Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Using Digital Globes to Explore the Deep Sea and Advance Public Literacy in Earth System Science

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Using Digital Globes to Explore the Deep Sea and Advance Public Literacy in Earth System Science

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Spherical display systems, also known as digital globes, are new technologies that can inspire students and public audiences to learn about Earth system processes. A review of research on data visualization experiences including digital globes indicated ''a variety of positive impacts on learning'' (Goldman et al., 2010). Digital globes can be used to display a growing variety of global datasets-from near-real-time earthquakes in the context of Earth's plate boundaries, to changes in primary productivity over seasonal cycles on land and in the ocean, to hurricane tracks, animal migrations, and more. Digital globes also are growing in popularity as unique platforms on which to screen films (e.g., Starobin, 2006). It is likely not just the display of datasets in a global context but also the construction of science stories, navigating the datasets, that leads to new learning (Klassen, 2009). For example, the importance of narrative accompanying geospatial visualization has been recognized for public literacy in climate science (Niepold et al., 2008; Schollaert Uz et al., 2014).

We were interested in using digital globes to advance public literacy in Earth system science-linking the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. In particReceived ular, we were interested in developing content for informal educational settings that would target ocean literacy principles (OLPs; Ocean Literacy, 2005; Strang et al., 2007; Schubel et al., 2009). Studies of public ocean literacy often focus on the coastal marine environment (e.g., Steel et al., 2005), but we were interested in public knowledge about the deep ocean and connections to the deep Earth. Public audiences have been captivated by imagery of deep-sea hydrothermal vents, also known as hot springs at the seafloor, including seafloor eruptions and unique ecosystems thriving in an otherwise cold, dark ocean. Can we connect such imagery with global datasets to enable people to understand the global context and significance of vents in the world ocean and in the dynamic processes of Earth?

We developed a partnership between the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Ocean Explorium in New Bedford, MA, to create content for spherical display systems, including Science On a Spheret (SOS). SOS is a room-sized (1.7-m-diameter) digital globe that was developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for visualization of global datasets ''as if the viewer were looking at the Earth from outer space'' (Albers et al., 2005). NOAA's online SOS Data Catalog includes almost 500 datasets categorized to air, land, water, space and more (NOAA, 2015). As of fall 2014, the Ocean Explorium was one of more than 100 science museums in 20 countries around the world that host an SOS (Kramer, 2014). We created datasets for SOS, including locations of Earth's known deep-sea hydrothermal vents from the InterRidge Vents Database (Beaulieu et al., 2013), and six site-specific movies for vents visited by deep-sea vehicles. Our project was called the Global Viewport to Deep-Sea Vents in honor of the launching of the new human-occupied vehicle Alvin in 2014, with its improved viewports for scientific observations.

We linked our new datasets with other datasets from the SOS Data Catalog to create science stories with the intent to educate and excite the public about biological and geophysical processes and exploration in the deep ocean. Ultimately, we developed two educational narratives, Life Without Sunlight (LWS) and Smoke and Fire Underwater (SFU)- each focusing on a different set of OLPs (Ocean Literacy, 2005) and Earth Science literacy principles (ESLPs; Wysession et al., 2010, 2012). We delivered the two narratives to public audiences using the SOS at the Ocean Explorium as two types of presentations: either as a movie or as a live, docent-led, interactive presentation. The live, docent-led presentations used the same datasets and additional sitespecific video imagery, expanding on the script of the narrated compilation movies. …

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