This year I have a NSF GK-12 fellowship and spend one day per week teaching science to 7th graders in Newport, NH. Below is a letter I sent them from a workshop in Rome:
Ciao Newport 7th graders!
I’m here in Rome, Italy, for a week-long meeting for scientists who study how sea levels have changed over thousands of years. (Think of how the height of the ocean changes during high and low tides during the day, but much larger changes in height and longer time periods.) Folks here at the meeting all study some aspect of how the oceans have raised and lowered over time due to melting and re-growing of the ice sheets over past ice ages. (Trivia question: Do you remember the 3 ice sheets in the world??? Answer: Greenland, East Antarctic and West Antarctic).
There are a wide range of participants at the meeting. Some, like me, study how ice sheets and glaciers change, others study past sea levels using the height of coral reefs in tropical areas, and many people here use our data to create these fancy computer programs, called models, that they use to understand how sea-level changed over tens of thousands of years. We can then use these models to predict how sea-level will change in the future. This is especially important for many people who live in low-lying areas of the world. For example, New York City is very low-lying (that is, not very high above the ocean height) and is home to 8.3 million people. If you remember last year during Hurricane Sandy, many people’s homes were flooded in New York City and there were millions of dollars of damage to homes and infrastructure (good vocabulary word!?!)
It is very important that we understand how sea-level is going to change in the future due to the melting ice sheets because millions of people all over the world will be affected by changes in the sea-level. The scientists at this meeting all study how sea-level has changed in the past and we need to understand how it changed in the past before we can determine how it may change in the future.
Besides learning a lot from other scientists, I’ve also been eating a lot of good food (homemade pasta and pizza!), walking around the city of Rome and catching up with good friends. All in all a great trip!
Looking forward to seeing you all next week when I’m back in the U.S.