Notes from Northern VA: Deborah and Terry reporting

A picture (or 5) really is worth a thousand words. Wish everyone could have seen the look on our faces when Dr. Maurakis (Gene) told us about the cautionary tales of those "brain eating amoeba" - Naegleria fowleri - that inhabit low level waters at temps of approx 78 degrees. Nice thoughts for our outing tomorrow and our introduction to electrofishing in Prince William Forest Park. Those pictures will certainly tell a story.

Today though we arrived (settled into our swanky new digs) and began to answer some of the aforementioned questions as to why we are here:

“I’m going to Woodbridge because I want to hang out with other teachers…” The best way to get to know each other was finding out what we already do by way of environmental studies and green practices personally & professionally. Steve takes the "less is best" approach by living in a one room studio where he has no trouble remembering to turn off the lights when he leaves a room & where he can't water a lawn b/c he doesn't have one.

“…and experience the natural world in a new way…” Today this meant viewing a turtle or catfish in a tank in one of our participant's labs (the rest of us can only dream of such a tank and lab in our schools) or eating lunch in the setting of a concrete courtyard? Where's the nature? Oh, we must be it. “I’ll spend a lot of time stuck in traffic…” Not today actually - everyone seemed to stay home b/c of the heat “and thinking about how I could use this mark and recapture lesson…” Can they eat the population? Only if they're the Goldfish that come in a cardboard carton….

“Dr. M’s study will establish a baseline for climate change…” that might include how to warm up a classroom designed for 30-40 students w/ only 12 people in it? “and I’ll get help from Summer to develop a proposal for my own study…” like a grant for a lab like Bryan's in the CENS (Center for Environmental and Natural Sciences!) “I’ll learn about so many things: fish and invertebrates and stream characteristics and maps and human impacts and”….and the brain eating amoeba.

“The best thing about this project will be (stuff) I’ll take home…” such as a planimeter for measuring distances of streams on a map…”and meeting new people, and free meals…" off to a great start w/ an excellent dinner out at Macaroni Grill & conversation ranging from experiences w/ students in environmental sciences - to the human impact of folks like Octomom and the Duggars - to the finer points of living w/ grizzlies and navigating NOVA traffic. “I’ll get resources…” such as a laminated/field tested Insect & Crustacean ID Card… “and I’ll do things I’ve never done before!” Like put ink dots on both sides of very small navy and pinto beans.

Above all else today we met Summer Schultz & Dr. Gene Maurakis, two scientists who truly are dedicated to their altruistic cause of providing information about the effects of climate change on our inland waterways. To make the cause even more worthwhile, they are willing to engage us as teachers in providing the tools for a whole new generation to keep up their work. Do they know what they're in for? They say teachers make the most challenging students. Do we know what we're in for? My guess is not a clue, judging by the first class treatment we have received. Could it be they are making these first impressions so positive so as to ward off any further misgivings we might have about standing about in water w/ electroshock sticks while avoiding droplets of amoeba contaminated water as we flee flailing from the stream? Stay tuned to see what answers tomorrow brings.

Deborah Andersen & Terry Milton