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Dr Ceri Lewis

Exeter scientist plunges school pupils into marine science

University of Exeter biologist Dr Ceri Lewis is supporting a national campaign to get marine science on the agenda of Britain’s schools. Groundbreaking education resources, partly inspired by Dr Lewis’ fieldwork in the Arctic, have already been used by 413 UK secondary schools, reaching up to 387,000 pupils.

Ocean science is not represented in the National Curriculum and the Frozen Oceans project, run by the organisation Digital Explorer, is ensuring teachers have the materials they need to build the subject into science lessons. As well as providing multimedia resources for teachers to create inspiring lessons based on the latest science, the project also enables Dr Lewis and other members of the team to speak in schools.

The materials are based on the expeditions and research conducted by the Catlin Arctic Surveys between 2009 and 2011. The expeditions investigated the changes occurring in the Arctic Ocean including sea ice coverage and melt rate, the ocean current system and ocean acidification. Now considered one of the great threats to the marine environment, though far less well known than global warming, ocean acidification is the decrease in the pH of the Earth's oceans. It is caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which has been increasing due to human activity. This change to the ocean’s chemistry is already having a massive impact on marine life

Dr Ceri Lewis of Biosciences at the University of Exeter is using World Oceans Day on 8 June as an opportunity to highlight the relevance of ocean science. She said: “Oceans cover 71 per cent of the world’s surface and have a massive impact on our lives. Despite this, marine science is not generally taught in schools. The Digital Explorer Oceans project is providing a wonderful opportunity for me to share my passion for ocean science with young people across the UK. I am thoroughly enjoying sharing my research with teachers and their students and getting them excited about this fascinating field of science.”

Dr Ceri Lewis joined teams of scientists for the Catlin Arctic Survey for two consecutive years – 2010 and 2011. Working in temperatures as low as -45 degrees Celsius, she looked at how under-ice animals respond to changes in seawater pH. If carbon dioxide levels in the ocean increase, it could change the pH levels, causing the water to become more acidic which could affect marine wildlife. To simulate this, Dr Lewis ran experiments mimicking the Arctic’s expected climate in 100 years time and observing the effects on small crustaceans called copepods.

The free schools’ resources comprise discs that include multimedia resources, enabling teachers to build lessons around the latest scientific research carried out through the Catlin Arctic Survey. With more than 20 videos, over 100 photographs plus maps and scientific diagrams, the materials not only share new science but also give insights into the way scientists live and work in this extreme environment.

Date: 6 June 2012

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