Being a girl who grew up on the coastline on Long Island, I assumed I knew most of what there was to know about the studies, research, and characteristics of a generic shoreline; however, upon attending Know the Coast Day this weekend, I realize I couldn’t have been more wrong. Brought to UNH and New Castle, NH by the UNH Marine Program, N.H. Sea Grants, the UNH Marine Docents and the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, ‘Know the Coast Day’ is a two day event – Friday being offered to K-12 students and Saturday open to the public. That being said, Saturday morning I bore through the humidity and headed over to the Jere A. Chase Ocean and Engineering Laboratory where I was able to interact with various faculty members, graduate students, and others providing the public with information about the shore.
Upon entry I stopped by the Horseshoe Crabs of the Great Bay tent and met Graduate student Helen Cheng. I was able to hold horseshoe crabs of various age groups and learn about their anatomy, as well as the tagging program (if you see any horseshoe crabs in the area with white tags on their shells—let someone from the UNH Marine program know!). The tags allow scientists to track migration patterns of horseshoe crabs in the area. In transit to this tent, I also passed a few others toting trawling nets and discussing the economics of fisheries! My favorite display exhibited the various types of sand from the New Hampshire beaches. The women who ran this area explained the various types of sediment, what rocks they were from, and how they got to the beaches. Not only were there examples from New Hampshire—but all over the world! I was able to physically feel the differences between sand from the Bahamas and sand from the shore of New Hampshire. It was truly interesting. Another activity I enjoyed surrounded the idea of “Mapping with Lasers” using LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) technology. This demonstrated how planes use laser technology to show the topography below the ocean surface, examining land and sea depth. During this demonstration, I was able to put on 3D glasses and examine the topography of both land and sea. I’ll be honest—these are only a few of the many amazing things I encountered.
Admittedly, I noticed the atmosphere was directed (for the most part) towards children—but this intention was completely appropriate! Encouraging children to get passionate at a young age about sea life, science, research, etc. is essential. Kids were able to dissect squid, make fish print art, play with ROV transporters, build Lego boats and race them, and drive boats near a tank demonstrating tidal energy. The best aspect of this, from a future educator’s perspective, is that the ‘Know the Coast’ staff did a wonderful job of instilling subliminal education behind these fun activities! An ROV (Remotely Operated underwater Vehicle) specialist told me of her visits to local middle schools, teaching children problem solving and cooperative learning through ROV building activities. Students were passionate about their machine, and would attempt to discover flaws within their mechanics, working together to operate it (I was given the opportunity to drive one of these ROV’s, and attempted to collect plastic rings…let’s just say I didn’t do too well!) I spoke with Tara Hicks Johnson, a coordinator of ‘Know the Coast Day,’ and the Outreach Specialist at CCOMM (Center for Coastal & Ocean Mapping at UNH) who is truly passionate about her work and spreading the word to the public.
“We work to get all the work we’re doing together… communicating it to the public and schools so that they have a good understanding of what it is we have going here. Events like this are great because we’ve got so much great research going on at UNH… it’s great to invite the public to see what’s going on, what’s important, and a way to get kids excited about science… that’s going on in their neighborhood.” – Tara Hicks Johnson, Coordinator for ‘Know The Coast Day’
An activity that may attract some of you Seacoast families is the UNH Marine Docent Family Boat Building. Occurring the weekend after Mother’s Day, the boat building takes only three days—to build an entire boat! The information packet says, “Through family boat building we hope to foster greater family team work, build woodworking skills, and enable families to enjoy the water and become advocates for good stewardship of the oceans. We believe we’re building families while we’re building boats.” If you are interested, and have at least one child aged 13 to 20, go to www.unh.edu/marine-education and download the application forms!
This review only scratches the surface of ‘Know the Coast Day’ and the impact it has on UNH and the local community. There was an enormous amount of exhibits, even more individuals dedicated to the cause of research and educating the public (and children) about the aspects of the coast that make it worth protecting, and loving. I encourage you to discover more about the area you live in, and to learn about how you can help protect this beautiful coastline, its creatures, and aid its dedicated researchers.