For the last several years we have been developing a program linking high school students in the United States and Australia through a “Virtual Environmental Partnership” investigating the sustainability of each school’s local water cycle, sponsored by the US State Department and the Australian Department of Education. The aim of the initiative is to educate and inform responsible stewardship of water resources between U.S. and Australian students through an interactive virtual partnership. We have developed independent, “virtual”, web-based teaching modules on sustainable water cycles and underlying environmental science principles that could be expanded from a two country initiative to a global comparison that students can utilize to assess their own water cycle at the community level, and compare between climates at larger regional and international scales. Other water quality and environmental issues could also be the focus of study. In addition to expanding environmental knowledge, the interaction is also a cultural exchange building linkages between scientists and schools through a virtual learning environment.
A real time interactive website is being established in partnership with the New York Harbor School’s “Billion Oyster Project” for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) built around water quality and estuarine issues. We also are incorporating environmental “report cards” for waterways that help water communities share in the process of preserving and/or restoring their local waterways.
Judy O’Neil is a Biological Oceanographer from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, Maryland, USA. She studies plankton dynamics in both open ocean and coastal regions, specializing in plankton.
Originally from New Jersey, Judy was a biology major at Boston College as well as a student in the Sea Education Association (SEA) semester program out of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. She went on to receive a Master’s degree in Environmental Science at the State University of New York, and a Ph.D. in Oceanography at the University of Maryland, College Park. She spent ten years at the University of Queensland, in Australia, studying cyanobacterial blooms and coral reef nutrient dynamics, before becoming a Research Associate Professor at UMCES. Currently she studies harmful algal blooms in Chesapeake Bay, Baltimore Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. Judy is the lead on a joint US State Department-Australian Department of Education, Virtual Environmental Partnership linking US and Australian high schools for a science and cultural exchange investigating components of the urban water cycle. She is involved in a NSF STEM project at the New York Harbor School.