By Suzanne Stanard CALS News • Aug 26, 2014
It’s time for a cool change as a CAAE outreach program takes youngsters out on the water for lessons in aquatic ecology.
Six eighth-grade boys in canary yellow life vests huddle together on the bow of the RV Humphries, squinting in the sun at Dr. Robert Reed, who is demonstrating different types of equipment that test everything from water quality to wind speed.
Choruses of “cool” and “awesome” ripple through the little crowd as Reed continues his talk, as well as wild guesses like “poison blaster,” when the boys are asked what each device may be.
Six of their classmates – the all-girl group, as the students have decided to divide themselves – are inside the boat learning from Dr. JoAnn Burkholder how to sample river water to assess the water quality.
Thus goes a typical day aboard the “floating classroom,” anchored on this warm spring morning in the Neuse River near New Bern.
Burkholder, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professor of aquatic ecology and director of the Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology (CAAE), and Reed, oceanography researcher with CAAE, have taken hundreds of students out on the water for hands-on learning over the last three years, thanks to grant funding from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. Now in their first year of a three-year renewal – the only renewal available through the fund – Burkholder and her team are eager to find backers to continue the North Carolina Floating Classroom Program long-term.