U-Engage students chase sea monsters, research curiosities
Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 01:11
Next time you take a dip in the ocean, it may be wise to be aware of what’s out there in that mass of cobalt-blue water. One never knows where that undead monster of the deep may be lurking.
Fortunately, such is not the case in reality. What is, however, is a unique class that has now been taught at Oregon State University for three years. The OSU U-Engage course ALS 199, titled Lunar Forces, Sea Vampires, Marine Zombies and Other Curiosities of the Sea, seeks to be an engaging course for new students to learn about the numerous undergraduate research opportunities available at OSU.
The program began when Academic Learning Services, began asking for more engaging courses at the university relating to research, internships and careers students of a given major might actually pursue. ALS 199 morphed out of this idea, focusing on opportunities in the field of marine research and the Hatfield Marine Science Center.
“Originally [the course] was just called Marine Science,” said Itchung Cheung, senior instructor of the two-credit course and academic program manager of Hatfield Marine Science Center. “Soon after it changed to the much more interesting title of Lunar Forces, Edible Sea Vampires, Marine Zombies and Other Curiosities of the Sea. Eventually I got rid of the ‘edible’ in the title to compress it a little.”
Each object in the course title represents a factual element of material covered in the class. “Lunar forces” covers the moon’s effects on the ocean and tides, waves, currents, renewable energy from the ocean and the environmental impacts from it, and other oceanic forces.
While not referring to fearsome, underwater Draculas or sparkling Edwards, the “sea vampires” part of the class covers Hagfish, parasitic fish with circular mouths that feed on other marine animals. This section of the course covers other blood-sucking parasites and invasive species of the Oregon Coast.
As for “marine zombies,” Cheung refers to Oregon’s coastal dead zone, an area of the ocean where a periodic upwelling of deep, low-oxygen water suffocates and kills marine life living in what used to be oxygen-rich water of the shallow coastal area. Here, a mass of dead Dungeness crabs drift in the current like a horde of the living dead, inspiring Cheung with the name.
The “other curiosities of the sea” refer to information on farming in the sea, marine parks, study abroad programs, undergraduate research experiences and student organizations on campus. The class also goes on field trips, including one to the Hatfield Marine Science Center and several research locations on campus.
“One of my more favorite experiences in the class was when we visited the wave research lab on campus,” said OSU student Mariah Dawson, a freshman in the class studying Fisheries and Wildlife. “I wouldn’t have known OSU had that if not for this class.”
The class also interviews older students involved in undergraduate research. Their most recent interview was a Skype session with an undergraduate intern doing marine mammal research in Antarctica.
“It was cool to hear the different interviews with people about their research and how they got involved,” said OSU freshman and environmental science major Marlee Chamberlin.
Cheung hopes that students will see how the overall point of the class is to see how even first-year students can get involved with research at the university.
“That’s what college is about,” Cheung said. “I hope students will have lots of experiences, and take advantage of the multitude of opportunities that are coming their way.”
Ryan Dawes, news reporter