Merle, the young woman who headed the Visiting Program and Research section and who had interned here, spent all morning giving us a private tour of the school and facilities. The school’s principal focus is a semester-long program for high school students. They cover all the subjects, but in a marine-related and pratical manner. For example, math classes aren’t just learning geometry or calculus, but learning celestial navigation, which involves lots of mathematical theory and skill. How cool is that! Students also conduct research in areas such as patch reef ecology, sharks, energy, and aquaculture, to name a few. The aquaponics research was fascinating, and quite productive. The basics: breed tilapia; raise the young in tanks (top photo on left); filter the tank water (which is highly fertilized with fish feces) and use the nutrient-rich water to grow lettuce without soil (bottom photo on left). They now harvest six pounds of lettuce per day—that’s a lot of lettuce. They’re currently feeding the tilapia with commercial fish food, but hope to produce their own food in the future. Also, they don’t yet harvest and eat the tilapia, but that’s in the works for the future. The students we met were high energy and enthusiastic. What a great way to get a jump on actually doing research: thinking of the questions, designing the experiments, and seeing the results. Of course, we’re biased, having spent our professional lives conducting research ourselves, but even so, what a terrific place to spend a semester. And the kids were quite enthusiastic. We were invited to stay for lunch, which was served buffet-style and included that wonderful fish-poop lettuce (just joking, it was delicious, and besides, natural fertilizer beats chemical fertilizer any day). These kids didn’t laze around; they came in, ate, and took off to their next task. They also were quite personable, some sitting down at our table just to talk with us about what they were doing. The facility tries to produce no trash—everything is recycled or reused in some way. Food scraps are composted or fed to the pigs; at semester’s end, they have a pig roast to show the kids where their food comes from. They also raise ducks for their eggs, plant and harvest their own herbs, fruiting trees and shrubs, etc. And the entire place is energy self-sufficient using a wind turbine and many many solar panels (see the array atop the dorm building below). Besides the full-semester program, they also are associated with a middle school in the nearby Deep Creek settlement, offer internships, provide a base for visiting researchers (along with helpful hands), and host school groups. All in all, an informative and fun visit.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The picture above has nothing to do with actually renting the car per se, but a blog without pictures is boring. We saw this ramshackle house while we were in the rental car, if that counts. The
Friday, April 9, 2010
The Hermitage is located just above the New Bight settlement, which has a beautiful waterfront with Australian pines to provide shade (except they’re an exotic species) and pretty stone benches (at left). Down the beach was the sailing/social center, with brightly colored huts set between the road and the beach (below). Each cut offered food or drink, and there was a stand and speakers set up for bands to play. Once again, the people really made the place. We wanted to pick up some fresh produce at the government packing house, so we hitchhiked there and back. We had no problem getting rides, and the people who picked us up were so friendly. We also had a nice chat with Captain John, a gentleman from