Gulf Detectives is an interactive webcast program designed for middle school students that focuses on the Gulf of Mexico. Whereas Episode 1 focused on specific Gulf habitats such as the river delta, the estuary and coastal wetlands, Episode 2 focused on a few of the important animals of the Gulf: sharks, oysters and bioturbators - worms, brittle stars and clams.
Each Gulf Detectives episode consists of live and prerecorded segments.
The APT film crew visited the lab several times over the past few months filming these pre-recorded segments. Heather Daniels and her dedicated crew battled rough seas, biting flies, relentless heat and humidity and that unique shark odor to bring science to life for students.
For this episode, students were able to go along with scientists on a research cruise for capturing and tagging sharks, they watched a shark dissection, they visited an oyster reef restoration project in Mississippi Sound, and they learned how to sample the abundant animals that live in muddy and sandy bottoms of Alabama’s coastal waters.
Live segments featured Dauphin Island Sea Lab scientists who spoke about these animal groups and answered questions submitted by students watching the program.
Dr. Bill Walton, Associate Professor & Extension Specialist at Auburn University and Alabama Cooperative Extension System spoke about oysters, oyster gardening and the projects he is working on to develop oyster markets in this area.
Dr. Marcus Drymon, Research Assistant Professor at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and University of South Alabama spoke about his research with sharks and the need to protect this poorly understood but important group of fishes.
Brian Jones, Curator at The Estuarium, DISL’s public aquarium and Dr. Tina Miller-Way, Chair of Discovery Hall Programs at DISL, spoke about careers in marine science.
Gulf Detectives: Episode 2 had more than 200 registrants which equated to more than 60,000 individuals watching the live broadcast. The audience included schools and students in Alabama, but the show also reached across the United States: students in the Fairfax County school district in Virginia were one of the larger audiences.
Angela Levins, DISL’s Public Relations Director watched the show from inside one of the participating classrooms, Ms. Laxton’s class at Grand Bay Middle School, and said the students were highly engaged.
"It was exciting to see the students watching so intently, and then eager to participate in the poll questions," Levins said. "Ms. Laxton said the episode went along well with lesson plans already in place including vocabulary words and topics."
Both episodes of Gulf Detectives are archived and can be found on Alabama Public TV’s IQ network.
Gulf Detectives has been supported by The Daniel Foundation of Alabama and the Wells Fargo Foundation. The Dauphin Island Sea Lab thanks both of these organizations for their support in making Alabama’s coastal regions come alive for students across the state and encouraging student interest in science.