And then something completely different

photo: Caine Delacy, Ocean First Education.
Photo: Caine Delacy, Ocean First Education.

A lot of different things are done and could be done at the research stations. In this post we show how the stations could be part in the school world and the fostering of the next generation. Andrea Schmuttermair, Kimmo Karell and Niko Nappu presented their project of building ROV’s in schools at ITK 2018-seminar.

Knowledge related to science, technology, engineering, arts and maths (STEAM) is crucial in responding to the challenges we are facing as a society. Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) or under water robot is a standard tool in marine industry. They have been used quite extensively in marine sciences. We want to take the building of ROV’s to schools and  use them in cooperation with scientists at the biological field stations.

Collaboration between the schools and the research stations.

Project ROV is a global initiative to combine phenomenon-based learning with STEAM components to create collaborative, multidisciplinary, inquiry-based STEAM projects, designed by students. During the project, inexpensive ROVs are built at schools and used to study a scientific hypothesis formed by the students and assisted by scientists.
21st century skills, inquiry based teaching and STEAM-teaching (Science, Technology, Mathematics, Arts, Science) are essential tools in this project. The goals of Project ROV are: 1) Encourage questioning, critical thinking and problem solving 2) Engage students around the world in underwater research, creating citizen scientists 3) Create a culture of “makers” 4) Inspire students at a younger age to pursue STEAM educational paths and careers 5) Build global collaboration and awareness 6) Encourage local community and school collaboration.
There are several schools and teachers involved in the project in Finland, Germany and USA. The project will: 1) Create global collaboration for something that connects everyone on earth: the ocean 2) Raise awareness for the United Nation’s sustainable development goal of conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas, and marine resources. 3) Encourage local area research and knowledge and create a better understanding of our local oceans, seas and underwater environments.
Engaging children in science will lay the foundation for skills needed in the future in many ways. In addition to learning technology, the children will learn cooperation, collaboration and communication skills, programming and logical thinking, engineering, biology and scientific thinking.

The prototype of a ROV developed in the project in Itäkeskus Comprehensive School by Kimmo Karell and his students (9th grade).
The prototype of a school build developed in the project in Itäkeskus Comprehensive School by Kimmo Karell and his students (9th grade) (photo: Kimmo Karell).

Read more and follow the project at Comments and ideas can be addressed to info AT or niko dot nappu AT

Communicating and caring about the Finnish Research stations

From Tvärminne to Kilpisjärvi photo: Niko Nappu 2017).

From 2018 a two-year project, funded by the Nessling Foundation, will create audio-visual content to communicate long-term research carried at Finnish research stations. The responsible of the project is JM Cano, data journalist and science communicator at Outgroup. The goals of the project are providing information about critical environmental issues and create awareness about the irreplaceable role of the research stations.

The project will deal with issues of paramount environmental and economic concern in Finland: the degradation of the Baltic Sea and inland waters, reindeer overgrazing in Lapland, and the loss of forest and peatland habitats with their associated species. All these topics are linked to human-induced climate change and land use, and of special relevance in the context of the current Bio-economy boom policy in Finland.

The information will be disseminated through social medial channels and will consist of videos, infographics and podcasts. This collaborative project aims at activating Finnish society towards the protection of nature and make more approachable the figure of the researchers. To do so, in addition to feature scientific information, the project will show the inside of the research process and portrait the researchers with their motivations and expectations.

We are all people travelling through space on the same planet, we all share needs, concerns and constrains. Evidence about the irreparable loss of ecosystems and biological diversity is out there and the persons uncovering and monitoring it are worth getting to know. Let’s not look aside, let’s mingle, get to know our environment and have a constructive dialogue. Knowing is caring.

Open house at Tvärminne Zoological Station in 2107.

Text & video: JM Cano


Tvärminne Zoological Station arranges a doors open event September 16, at 11 am to 17 pm. Clearly, as the name suggests, the event is directed towards the greater public. For decades, the event has been arranged every 5 years, and this is true also in 2017. The timing and interval allow us to acknowledge every 5 year milestone of the station’s existence, and this year we celebrate the 115th anniversary.

Over the years, it has become clear that the station’s activities are highly interesting to our guests. In fact, each time, one of the most frequent comments is that we should welcome the public more often. As much as we would like to, we unfortunately have to point out that the doors open event ties the resources of personnel and scientists not only that day, but for weeks beforehand, when we make preparations.

Nevertheless, we of course welcome the demand! In fact, last time the demand was so great, that we had about 1 000 visitors! (Keeping in mind that Hanko has only ca 8 000 inhabitants, and the whole region roughly 50 000, this is quite remarkable – in the Helsinki region a similar demand would translate into tens of thousands of visitors!)

Tvärminne Zoological Station from air.
Tvärminne Zoological Station.

We can only guess why there is such a great interest in our activities. One thing would probably be that the topics we study are attractive. For instance, most people who live in a coastal town have some connection to the sea, and hence also are interested in the state of the coastal waters. Also, our research is frequently present in the media, and obviously people want to learn more. I guess our visitors also realize that there is great added value in learning hands on about our studies (from enthusiastic scientists), compared to more passive media content (who wouldn’t prefer to see a live flounder rather than just reading texts and looking at photographs?).

A further added value – which I am not sure the visitors would know beforehand – is the fact that by far not all of our study subjects are presented in media. Especially I would say this goes for basic (but high-level), curiosity driven science. Typically, such topics do not have a direct connection to, say human activity or applied environmental issues. Nevertheless, it is satisfying to see that also these topics are met with great curiosity also by our users, when presented by our motivated scientists. Specifically, I have noted that terrestrial and evolutionary topics get the exposure they deserve, although they are not typically head-line stuff in local media.

I may sound a bit defensive when I suggest that we cannot welcome great numbers of visitors more often. This of course does not take away our responsibility to interact with society in the meantime. And naturally we do! Media was already mentioned – we do not stand on our heads to be available, but it is not far away. Social media are a given. We also welcome large numbers of visitors in smaller groups annually.

Furuskär island just outside the station.
Furuskär island just outside the station.

But can we get better? Sure we can. Quite recently, we have started to put more effort into online data – as pointed out the state of the sea is something that attracts a great interest. This goes hand in hand with both new technologies to collect data, and with an urge from society to make data open and accessible.

This does not come without challenge, however. Even if we can attract funds to buy new instruments, there are at least three additional bottlenecks. Firstly, the instrumentation requires know-how and manpower to be operated. Secondly, the data have to be validated and refined. (Nobody does anything with just a huge amount of numbers.) Thirdly, the output has to be presented in a comprehensive way, and preferably commented upon for interpretation.

Typically, public infrastructure funds have limited or no space for the human resources needed to tackle the above bottlenecks. Here, we have taken the approach that there are also private companies that share our interest in public outreach, albeit from a different standpoint. With regards to the sea, such operators would be shipping companies and harbors, and we have also been fortunate to initialize collaboration with two companies with the sea as the common nominator – namely Viking Line and Port of Hanko. In both companies, there is an understanding on not only the hardware-demand, but also on the bottlenecks that require human resources.

Openness have other sides than meeting demands from the outside. Lastly, therefore, I would like to point out that events such as the doors open also motivate us as researchers. It is nice to shift focus sometimes, and see that our undertakings also attract the interest from the world outside. Society, I think it is called.

Text: Marko Reinikainen, director of Tvärminne Zoological Station

The very important littoral zone from the air.