His students attest that as much as possible Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School science teacher Scott Lamberson discards the “boring” for the “cool” in the vast world of science.
That engagement was on full display Monday when Lamberson’s marine science class, along with a sprinkling of students from other science classes taught by Lamberson, connected via Skype with Aquarius.
Aquarius is the sole underwater laboratory in the world where scientists and researchers study and work underwater for a week or more without surfacing.
The research vessel is based out of the Florida Keys and Monday students from Port St. Joe took a dive with a team of six scientists who were one day into their latest excursion.
“This is a very unique opportunity for any school in our area,” Lamberson said. “I try to turn my students into scientists. Anything that is cool I like. This is very cool.”
The scientists walked the students through their mission, which is multi-layered; examining coastal reef habitats – Florida is home to the third-largest coastal barrier reef system in the world – as well as the impacts of overfishing on predators and their prey among other research.
They showed the students around their vessel and lab, about the size of a school bus.
“Hopefully we will inspire some of you to learn to dive and be involved with marine science,” said one of the underwater scientists as fish, grouper, a barracuda and others swam by the hatch window they were showing the students.
The lab is the latest innovation in underwater research, a subject Maura Mahan, whose father is a marine scientist, was most interested to observe.
“I love all sciences,” the high school junior said. “I come from a long line of curious people. I want to be a vet; I want to work with maybe lizards and in herpetology.
“I think this was very interesting and gives people a chance to see if they want to pursue being a scientist. I mostly learned how research has changed.”
The chance to connect and communicate with the Aquarius and its current research team – the crew will speak to 28 schools from across the country during their seven days underwater at depths where the pressure is two-and-a-half times greater than the surface – came from a self-described “science nerd.”
Senior Sawyer Raffield wears an affinity for science, marine science in particular, like a tailored jacket.
He came across the Aquarius and its mission on the Internet.
He obtained an email contact for the research group and started sending off emails about the possibility of linking up when a research team was underwater.
His persistence paid off.
“I just thought it was interesting they could have a base underwater,” Raffield said. “I just wanted to learn more.
“I love science. I am a science nerd. I thought it was really interesting all the technology they can use now in their research. They have come a long way.”
The hour-long session with the scientist team didn’t instill a wealth of new knowledge, per se, but Raffield gleaned something far more important.
“I learned you can do anything you want to do as long as you set your mind to it and work hard,” Raffield said. “I learned you need to do what you love. I don’t want to go to work every day hating what I am doing.
“I learned some new things, but I wouldn’t be as interested in science without Mr. Lamberson. He doesn’t like the boring stuff. He thinks outside the box and we all have more fun and learn more.”