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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dr. Hatha Environmental Scientist - Marine Microbiologist's visit

As soon as my friend Dr. Hatha told me about his Full bright (MSU) trip to USA from CUSAT,
I was envisioning to spend quality time with him on all ends - professional, recreational and personal - during Thanksgiving week, 2012.
The day came and Hatha was with our family. I got the true feeling of friendship when I received him. That's when I actually experienced the following- 
Even though friends are apart from each other, when they meet, it will be the same as before.

Next day I drove Hatha and my family to Everglades, a sub tropical wetland - an important ecosystem.
As we both are Environmental Scientists and nature loving people, we had wonderful time at Everglades. During boat ride to Coot bay from Flamingo center, we were watching Mangroves, beautiful birds and alligators and walking in the Anhinga Trail was excellent. As usual, I stopped at "Robert is Here" and had a tasty mango shake.

Evening after visiting a family friend stayed at another friend's house at South Florida near the
 NOAA center Atlantic Oceanographic& Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) - National Oceanic & AtmosphericAdministration - NOAA) - , where Hatha had to give two presentations. Thanks to my other great Environmental Scientist friend - Dr. Yuncong Li.

Both were very well delivered and relevant people, who attended got what they wanted from the seminars. Hope and pray these teams will work together and co-ordinate in future for the betterment of various environments (esp. the Ocean Environments - they are concentrating on) and people. I will do my part on that also.

After the seminars, stayed at friend's house close to Lion Country Safari (LCS). Again with my family and Hatha, I visited LCS. So many varieties of animals are there - Lion, rhinos, several varieties of deer, birds, zebras, giraffes, monkeys and camels. Every animal roams freely, has vast areas to roam and we ride in our cars to see the animals and birds. Wonderful Safari.
Next day we were at SeaWorld. Another fun place for watching sea animals especially for scientists who work in Oceans. Killer whale (Shamu) show, Dolphin show, Manatees, Polar bears, Beluga whales, Otters, Sea lions, Humongous Walrus, birds, sharks and thousands of varieties of fishes and sea animals - all at one place. It was great to be at Sea World with a Marine Scientist.

Next day at Disney World - EPCOT center - Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow - at Siemens's Earth Space ship, we designed our future workplace and home. Of course it was completely green living and environmentally friendly. Visited the 'LAND' area and twice road the boat through Disney's  green house. We soared in SOARIN across the great state of CALIFORNIA.

Also, we experienced Mexico, China, Norway, Japan, France, Italy and Canada in the EPCOT country pavilion and finally finished the day seeing the EPCOT laser show with wonderful fireworks.

Final day of tour was at NASA - Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Those Imax movies take you to the out of world experiences. We spent quality time in the Rocket gardens, KSC Bus tours, Apollo Rocket experiences, Nature and Technology areas and space history pavilions. Driving back we saw the excellent views of Florida (Sunshine state) sunset.

On the day we all relaxed, Hatha was kind enough to give the Arctic Expedition and his scientific research experience presentation (That he gave in NOAA - AOML)  to our family. Again it was well taken and I envision that one day my daughter would be a scientific person.

Everything has to end at sometime. The send off day has come and had to send off Hatha after his visit with us. But the wonderful time we spend as now mature Environmental Scientists, has its own merits. We have planned to do more good work in the future to better the environments and its inhabitants. Every minute was well utilized by good friends.

Makesh Karuppiah, Ph.D
Environmental Scientist

Friday, November 16, 2012

Teach In - Kids - Environmental Sciences - Save the Earth, Environment and Nature

I had the opportunity to teach Environmental Sciences to small kids (bunch of 3rd graders) during this week. I have taught the subject to under and post graduate students. After few years of break, I had this opportunity. Since, lots of news about BP oil Pollution (They were going to pay billions of dollars as fine) was going on, I choose to create a model that explains how oil pollution happens and how it gets cleaned.

Marine Oil Pollution and Clean Up:
I bought some sand from Home Depot. I used a plastic box, shoe box and filled with the sand sliding from top to bottom. I created blue water using water and blue colored ink. It turned out as a good Ocean model. All the kids were watching with full curiosity. I made an 'Oil Barge' with simple small candle light stand on small ship shaped wooden plank which I got from 'Michaels' store. I used left over cooking oil (which I take to recycling center) and colored it with some black color. That cooking oil now looked like crude oil and I poured them in the candle stand tanks of my oil barge model. It was floating in my clean Ocean model.
All of sudden, I turned barge and oil fell into the Ocean and spread. I heard a big 'oooh' sound from the kids. I had made oil containers to contain oil spread using left over 'felt' and threw them around the oil polluted area. It contained the oil spread. I used cotton to absorb the oil and make my Ocean model once again a clean environment. I took some marine animal toys including a pelican toy and covered them with oil and taught them how to clean the oil soaked animals with dilute soap solution and dry them with towel. I told them to visualize the whole thing in real world and showed the pictures. All of them clearly understood how oil pollution occurs and how it can be cleaned.

Good Sample Identification:
Before going to teach in, I made three solutions - Solution A - Vinegar, Solution B - Baking soda solution and C - Filtered water. I bought pH paper from ''. I told them there is a site where people are affected from a natural disaster and they don’t know which water they could drink. They send us three samples and asked us to find which sample can be used as drinking water. Kids used their school tap water (filtered using Brita water filter) as control and using pH paper they found that Solution A was an Acid, B - was a base and C was drinkable water. They were happy to find out the drinkable water and to know they have saved people from drinking the wrong water.
I felt this was a good small experiment to kids to identify the toxicity, which I fully used in my PhD research.

Water treatment:

I procured some Alum from ''. I took some tap water and added some dirt solids and made a polluted water sample. Now added the alum and did some swirling (to give centrifugal force) and allowed that bottle content to settle. After few minutes the solids settled down and the above water as clean as we mixed the dirt before. I told them this is one of the steps how they treat water before it comes through the tap. Along with this primary (Physical) treatment, they also do secondary (biological) treatment and tertiary (Chemical) treatment.

Aquatic Biosphere:
I had collected some aquatic plants and water from our community pond. I used a clean glass bottle and added some filtered water. Then I added the pond water. That’s when I noticed some small water bugs were also in the pond water. The children were happy to see the bugs. I added some of aquatic plants in the water and closed the bottle and told them to keep it near a corner in the table and watch the bottle. The bugs were happily swimming in the water. After a week I will bring it back and let them in the community Pond again. I told them in future (several years) if we don’t reduce pollution, the future generations should have to live in contained self-sustainable biospheres and this bottle aquatic biosphere is one such example.

I emphasized that in labs - safety is important. There may be several chemicals and biological organisms. So it is very important to follow safety procedures such as wearing lab coat, gloves, safety eye glasses and sometimes even mask. I used all these and showed them how the experiments are conducted in a real lab.

Renewable and Biodegradable:
I talked about Natural Renewable energies such as SOLARand WIND . Also I talked about Biodegradable materials. I showed models of them.

Finally, I told them how they can save the earth by using the paper they write fully instead of writing one line and throw. I told them about Reduce, Reuse and Recycle - Three R's. Also, told them not to waste water. In US, we are privileged to have water coming to us, but in some parts of the world to get water they have to travel so much. They really understood and were happy to be part of people, who would save the Earth, Environment and its Nature. These wonderful gifted and knowledgeable kids send me individual hand made cards to thank me for teaching them Environmental Sciences. It was a fulfilling day for me.