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“Education Volunteer Training III: ‘You Had Me at Zooplankton!’”

Written on: April 11th, 2017 in Education & OutreachGuest BlogSt Jones Events and ProgramsSt. Jones ReserveVolunteers

To add variety to the blog and to offer a fresh perspective from our visitors, we are inviting guest bloggers to write posts describing their visits and thoughts while at the Reserve. This guest blog covers a recent DNERR Education Volunteer Training written by M.L. Christmas. Missed the training? Read on to find out what happened! Enjoy! (Johanna Hripto, DNERR Assistant Education Coordinator & Blog Editor)

Packet of goodies! We also received handout sheets and BPA-free water bottles from the Delaware Clean Water Alliance.

Packet of goodies! We also received handout sheets and BPA-free water bottles from the Delaware Clean Water Alliance.

One good training session, followed by another, deserves yet another: Education Volunteer Training III! You might be thinking: What’s more to learn? Should I bother attending? Haven’t we already covered the waterfront*? This guest‑blogger was wondering the same things. It turns out the answers are, respectively: “plenty”; “yes”; and “yes,” but also “no,” because there is always more to gain.

[*apologies to composer Johnny Green and lyricist Edward Heyman]

Enough new material was on the agenda that Yours Truly again took some time off from her other responsibilities in order to go to DNERR that morning for a look-and-listen. The “listen” category included the scheduled appearance of a special speaker: Michael Bard, Clean Water Advocate, from the Delaware Nature Society in Hockessin.

A volunteer-trainee prepping a specimen for examination under, no, not a regular microscope, but a dissecting microscope.

A volunteer-trainee prepping a specimen for examination under, no, not a regular microscope, but a dissecting microscope.

Some folks in attendance at EVT3 were new to DNERR volunteering and were still weighing the possibilities. Hence, we were given a brief review of the agency’s guidelines for volunteering. Nothing new, there, for anyone who had been at EVT1 or EVT2; but moving right along….

Big on the agenda were an overview of the “Muck-less Marsh Walk” (with its customary but ever-welcome excursion onto the boardwalk) and “Under the Microscope with Zooplankton” (aka “Zooplankton: Tiny Wonders of the Sea”), the latter described to this writer by Johanna Hripto, DNERR’s Assistant Education Coordinator, as “an extension of what was covered in the December 2016 Volunteer Appreciation Night, but with a lesson plan for younger students.”

Awesome-sauce! A mount on the microscope for one’s smartphone!

Awesome-sauce! A mount on the microscope for one’s smartphone!

We soon discovered the Zooplankton Lab is pretty cool for adults, too. The exercise (no pun intended) that day included adults spontaneously movin’ and groovin’ in the aisles of the lab, while digging an educational YouTube music video from the Singing Zoologist.

And what’s singing and dancing without cameras, or in this case, camera? While the adults were boogyin’ between the workstations, and at the same time learning about copepods and cladocerans and their ilk, Johanna announced that so many students had inquired about taking photos of the microorganisms on the microscope slides that the St. Jones Reserve now owns, ta-daaaa, a smartphone mount for that purpose! Brilliant!

Even without a smartphone, Yours Truly could see each microscope slide was like a miniature work of art, an aquatic portrait just waiting to be added to her personal sketchbooks: drawings and/or watercolors entitled “Hydra,” “Daphnia,” etc., complete with setae, cilia, flagella, manubria, colloblasts, and all the other fancy terms that would be more fun to draw than to spell. This writer, for amusement, has been sketching seaweed and jellyfish in her personal time. Seriously. And in the Zooplankton Lab handout, we learned jellyfish are plankton; so, boom, this guest-blogger is already on the scene!

A glimpse inside the mysterious and alluring Herbarium at the St. Jones Reserve.

A glimpse inside the mysterious and alluring Herbarium at the St. Jones Reserve.

We were also shown some of the more mysterious rooms in the St. Jones Reserve Visitor’s Center. For instance, the facility also contains dorm space for scholarly guests and visiting interns; and this guest-blogger finally got to peek behind the tantalizing door marked “Herbarium.” Further details about the Herbarium are hoped to be posted to this blog in the future.

Johanna then gave a presentation about the energy conservation methods used at the St. Jones Reserve’s buildings and grounds. DNERR has geothermal heating, low-flow/hybrid flow toilets, and much more. As Johanna said, “If people are volunteering for DNERR, they should know how we walk the talk! And they should be able to share that knowledge with others, at the Reserve and elsewhere!”

The EVT3 session concluded with guest speaker Michael Bard, from the Delaware Nature Society, giving a rousing talk on clean-water advocacy and how to promote water-conservation awareness. We were also given handout packets containing information from the Delaware Clean Water Alliance, of which Bard is a member. He noted how Reserve volunteers can take what they learn and apply it to clean‑water efforts at DNERR and beyond. There was that echo again, twice in the same training session: that knowledge gained at DNERR can translate to civilian life.

The boardwalk's end is just a beginning! Share your enthusiasm about the estuary with others!

The boardwalk’s end is just a beginning! Share your enthusiasm about the estuary with others!

Does all of this sound like fun? Sorry you missed the latest Education Volunteer Training? Don’t get your flagella in a bunch! Simply contact Johanna Hripto, Assistant Education Coordinator, and sign up for the next DNERR training session. Much learning and inspiration await, and you might just find all of it spilling over into your daily life! (This time, pun intended.)

Text and photos by M.L. Christmas

* * * *

M.L. Christmas, MSM, is a freelance writer/editor living in the Dover area. She is a longtime member of Delaware Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women.

 


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