with approximately 409 students and ten schools collecting nearshore monitoring datasets on eleven local beaches. These datasets are used by governmental and environmental agencies including Washington State Parks and the City of Seattle. One teacher reflects that, “The program provides valuable real-world experience with science—there is no substitute for it that would be possible in the classroom. It definitely helped me achieve my goal of getting the students familiar with a real field study and how to conduct one.”
Community Science is a 15-year program to monitor intertidal areas in Central Puget Sound.
The program's goals are to: (1) stimulate science inquiry in historically under-represented high school students and (2) to monitor scientifically defensible species abundance trends on area beaches. Community Science intends to accomplish this in the following ways:
- Establish a science education program that trains high school students to collect and analyze data with the goal of providing meaningful, inquiry-based field based experience that allows students to participate in real-world problem solving.
- Partner with the WSU/Island County Cooperative Extension Beach Watchers program and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Community Science Network to facilitate sharing among similar volunteer-based monitoring efforts throughout the Puget Sound region.
- Make Community Science data available for the scientific community to use for further studies by inclusion in the Seattle Public Utilities’ Scientific Information Management System and data sharing with university, governmental and non-profit partners.
Community scientists are local high school students and teachers, assisted by trained adults, gaining “real world” experience with science and conservation. After a pilot year in 2004 at Seahurst Park with the City of Burien, Environmental Science Center and the Occupational Skills Center/Marine Tech Program in Burien, the program expanded in 2005 and 2006 to include approximately 75 students from Ballard, West Seattle, Garfield and Highline High Schools. Monitoring occurs at: Seahurst Park, Lincoln Park, Schmitz Memorial, S. Alki, Discovery Park, Golden Gardens and Carkeek Park.
Students receive 20 hours of training and conduct four hours of data collection for the long- term study in addition to several hours conducting their own independent study projects. Monitoring is done on tides of at least -2.0’ (MLLW) in April and May. Protocol includes: 1) habitat characterization — beach characteristics along a profile line within 3 x 4m plots such as slope, substrate and habitat type and 2) relative abundance – presence/absence of 24 species or groups of species of intertidal flora and fauna.
Community Science partners include: Seattle Aquarium Society, Discuren Foundation, City of Seattle, City of Burien, King County, University of Washington, Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Environmental Science Center, Highline Schools, Seattle Schools, Seattle Rotary, WSU/Island County Cooperative Extension Beach Watchers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada Shorekeepers.