Inspired by Nature: BE WiSE at the Aquarium

Scripps Ph.D. candidate Noelle Bowlin teaches students about the diversity of fishes. Photo Credit Lara Dickens

By Catie Fyfe, community connections coordinator

When the lights go out and the public leaves, the fish usually have Birch Aquarium at Scripps to themselves. That wasn’t the case earlier this month when 40 middle school girls had the rare opportunity to sleep over. But these seventh and eighth graders did more than just check out the sleepy marine life.

The students are part of the San Diego Science Alliance’s Better Education for Women in Science & Engineering – or BE WiSE – program. The program aims to stimulate and support young women’s interest in science, technology, engineering, and math by connecting them with science professionals in special out-of-class activities.

Birch Aquarium and Scripps Institution of Oceanography have participated in the program since 2000. Our staff and students take pride in helping to inspire the next generation of ocean scientists. Over the last 12 years the BE WiSE program has reached more than 500 girls from San Diego County!

The sleepover at Birch Aquarium was part of the program’s Inspired by Nature Series, which features researchers and hands-on experiences from Scripps Oceanography, Hubbs Sea World Research Institute, and San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research.

BE WiSE participants complete a dog genetic activity. Photo credit Lara Dickens

Throughout the night, participants met with graduate student researchers, learned what it takes to be an oceanographer and marine biologist, and got their hands wet with experiments and live animals. Aquarium educator Dr. Stephanie Schroeder delivered the keynote presentation, titled “The Limpet Circus,” featuring her research on the owl limpet. Other activities included studying a diversity of preserved fishes,exploring the science behind ocean acidification, and learning about pressure in deep-sea environments.

Special guests Drs. Cassondra Williams of Scripps Oceanography and Bridgett von Holdt of UC Irvine shared their fascinating research on dog genetics to help students understand how genes work together, particularly in our familiar dog species.

The night concluded with a movie viewing of “Happy Feet 2” next to the two-story kelp forest tank.  The giant sea bass seemed to enjoy it, too!

Special thanks to Scripps Ph.D. candidates Grant Gallant, Noelle Bowlin, Phil Bresnahan, Makaila Lashomb, Yui Takeshita, Alexis Pasulka, and Rosa Leon-Zayas for their participation.


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