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Being There
An unprecedented expedition to the North Atlantic yields new insights into the life-sustaining spring bloom
by Margaret Nagle


Translating Science

Webinar photo

UMaine professor Mary Jane Perry, right, and education specialist Carla Companion discuss a concept map for the COSEE-OS webinar series on the North Atlantic Bloom Experiment. Photo by Annette deCharon

Sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm for oceanography is as important to University of Maine biological oceanographer Mary Jane Perry as her marine science discoveries.

“One of the most rewarding things is when an undergraduate or graduate student matures (in his or her research) and you see them ‘get it,’” says Perry, who was named a 2010 Fellow of The Oceanography Society for her contributions to the founding and advancement of bio-optical oceanography and the education of the next generation of bio-optics researchers.

“With my graduate students, I’m happiest when they don’t need me any more. It’s exciting to see people learn and understand, and start to be critical thinkers.”

The benchmarks in her educational outreach efforts include the launch in 1985 of a graduate-level bio-optical oceanography summer course that has had a multiplier effect for up-and-coming young researchers working across the globe.

At UMaine’s Darling Marine Center, she also is actively involved in educational outreach efforts for high school students and their teachers. Her research involves both UMaine graduate and undergraduate students.

A UMaine field course last year drew on her experiences in the North Atlantic that she then passed on to students on a two-day Gulf of Maine cruise.

On the 2008 North Atlantic Bloom Experiment with Perry and 25 researchers from five countries were undergraduate and graduate students, including six from UMaine.

To further collaboration efforts beyond the expedition, “big data” from the North Atlantic Bloom Experiment is now online and fully available in the Biological Chemical Oceanographic Data Management Office.

Last summer, the research of the scientists involved in the North Atlantic Bloom Experiment was the focus of a webinar series offered by the Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence – Ocean Systems (COSEE-OS) — one of several such centers funded by the National Science Foundation. COSEE-OS, directed by Annette deCharon at UMaine’s Darling Marine Center, focuses on improving science literacy in the context of the ocean.

The five weekly North Atlantic Bloom webinars, featuring Perry and six other scientists involved in the research, attracted 68 participants from 21 states, as well as from Canada, Iceland and Germany. More than half of the participants were educators.

The archived material from the webinars — transcribed webinar video, data sets, and interactive concept maps with images, animations and teaching resources on the spring phytoplankton bloom and its role in the ocean ecosystem — has become the second most-visited section of the COSEE-OS website.