Students from fourth, fifth and sixth grades at Adelante Charter School in Santa Barbara experienced a live two-way video conference with scientists aboard the EV Nautilus, via a specially equipped auditorium at the UCSB Marine Sciences Department last Tuesday.

The EV Nautilus is an educational research vessel currently exploring underwater volcanic seamounts in the Caribbean Sea, in the Anegada Passage near the British Virgin Islands.

Students were inspired as they entered the darkened room, illuminated by an ocean-light projector, which threw underwater-light patterns on the walls. Students were able to ask direct questions of scientists aboard the Nautilus who helped them understand more about their explorations through the lenses of oceanography, geology and biology.

Later on the same trip, students were able to enter the REEF center and the marine science laboratories. Sixth-grade students who had previously visited the touch tanks quickly became enthusiastic docents and were able to teach fourth and fifth graders about marine life in the tanks including sea slugs, decorator crabs, sea urchins, sea stars, sea cucumbers, swell sharks, sea snails and more.

During another rotation, students were able to dissect the holdfast (or root-like fastening structure of giant kelp) in the laboratory. During the dissection, students discovered abundant forms of life, including pistol shrimp, sea urchins, brittle stars, decorator crabs, baby lobster, scallops, tube worms and more. Students were amazed at the biodiversity in these holdfasts. Students were also able to quietly tour the marine laboratories and peek in on scientists conducting experiments.

Overall, it was an extremely inspiring day for everyone involved, from being immersed in a live-feed from the remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) Hercules tethered to the Nautilus 3,000 miles away, to being in university laboratories discovering a variety of new organisms and watching expert scientists at work, this experience deepened all of the students ability to envision themselves in a science academic career. Of the 54 students present, 30 are now considering a future in marine science, while 15 think that a future in marine science is highly probable. The teachers are grateful to everyone involved who made the trip a possibility as it was a great foundational experience for another year rich with science learning.

Click here to learn more about the Nautilus and watch a live feed of their work.

— Michael Macioce is a sixth-grade teacher at Adelante Charter School.