Monday, December 20, 2010

Taking on the Climate

For Megan Ennes, educator at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, the environment is always on her mind. While completing her master’s degree at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Megan decided to create a project that would take on the mysteries of our ever changing climate. She is working with Coastal America and four students from Isaac Bear Early College High School in Wilmington, North Carolina. She and the students have been invited to the Coastal America 3rd Student Summit in Washington D.C. in April where they will present their completed project. For the summit, an action plan associated with the third ocean literacy principle: “The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate” had to be created. Megan’s team focused their project on how the changing climate also impacts the oceans. The team will be looking at unique habitats in the Wilmington area and how they will be affected by sea level rise, changes in precipitation, and other climate related factors.

The team has been on several trips to visit diverse habitats and learn about the threats that each habitat faces. They have toured the Cape Fear River with Wilmington Water Tours, where they talked about sea level rise and salt water intrusion. They met with professors from UNCW to discuss the importance of barrier islands, problems they are facing, climate change, and the importance of the maritime forest on Bald Head Island and what lies ahead for them with the increase in sea level. The group also met with the Cape Fear River Watch to discuss why the river is so vital to the area. The team’s latest trips have been to the Aquarium at Fort Fisher, where they learned about cold stunned sea turtles and different aquatic environments, and to Holly Shelter, where they learned about longleaf pines and endangered species in the area.

All of these trips have been building up the minds of the students whose ultimate plan for this project is to create a video about what climate is, how it might be changing, what impacts we could see in the Wilmington area, and what we can do to help. The film will be premiered after its completion and the ticket sales will benefit a local marsh or estuary, since a healthy habitat is one of the best ways to offset the problems associated with climate that will impact the Wilmington area.

The completed project will be featured at the summit in Washington D.C. in front of 19 other student delegations and members of congress. Following the summit, the students will create a proclamation for Congress about actions they believe is necessary to take in order to manage the problem of climate change.

For the students working on the project, this experience has been an extreme eye-opener. They are learning new information about their local area that they weren’t aware of before. Megan most enjoys seeing the light bulbs turn on in the student’s minds as they go through this journey.

In the end, the project will yield an excellent educational tool for schools to use in an effort to discuss climate change with their students. For further information about the project visit: or

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