Scientist-Educator Collaborative Workshop
Following River Pollutant's Path Through the Marine
Environment with Computer Models
Held at the University of Connecticut Avery Point Campus, Groton, CT
Thursday, October 8, 2009 through Saturday, October 10, 2009
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Original concept map created by Mike Whitney (left side)
Original concept map created by Mike Whitney (right side)
Digital concept map created in the COSEE Concept Map Builder
Consensus concept map created using the COSEE-OS Concept Map Builder
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Presentation Videos & Maps

About this Workshop:
For this workshop, 15 educators from the New England area, Texas, and Illinois were matched with ocean and climate scientists from the University of Connecticut to improve their collective understanding of Earth's major ocean - climate systems. [more]

About this Scientist:
Mike Whitney's research focuses on the physical dynamics of estuarine and coastal systems. He studies how currents and density fields respond to winds, surface heat flux, tides, and buoyant river inputs. Much of his research involves adapting hydrodynamic models to construct simulations and idealized process models. Simulations are powerful tools for describing flow fields, diagnosing physical dynamics, and predicting circulation in coastal and estuarine waters. [more]
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Who Worked on this Concept Map
Carrie Birdsong
Louise Mcminn
Karen Romano Young
Mike Whitney
Scientist Mike Whitney explains the concept map and its development:

I'm a physical oceanographer and spend a lot of my time modeling the coastal waters.  We look at river plumes, how they connect the land to estuaries, and how they can even affect the open ocean. It's well known that river plumes influence marine life, climate, and physical/chemical/geological dynamics, both close to the river and hundreds of kilometers away.

The concept map I presented to the educators focused on how we track river plumes with computer models. The four main questions addressed are: "What's in a river plume?," "What happens to a river plume as it moves through coastal waters?," "How do we make a model?," and "How do we use a model?" River plumes contain fresh and salt water, pollutants, nutrients, plankton and sediments. Many things can influence a river plume as it travels along its path from land, along the coast, and offshore. Various processes can affect the density / buoyancy of a river plume such as mixing by tides, winds, waves. River plume computer models need a way to represent the physics of the river plume using equations; these are based on scientific theory, experiments, and observations. Specific local models need to take into account the forces that affect that plumes including tides, storms, etc. Since it's not possible to get data from everywhere in a river plume, models can "fill in the gaps" of missing data. Models also help us to connect with other disciplines, for example physical-biological models.

The map the educators and I collaborated on followed the same basic format I presented. However, we decided to reduce the number of concept "circles" and focus on the example of pollutant transport to give students a clearer picture of how river plumes can affect their daily lives. To illustrate, I shared an example of how the Delaware Bay river plume was modeled to help answer questions about water quality issues downstream of this river plume. (Click for model output | Click for presentation)
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Concept map