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Webcast 2007: "Bringing Science to Life"
Banded Tundra Swan
The Signals of Spring 2007 Webcast was a terrific success, featuring John Whissel, wildlife biologist from Environmental Studies at Airlie. John shared his interesting Tundra Swan research with students during the 45-minute long presentation, held on April 25th.
Participating schools included Sussex County Charter School in New Jersey and Mitchell Elementary School in Arizona. Students from both schools were a truly engaged audience, participating and asking wonderful questions throughout the presentation. One student found the live online classroom particularly exciting, "I liked doing the same thing at the same time with students from the other side of the country - that is truly amazing."
John's presentation gave students a glimpse at life as a wildlife biologist. He showed fascinating pictures and provided movie clips for students to watch. John described the habitat and typical migration route that the swans use. He explained the reasons for his research and the procedure he employs to study the birds.
The Tundra Swans were banded on Alaska's North Slope in the Conoco Phillips Oil Fields. John shared video showing how he and his colleagues use helicopters to herd the swans towards a certain area so that they can be captured. Scientists determine the sex of the swan and place a satellite transmitter, radio transmitter, or neck band around the swans' necks. Next, they weigh the swan, take their picture, and release them back to their habitat.
The satellite transmitters allow John and his colleagues to study the swans' migration route. They can learn what causes the animals to change their route and which specific areas along the route need to be protected so that the swan population survives. The swans typically migrate from Alaska's North Slope to Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.
Students participating in the Webcast found John's presentation very interesting. One student commented, "I am studying the Tundra Swan and I learned a lot of information that I can use in later journal entries. Thanks to Dr. Whissel for taking the time to talk to us." Another participant said, "The notes I took during Dr. Whissel's presentation are helping me develop hypothesis' about how the Tundra Swan migrates. The Webcast was a very nice change from the traditional way of having class."
Mrs. Sior, from Sussex County Charter School shared her students' enthusiasm, "Signals of Spring Webcasts bring the scientists to "life" for the students. Their usual interaction with the scientists involved in the program is usually just through their analysis journals. Hearing a scientist explain and display his work makes it more personal and more real for the students. This experience opens up students' minds to the idea that they could have a scientific career studying something they really enjoyed through Signals of Spring."
In addition to learning about Tundra Swans, participating students were encouraged to make connections between animal migrations and environmental factors, such as weather, vegetation, bathymetry, and phytoplankton. Using the Short-toed Eagle and Loggerhead Turtle as examples, students reviewed how to interpret and analyze animal movements and record their thoughts in journal entries.
There are many opportunities for Signals of Spring students to interact with other students and with scientists. The upcoming Symposium, to be held on May 24th, is a great opportunity for students to share their Signals of Spring research with peers across the country. Please submit student research by May 21st for that exciting online event.