2008 Workshop Agenda

Tenth Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists
Coastal Impacts: Marine and Environmental Science for Journalists
June 8-13, 2008
View Past Workshop Agendas

Day 1
Science From the Ground Up: The Evolution of the Hypothesis
Welcome and Introductions

Evening Presentation
Scientific Research: The Good, the Bad, and the “Truth”
SUNSHINE MENEZES, Metcalf Institute; ARTHUR GOLD, University of Rhode Island
While science is mainly conducted at the highly specialized level, journalists need to understand the big picture. Presenters will review the scientific method, ranging from the identification of research questions, to data collection and analysis, to manuscript submission and the use of science in policy. This discussion about the culture of science will also present a framework for the goals of the workshop week.

Day 2
Science to Address Resource Conflicts

Field tour and Lab Practicum
(GSO Luther Blount Aquaculture Laboratory and Matunuck 9 Oyster Farm)
Shellfish Aquaculture and Carrying Capacity: A Case Study
MARTA GOMEZ-CHIARRI, University of Rhode Island; KATE MARKEY, URI Graduate Student; CARRIE BYRON, URI Graduate Student and IGERT Fellow; PERRY RASO, Matunuck Oyster Farm
As fish stocks decline, consumers will turn increasingly to farmed sources of both finfish and shellfish. Rhode Island’s shellfish aquaculture working group, CRMC Working Group on Aquaculture Regulations, comprises representatives from aquaculture, wild harvest, environmental management, and academia, who have come together to determine if any limits should be placed on its growth. The criteria for making these decisions about production are informed by science and the appropriate management approaches. Today’s field and lab activities will focus on oyster production in Rhode Island.

Lab Practicum
Oyster Filter Feeding, Part One
Oysters are filter feeders, straining small particles of organic matter and algae from water. In doing this they serve a valuable role in controlling water quality, especially in enclosed bodies of water such as Rhode Island’s salt ponds. To demonstrate filter feeding rates of Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) with algae, experimental tanks will be set up with three different densities of oysters, each with the same concentration of algae. Fellows will observe and count algal cells under the microscope. The oysters will be allowed to feed for several hours and the results will be assessed in the afternoon lab session.

Tour of Matunuck Oyster Farm
Aquaculture is a growth industry in Rhode Island, setting worldwide standards for quality shellfish in product. What are the state’s goals for sustainable aquaculture? What are the current trends in production and restoration? Raso will explain operations at the Matunuck Oyster Farm, from nursery to distribution, and provide an overview of global aquaculture production, environmental impacts of shellfish farming, and its potential in developing countries.

Lab Practicum
Oyster Filter Feeding, Part Two
Fellows will learn how to measure the consumption rate of the oysters by calculating the filtration rates and observing water clarity in each tank. Fellows will measure the change in algae concentration using a microscope. Chiarri and Byron will discuss the implications of these rates for water quality and the carrying capacity of ecosystems in general.

Public Lecture
Realizing the Vision for Open Ocean Aquaculture
RICHARD LANGAN, Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center, University of New Hampshire It is widely acknowledged that future increases in seafood production will likely come from farming, not fishing. The growth of land-based and nearshore marine aquaculture in many developed countries is constrained by space, economics, and environmental concerns. For aquaculture production to expand, the potential for farming offshore ocean waters must be explored. Despite the evidence that offshore farming is possible and that both environmental and fish husbandry benefits have been demonstrated, a number of technical, operational, economic and political challenges must be addressed before large scale production in true open ocean conditions can be realized. This presentation will discuss the current status of offshore farming, the opportunities and constraints on growth of this sector, and international efforts toward realizing the full potential of open ocean farming.

Meet the Speaker

Day 3
Understanding Relative Risk: Scientific Models and Their Impacts

An Overview of Hurricanes and the Science of Storm Forecasting
ISAAC GINIS, URI Graduate School of Oceanography
Following the disastrous 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, public understanding of the science of extreme weather events has taken on new significance. Isaac Ginis has developed a hurricane computer modeling system that has become an official component of the national system used to forecast Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico tropical storms and hurricanes. Ginis will give a primer on hurricanes and forecasting and will discuss some of the ongoing research at the Graduate School of Oceanography aimed at improving hurricane forecasting.

Panel Discussion
When Every Minute Counts: Organizational Responses to Hurricane Forecasts
PAM RUBINOFF, Rhode Island Sea Grant/URI Coastal Resources Center, moderator; ISAAC GINIS, URI Graduate School of Oceanography; MISH MICHAELS, CBS Boston; ROBERT NADEAU, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency; STEPHEN OFFSEY, Applied Insurance Research Worldwide Corporation
What are the pressures on those who communicate and respond to hurricane forecasts? How do these parties act on their responsibilities to the public? Panelists will present their perspectives on the impacts of hurricane forecasting, including the complexities of preparedness, estimating for insurance losses, and engaging a public with a short-term memory. A moderated discussion will follow.

Journalism Session
Found in Translation: Interpreting Scientific Publications
A scientific paper is published and your editor decides if it’s newsworthy. Now what? Translating science on deadline for an average news audience is a challenge. In this exercise, Fellows will be matched with scientists and scientific journal articles to gain insights on how to identify the key points and assess research methodology and tools. While scientists will discuss the approaches they take to decipher the primary message and merit of scientific articles, Fellows will provide a glimpse into the techniques – and pressures – that focus their work as journalists.

Public Lecture
Hurricane Intensity: Warming Up the Debate
TOM KNUTSON, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Have humans affected the patterns of Atlantic hurricanes? Some research has suggested that an anthropogenic signal is already detectable in the hurricane records. Knutson will present various evidence for and against this interpretation and will argue, based on the evidence published to date, that it is premature to conclude that humans have had a detectable influence on Atlantic hurricanes. Continued global warming over this century is likely to lead to hurricanes of greater intensity and with greater rainfall rates worldwide. What does this mean for the Atlantic basin?

Meet the Speaker
Participants from the URI Coastal Resource Center’s Summer Institute will join us for reception and dinner. CRC’s Summer Institute in Coastal Management is a three-week intensive training course for a diverse range of individuals who share the common goal of trying to improve the management of the world’s coasts. Past participants have included international coastal management practitioners, policymakers, government officials, scientists, community organizers, members of nongovernmental organizations, and university faculty and students.

Day 4
Integrating Multidisciplinary Research to Inform Policy

Fieldwork and Lab Practicum
(Charlestown Breachway and Ninigret Pond, Charlestown)
How Will Coastal Ecosystems Respond to Sea Level Rise?
JANET FREEDMAN, Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council; EMILY SHUMCHENIA, MARISA GUARINELLO, GSO Graduate Students
Many coastal environmental problems involve various users of the shoreline – residents, commercial interests, and the public. From a research perspective, these problems also occur over multiple spatial and temporal scales. This program will examine the effects of sea level rise on coastal ecosystems acting at various scales by studying a barrier beach and coastal lagoon complex. Fellows will look at how climate change may alter shoreline processes and biological communities and learn about the implications of these changes for systems that are already undergoing natural change due to long-term coastal erosion and short-term impacts from human activities. We will also look at the extent to which projected changes in beachfront and sea level increases are accounted for in the regulatory process.

Sea Level Rise and Coastal Regulation
Arrive at the Charlestown Breachway at the Charlestown Town Beach. Freedman will provide an overview of coastal geological processes in the area, including: the formation and nature of a barrier; storm-induced erosion and sea level rise; the effects of breachway construction and shoreline structures on beaches; and a summary of the eelgrass restoration project in Ninigret Pond. She will also review the regulatory activities that govern development on Rhode Island’s coasts.

Measuring Biological Changes at Different Scales
Arrive at Shelter Cove Marina at Ninigret Pond. Climate change will gradually affect coastal ecosystems, but many of these changes will only be detectable when compared to historical data. Fellows will be kayaking in a lagoon behind the dynamic Charlestown barrier complex to better understand the physical and geological processes that impact biological communities over varying timescales.

Kayaking and water safety instruction will be provided, followed by an overview of the questions researchers ask to assess community changes and a demonstration of quadrat sampling. Fellows will put in kayaks and paddle through a few shallow algal and eelgrass beds, where a multitude of organisms live, to the sample site near the center of the pond. Eelgrass is an interesting biological model because of the changes these plants experience over time. Fellows will look at an eelgrass restoration project and take turns measuring eelgrass with quadrats, looking at native and invasive species and considering how factors such as the nutrient inputs and temperature shifts have adversely affected the eelgrass communities. Paddle back to Shelter Cove Marina boat launch.

Lab Practicum
The ability to evaluate ecosystems quantitatively not only contributes to our understanding of the interactions between physical, chemical, geological and biological conditions, but also helps to inform management decisions. How are the tools used in the field this morning coupled with other methods to gain a better spatial and temporal understanding of the ecosystem? What types of data can be extracted and how are they used, visualized and communicated? In reporting results, how can detail be retained without over-simplifying?

Fellows will analyze the eelgrass data collected in the morning using a Geographic Information System (GIS). Previous eelgrass data from the site will be used to aid in interpretations to bring the morning survey into broader context both spatially and temporally. A benthic grab sample will be examined and sorted for organisms to demonstrate the differences between nearby habitats.

Public Lecture
U.S. Climate Policy and Politics Update
VICKI ARROYO, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
How does climate science inform national policy? What is Congress doing to address the pressures of global change? Arroyo will explain how emerging science and politics – state initiatives, court cases, and other developments – are influencing legislative efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change.

Meet the Speaker
Reception and refreshments.

Evening Presentation
Where Will Sea Level Rise Leave Us?
GROVER FUGATE, Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council
Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council is one of the first coastal zone management agencies in the country to attempt to incorporate sea level rise projections into the regulatory and policy framework for the state. Fugate will discuss the status of these efforts in the state and nationwide.

Day 5
Translating Scientific Data for News Audiences

Fieldwork and Lab Practicum
(Gilbert Stuart Stream, North Kingstown)
Measuring Ecosystem Health Using Water Quality Indices
ART GOLD, URI Department of Natural Resources Science; CAITLIN CHAFFEE, Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council
How do we determine the health of an ecosystem? This is a surprisingly controversial concept among scientists. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and many field biologists rely on the idea of “biological integrity” to evaluate a stream, estuary, wetland or forest. Biological integrity considers a site’s species composition, diversity and functions provided by local organisms with respect to a comparable natural ecosystem in the same region. Other scientists strongly object to this type of generalized measure and describe an ecosystem through specific functions or values – such as respiration rates, dissolved oxygen levels, and toxic or harmful concentrations of specific chemicals on key organisms. The purpose of today’s field activities is to get a closer look at water quality monitoring in order to understand the role of freshwater quality in the larger picture of water availability.

Arrive at Gilbert Stuart Stream. Fellows will be introduced to a standard method for evaluating stream health called Rapid Bioassessment. This method relies on the mix of macroinvertebrates – aquatic invertebrates whose key position on the food chain makes them important indicators of water quality – found in shallow waters. Different organisms have different levels of pollution tolerance, and a rating system has emerged that links the type and abundance of macroinvertebrates to stream health. Fellows will collect and identify stream macroinvertebrates (mostly larval stages of insects) and use that information to classify the health of a particular stream reach. In the process, Fellows will gain insight into the use of taxonomy for pollution assessment and into some of the challenges inherent in assessing trends in ecosystem quality.

Lab Presentation
Mapping Water Quality Impacts
PETER AUGUST, URI Natural Resources Science, Coastal Institute on Narragansett Bay; ROLAND DUHAIME, URI Environmental Data Center
Digital and Internet-based mapping technologies allow journalists to quickly establish a sense of place for a news story. Google Earth, a free mapping program, provides access to aerial photography, satellite imagery and landmark data, and is an excellent resource to quickly visualize the spatial context of a site. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a similar technology, is used for complex mapping and analysis applications. In this lab Fellows will explore GIS and Google mapping technologies and learn how these tools can support investigative reporting and communication as they might be applied to water quality issues.

Journalism Session
Reaching the High Water Mark: Writing About the Slow Creep of Global Change
Reporting on large-scale environmental problems can be daunting, and pitching these stories can be tricky. Ganter will address the “slow fuse” topic of water availability, presenting typical questions that are asked of water experts. Ganter will then work with the Fellows to identify and develop stories about water scarcity, expand their questions for experts, make a great story that’s enticing to the news audience, and prepare a resonant pitch.

Public Lecture
Slow Fuse: Reporting the Global Freshwater Crisis
J. CARL GANTER, Circle of Blue
Water is emerging as one of the big stories of the century, influencing everything from economics to health, security, and the environment. Water scarcity and quality affect developed and developing countries alike. Ganter will explore the crucial roles of journalism and science in reporting and responding to the global freshwater crisis.

Evening Presentation
Environmental Reporting Adapts to Global Change
NANCY COHEN, WNPR, Connecticut Public Radio
In her years reporting on the environment, Cohen has observed that environmental stories, like the natural world, do not recognize political boundaries. In response, WNPR is developing an environmental reporting initiative for the northeast called Common Ground. This novel approach puts local stories in a regional context, designed to air anywhere in the region. As staffs and resources have decreased in print newsrooms, particularly, innovative measures such as the Common Ground initiative may be a cost-efficient means of meeting the demands of news audiences. Cohen will describe the project and discuss its potential as a model for other regions.

Day 6
Scientific Tools for Understanding the Past and Predicting the Future

Blast from the Icy Past: How Scientists Understand Climate History
Predicting future global change requires a full understanding of the natural variability of Earth’s climate system. The primary method that scientists use to understand natural variability is by studying the past or paleo-climate. Paleoclimatology is the study of past climate earlier than that recorded by modern instrumental measurements. Paleoclimatologists use a wide range of tools with different timescales and resolutions, including tree rings, ice cores, corals, cave deposits, and ocean and lake sediments, to reconstruct the Earth’s natural climate variability. This presentation gives an overview of paleoclimate techniques. Fellows will examine marine sediment cores and analyze them using a multi-sensor core logger, use microscopes to see microfossils that record past climate signals, and review grain size data to understand when ice was present in the Arctic Ocean.

Public Lecture
Slippery When Wet
ROBERT BINDSCHADLER, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
The great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are shrinking faster and faster, increasing the rate of sea level rise. Observations of this accelerating ice loss have surprised the experts and confounded the prediction models that policy makers might rely on to take action. Direct field studies have identified a number of causes for the sudden awakening of the ice sheets. Whether it is ponded meltwater that destroys thick floating ice shelves, running meltwater that cascades through nearly a mile of ice to lubricate the base of the ice sheet, or warmer water circulating underneath floating ice shelves to thin them allowing a faster release of grounded ice, water is the primary agent of change. In a warmer world, ice sheets will be forced to respond to more water. They will not like it and will change – will we?

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