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European margin strata formation

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Outreach for oceans

Scientists have completed a very successful European backed project that inspired schoolchildren worldwide to develop an interest in the wonders of ocean and earth science.

Climate Change and Environment

The objectives of the EUROSTRATAFORM project involved the study of marine ecosystems from a biological, physical and geochemical viewpoint. One ambitious part of this initiative originated at the oceanographic department at the University of Southampton, one of the project partners. At the inception of the project, a website was established (http://www.soc.soton.ac.uk/CHD/EuroStrataForm). The site provided access to data, project forms and research resources for purely academic purposes. Nonetheless, it was the basis of an outreach programme that achieved a remarkable degree of success with schoolchildren. This success was linked to the project's Classroom@sea outreach activity, accessible through a link from the EUROSTRATAFORM homepage, which encouraged schoolchildren to become involved in the project's work. While such outreach activities are not new in themselves, the key to Classroom@sea's unprecedented success was possibly the use of specially equipped research vessels including the royal research ship RRS Darwin. Owned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) in the United Kingdom, each ship carries its own highly trained staff. Selected teachers are then invited to take part in the environmental cruises that usually set sail twice a year. The cruises study the oceans from Africa to Antarctica. One cruise studied the canyons on the ocean floor off the coast of Portugal. These are up to five kilometres deep and span the same distance. The teachers on board sent back daily reports, video clips and stories to be posted on the website. Further publicity was very effective. The project sponsored four posters that depicted various aspects of ocean and earth science. There were competitions, BBC radio programmes, workshops at the Southampton Oceanographic Centre and local press reports. Fun and education proved to be completely compatible. The project partners aimed to continue the scheme beyond the lifetime of EUROSTRATAFORM. This has become a reality. The daily cruise blogs and news are still posted on the web together with an interactive questions forum. Cruises are ongoing and continue to open the window to the exploration of the ocean floor and its ecosystems for schoolchildren worldwide.

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