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SEVEE partners with SERC and CBF Oyster Teams at the Ryan Resilience Lab

On February 13, 2024, the Southeastern Virginia Environmental Education (SEVEE) consortium, led by Dr. Venicia Ferrell and Alexis Tharpe of The Center for Educational Partnerships (TCEP), welcomed Dr. Anna Davis from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) at the newly established Ryan Resilience Lab in Norfolk, VA. This collaboration between TCEP, SERC, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Oyster Team aims to foster environmental consciousness among teachers and students and provide science-based insights to address environmental challenges.

Dr. Davis, a Postdoctoral Fellow at SERC, delivered a presentation on the physiological and genetic responses of marine invertebrates, focusing on oysters. She shared insights into how these fascinating creatures adapt to environmental stressors caused by human activities and presented a unique way to observe and collect data on them. Dr. Davis's expertise and SERC's dedication to coastal ecosystem research make her a valuable resource in tackling environmental issues.

The SEVEE teachers, participating were from various school districts including Hampton City Schools, Newport News Public Schools, Norfolk Public Schools, Suffolk Public Schools, and Williamsburg James City County Public Schools, are committed to fostering environmental consciousness among their students. Last summer, they conducted field-based investigations across the watershed, including activities such as constructing habitat cages filled with oyster shells. These cages were strategically deployed in waterways near their schools, serving as immersive learning tools for students ranging from 5th grade to high school. Through these activities, students can study seasonal changes and explore the diverse marine life within their respective watershed domains. In addition, some teachers actively raised oysters with the intention of planting them on well-positioned oyster reefs in the region.

The TCEP team and SEVEE teachers joined forces with the CBF Oyster Team and SERC Team for an innovative experience. Together, they observed the intertidal and subtidal ecosystems where their engaging initiatives were taking place. SERC has developed a remarkable methodology using GoPro cameras on an oyster observation rig to observe and collect data on oyster reefs and subtidal environments. A training session was conducted for the SEVEE teachers, TCEP staff members, and other participants by both SERC and CBF, focusing on utilizing GoPro cameras to study the subtidal and intertidal oyster reefs in the local area. The generous support extended by the SERC Team, who provided an observation rig, ensures a seamless continuation of future observation work in the intertidal and subtidal ecosystems.

The training took place at the Ryan Resilience Lab in Norfolk, VA, a facility committed to building a resilient future. The SEVEE teachers were personally guided on an immersive tour by Pamela Northam, the former First Lady of Virginia and the current public relations and education contact at the Resilience Lab. This tour provided them with a comprehensive understanding of the lab's vision and mission.

The collaboration between the TCEP Team, CBF Oyster Team, and SERC Team opens up exciting opportunities for teachers and students in the area. It allows for the creation of meaningful watershed educational experiences centered around Virginia's natural environment. As SEVEE educators teach standards-aligned lessons that engage their students in becoming true environmental stewards, the impact of this collaboration is far-reaching and invaluable.

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