A number of groups in the United States have expressed concern regarding the state of public ocean literacy and the capabilities of the future marine STEM workforce. This pilot study explores some of the requirements for workforce development and the expansion of ocean literacy by introducing fundamental ocean properties through the application of an open source oceanographic instrument.
Three core ocean properties - salinity, temperature, and depth - are collected by a device called a CTD and are prolifically utilized by all disciplines of oceanography, industry, and recreation. Using education and engagement methods similar to the MATE ROV program, eight students from a coastal high school in Oregon were tasked with constructing multiple open source CTDs and participated in several experiential learning activities. Student perspectives were captured using pre-assessment and post-assessment questionnaires, providing insight into their interest in STEM, ocean science, and related careers. The student-constructed devices were then delivered to local commercial fishermen for testing and data collection. Fishermen perspectives were captured using semi-structured interviews focusing on their interest in cooperative science and data use. Six months of observations and data collection suggest that a learning experience centered about an open source CTD does have some impact on student interest in STEM, ocean science, and related careers.
The specific use of the device and resultant data does not have a significant influence on fishermen interest in participating in cooperative science, but that interest lies in other unanticipated factors. Proper integration of marine technology into the learning environment may provide students with skills needed in today's marine workforce and may also provide them with a fundamental oceanographic background for enhanced ocean literacy. Continued cooperation may enhance fishermen understanding and valuation of the marine environment, but potentially in a different capacity from how it is currently understood. This thesis is concluded with some project limitations, suggestions, and several future project ideas that may prove to increase interest in the marine STEM workforce, provide vectors for improved ocean literacy, and lead to pathways for valuation of the marine environment for all.