Adventures at Sea

A Florida science teacher joins USF researchers continuing their study on the impact of the Gulf oil spill. Follow the blog.



From USF News



ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Aug. 13, 2012) – The aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has become one of the world’s most significant scientific research efforts, but it won’t take years for the scientific discovery to filter its way into local school classrooms.



Patty Smukall, a veteran science teacher from Wekiva High School in Apopka, Fla., today becomes the first teacher to join in the University of South Florida’s spill research as she becomes a member of the scientific crew aboard the R/V Weatherbird II for a 13-day research cruise to areas of the Gulf impacted by the spill.



Smukall will share her experiences from aboard the Weatherbird II on the USF blog Adventures at Sea as she works with USF scientists to examine all aspects of the spill.



The voyage is part of USF’s C-Image project – an $11 million, three-year effort to document the impact of the massive spill on the Gulf ecosystem. USF is leading a group of scientists from 16 institutions, spanning five U.S. states and three countries, including the Florida Institute of Oceanography – a cooperative of the state’s public and private marine science research centers.



Researchers are focusing on two themes related to the spill: understanding the physical, chemical, biological and geological processes that control the dispersion and fate of oil and gas released during a deep-sea blowout; and understanding the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill on the marine ecosystem.



Smukall, who graduated in 1977 with a degree in zoology from USF, teaches juniors and seniors in marine science. Her teaching career includes stints at zoos and aquariums, including Sea World and Mill Mt. Zoo.



“I am hoping to inspire many of my students, who are generally in 11th and 12th grade, to consider a career in some field of science or at least to want to learn more about the marine environment,” she said just before heading out on the research voyage.



 “I think that many students feel that seeking a science career is out of reach for them and, hopefully, watching the research going on, and seeing their teacher right there in the midst of it will bring it closer to home and seem more obtainable.”