Thayer Academy continues its commitment to incorporating experiential learning opportunities into its program by partnering with Beneath the Waves to create a dedicated space on campus for marine research and educational activities.
Scientists and graduate students should be working at Thayer as early as this summer.
Founded in 2014 by Austin Gallagher '04, the nonprofit Beneath the Waves advances the conservation of sharks and the habitats they occupy through cutting-edge, policy-relevant scientific research. Academy students have been working informally with the organization for the last four years, receiving guidance on their senior projects as well as several Independent Science Research (ISR) projects. For the last two years Beneath the Waves and Thayer have even offered a week-long shark experience through summer programs.
"Our work with Beneath the Waves has already resulted in important benefits to our students," noted Head of School Ted Koskores, "and it is with great anticipation that we look forward to deepening this relationship by housing its research lab on our campus and working directly with Austin's staff to create more hands-on opportunities for our students to engage in marine research."
The Beneath the Waves Researchers in Residence will benefit by having access to equipment and resources made available by the Academy. In turn, Thayer students will directly benefit by obtaining hands-on, collaborative experience in the research process — from ideation to data collection to data analysis. Researchers will also visit classrooms, and the BTW lab will serve as both an in-house incubator for motivated students and, more broadly, as an additional teaching tool for the science department.
The partnership also entails the use of a boat to gather data and contribute to the shark and marine research initiatives begun in previous years.
"Thayer students in all grades will benefit from this partnership," said Upper School Science Department Head Don Donovan, who noted that the researchers will serve as guest lecturers in both the Middle School and Upper School. He also offered more specific examples, including but not limited to:
GRADE 5: Part of the planned curriculum is to study the ecosystems of bogs (particularly Ponkapoag Bog), which can now be expanded to marine ecosystems and water analysis using the lab's resources.
GRADE 6: The major focus of the sixth grade curriculum is marine science. The entire class will now visit the BTW lab to learn about data collection and also have the opportunity to investigate the local marine environment. Classes will assist with field work, help with data collection, and observe scientists conducting research.
GRADE 7: Students will look to solve a "big issue" problem using the engineering approach. They will look at data collection in a marine environment, build baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS) to analyze fish behavior, and build small remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in line with their robotics unit.
GRADE 8: Students can use the new lab space to study comparative anatomy (shark vs. human) as well as learn about the proteins and hormones found in blood samples.
GRADES 9/10: The integrated science curriculum will incorporate units on marine systems (coastal ecology), marine mammals, fish biology, tracking of marine animals (satellite tagging), and the physiology of marine organisms (blood analysis, DNA work). Classes will use actual data collected by Thayer students and BTW researchers to learn about population dynamics, satellite communications and tracking, and the scientific method. Four to six students each year will be appointed to help with animal husbandry in the lab.
GRADES 11/12: Students in the Grade 11 ISR class can intern with Beneath the Waves for the entire summer. Roughly 10 to 12 seniors can help with BTW research during the month of May for their senior projects. Marine Science classes can collect shark data in the fall and spring, Earth Science classes can study the glacial formation of Cape Cod as well as changing landscape through erosion and ocean changes. Robotics students can build more elaborate BRUVS and ROVs for observation of underwater flora and fauna.
"This is an incredible opportunity for our students in all grades to learn more about and contribute to scientific research," added Donovan, "and it is our students' experience that really matters."
A conservation biologist, Gallagher earned a BS in biology from Loyola University, an MS in marine science from Northeastern University, and a PhD in ecosystem science and policy from the University of Miami. Under his leadership, Beneath the Waves has conducted 20 expeditions worldwide, collaborated with over 100 researchers from various institutions, and published over 70 peer-reviewed scientific papers in journals. Many of those papers have advanced scientific discovery and catalyzed policy for threatened species. Gallagher is a regular contributor to Discovery Channel's Shark Week and National Geographic.
Thayer Academy is partnering with Beneath the Waves to expand experiential learning opportunities for Academy students.
Austin Gallagher '04 founded Beneath the Waves in 2014.