2002 Workshop Agenda

Metcalf Institute Fourth Annual Workshop for Journalists
Coastal Impacts: Marine and Environmental Science for Journalists
June 23-28, 2002
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Day One
Check-in, URI W. Alton Jones Campus, Whispering Pines Conference Center, Sycamore Lodge.
Evening includes: Welcome and overview of Day Two; review of workshop logistics; Metcalf Fellows introductions and informal discussion.


Day Two
Measuring Water Quality in an Estuary
Overview of natural history and regulatory issues of Narrow River; driving tour along Narrow River; overview of kayaking instruction, water safety and water sampling; put in kayaks; paddle in kayaks to first water sampling stop; demonstration of Niskin bottle; paddle south for second water sample; pull out kayaks.

Lab Practicum: fecal coliform sample processing, chlorophyll measuring, water column biology discussion and microscope work.

Public Lecture: The Price of Dominion: Managing Planet Earth
Andrew Revkin, Environment Reporter, The New York Times
Humans are at a threshold. The last century could be our exuberant adolescence when we flexed muscles, had an extraordinary growth spurt, and became a geological force. We changed the landscape, extinguished and introduced species, and altered the atmosphere in a way that appears to have nudged the global thermostat. Now we are considering ways to lighten human footsteps, to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases and preserve biodiversity. The population curve is flattening, and there has been enormous progress in reducing pollution and habitat destruction. Are we poised to enter adulthood, to manage our environment sustainably?

Evening Lecture: Life Beneath the Seafloor
Steven D’Hondt, GSO
URI professor Steven D’Hondt recently co-led the first ocean drilling expedition dedicated to the study of life deep beneath the seafloor. The expedition’s seven sites were selected to represent the range of subsurface environments in marine sediments throughout most of the world’s oceans. The shipboard scientists found evidence of active life in all of the marine sediments they explored. D’Hondt will discuss how life beneath the seafloor is fueled, where it is concentrated among the research sites and the implications of these findings. He will also discuss plans for future study of the genetic relationships between the life forms of Earth’s surface and subsurface worlds, and how biogeochemical processes deep beneath the seafloor affect Earth’s surface world.


Day Three
Assessing the State of Fisheries
Arrive Wickford, board Cap’n Bert; overview and depart; fisheries trawl in Narragansett Bay; sampling at Fox Island: identify species; fish count; log catch data; discuss fisheries issues. Return to dock.

Lab Practicum: review annual catch record, plot data, consider changes over time. Presentation of online resources for scientific research.

Public Lecture:
Science, Policy and Politics in Fisheries Management: A Panel Discussion
Dr. Jeremy Collie, GSO, Moderator; Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, University of New Hampshire; Peter Shelley, Conservation Law Foundation; William Amaru, Captain, F/V Joanne-A III
Fisheries management is a complex political environment. While the scientific research is well developed, the public and industry view the science as weak. Even with clear scientific advice, it’s difficult to apply conservation to fisheries management. While easily supported politically, conservation measures for fisheries are rarely popular. Ultimately, management comes down to the fishermen, making support for conservation measures hard to come by and often resulting in overfishing. How can ocean issues be given broad support to address the critical needs of fisheries?

Evening Lecture: Role Reversal: Scientific Presentations


Day Four
Morning Lecture and Discussion: Convincing an Editor of the Value of Environmental Coverage
Joel Rawson, The Providence Journal; Howard Altschiller, The Standard Times
Discussion on pitching the environmental story to your editor.

Field Trip: A Close-up Look at Lead Poisoning in Rhode Island
Elizabeth Colon, Childhood Lead Action Project
Overview of lead poisoning as it related to Rhode Island law, discussion (12:30 leave restaurant). Tour the interior of lead poisoned house with informal discussion and interview with the family.

Public Lecture: Why Sue the Nation’s Paint Companies?
Sheldon Whitehouse, RI Attorney General
Childhood lead poisoning is 2.5 times higher in Rhode Island and 4 times higher in Providence than the rest of the country. Lead paint has been repeatedly identified as the top environmental health issue facing the state’s children. Families, individuals, activist groups, and every level of government are working and paying to clean up lead paint and educate poisoned children. RI Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse says the only major players who are not helping are the corporations that made and marketed the lead-based paints. Whitehouse will explain why he filed the first state lawsuit against the companies, scheduled to start next September, and how corporations, government and voters are reacting.

Follow-up Lab Practicum: Counting and data analysis of Monday’s water samples. Discussion: Interpreting the fecal coliform results, why the test is performed, and the role of fecal coliform as an indicator organism.

Evening Lecture: People as Canaries: Surveillance Data on Human Chemical Exposures
Dr. Robert Vanderslice, RI Department of Health
The National Center for Environmental Health is surveying the US population to determine the blood and urine levels of 100 chemicals. The Center released its findings for the first 27 contaminants last year (www.cdc.gov/nceh/dls/report). Prior to the release of the report, the Health Department agonized over how to answer questions from the public about the significance of our body burdens of plasticizers and pesticide breakdown products, chemicals for which no toxicity data exist. The public never asked, but public health officials are still wrestling with the questions. A recent workshop in RI explored these issues from the perspective of local residents living adjacent to polluted sites and environmental advocacy groups.


Day Five
The Migrating Shoreline: Measuring Coastal Erosion
East Beach: undeveloped barrier beach; Charlestown Beach: developed barrier beach, obtain a beach profile, collect data for lab practicum, look at shoreline changes; South Kingstown Beach: headland erosion, zoning issues, emergency management plans

Lab Practicum: Plotting beach profile data, long-term data set for Charlestown Beach.

Public Lecture: Trends in Human and Societal Development and Climate Change
Dr. James J. McCarthy, Harvard University
Scientific evidence points to an unusual rate of global warming over the last century. The last few decades have been both warmer and more variable and climate is likely to continue to change for the next several generations. There are many unknowns in understanding the future of the climate system, but the greatest uncertainty is human behavior. How many of us will there be? What will be our standard of living in the developed and developing world? How dependent will we be on fossil fuel?

Board Schooner Adirondack II; sail Newport Harbor and East Passage of Narragansett Bay
Cocktails and dinner dockside at the Newport Yachting Center
Evening Lecture: Scientific Integrity: Do the Dollars Control the Message?
Dr. Arthur Gold, URI
In this informal discussion Gold will explore the nature of “peer review” as the standard for evaluating science and the controversy surrounding the potential bias that funding sources may exert on published scientific findings.


Day Six
Check out, URI W. Alton Jones Campus, Whispering Pines Conference Center, Sycamore Lodge.

Morning Presentation: Geographic Information Systems (Large Conference Room)
Dr. Peter August, Director, Coastal Institute on Narragansett Bay
Journalists will look at geographical information systems (GIS) to learn how map data are accessed and analyzed, and how visual data are interpreted by scientists and journalists. Special attention will be given to GIS data sources available on the Internet.

Public Lecture: NOVA: Good Science, Good Television
Paula Apsell, NOVA, WGBH Television
How do filmmakers accurately represent the exacting work of scientists, inject an element of entertainment into their documentaries, and still create a credible and interesting depiction of science? Apsell will describe how filmmakers engage the public in science through award-winning science television about subjects as diverse as global warming, bioterrorism, and string theory. NOVA has won numerous awards including Emmys, Peabodys and the duPont-Columbia Award and is considered the best science documentary series in broadcasting. Apsell oversees many related science projects including the recently acclaimed miniseries Evolution, NOVA On-Line, and the large format (70mm) film Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure.

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