This fall, freshman students
at the University of the Virgin Islands will experience a new twist
on a UVI staple - attending classes via videoconference. While the
University routinely uses videoconferencing technology to connect
instructors on one campus with students on the other, students
enrolled in all sections of the fall semester's Science 100 course
will be treated to regular presentations by Dr. Nasseer Idrisi who
will be broadcasting from the decks of a research vessel steaming
from Japan to Australia.
Dr. Idrisi, UVI research biological oceanographer and professor in the Marine and Environmental Science masters program, was selected to fill the "HBCU Educator" post for an international research project that will study an ocean plateau located about 900 miles east of Japan. The plateau - a large area of raised ocean bottom - is known as the Shatsky Rise. In his position as a teacher at sea, Dr. Idrisi will have the opportunity to learn shipboard science alongside the expedition's science party and translate his learning experiences for students, their families and the general public through the creation of blogs, live videoconferencing from the ship and other classroom activities.
The Shatsky Rise project is organized by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) and sponsored by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization that promotes advanced research, education and sound ocean policy. Consortium members include the United States, Japan, China, South Korea and the European Union. The University of the Virgin Islands is the only one of the nation's HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) located outside the continental United States.
Dr. Idrisi said he's "excited about the opportunity to further education in science in the USVI and at other HBCUs." His home for two months - from Sept. 4 through Nov. 4 - will be the 470-foot ocean drilling ship named the JOIDES Resolution. (JOIDES stands for Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling.)
A veteran of other, though shorter, research cruises in the Caribbean, Florida Bay and the Bahamas, Dr. Idrisi expects his role on this cruise to be a completely new experience. While he is trained in oceanography, the Shatsky Rise project will mainly involve geological studies. "I'll be more of a conduit, sharing what I see," he said. "I'll be asking lots of questions."
UVI President Dr. LaVerne E. Ragster has congratulated Dr. Idrisi on the appointment. "This is a national recognition and we are very proud of your accomplishment," Dr. Ragster said. "Thank you for your contributions to the success of UVI and to the fulfillment of our mission."
According to Dr. Idrisi, the project's scientific goal is to shed light on the geological processes that form ocean plateaus known as rises. "One idea is that the rises are formed through the movement of plate tectonics - that's the accepted model now," he said. "But some say that a rise may be formed through volcanic activity. And, because oceanic rises are huge, they could be the result of super-volcanic activity." He said the ship's main research technique will be to drill into the rise and take core samples that the project's 24 scientists will examine for clues of the history, sources and evolution of the rise.
Dr. Idrisi said he would soon be visiting the Ocean Leadership headquarters for general project orientation and training in the use of Twitter (real-time texting) and Face Book, Internet-based social media applications that he'll use to share his shipboard experiences.
Along with the ongoing telecommuting sessions with UVI Science 100 students and his regular graduate students, Dr. Idrisi said he hopes to use the project to expand outreach to the full range of Virgin Islands students in grades K through 12. "I think this kind of connecting to the community is a hallmark of UVI and of VI-EPSCoR, the Virgin Islands Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research."
Much more on the Shatsky Rise voyage (IODP Expedition 324), including background, photos of the ship and the scientists and sailing schedules, is available from the Ocean Leadership web site: www.oceanleadership.org.