Every time we go to the National Conference for the National Science Teachers Association we become inspired and stoked about our work. It’s the one-on-one conversations we have with science teachers that brings us the greatest satisfaction.
One such conversation was with Barbara Shannon. Currently, Barbara is the Director of STEM Education for Synergy Academics whose mission is to create solutions that eliminate the achievement gap. But, before that, Barbara spent many years teaching science to kids in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
Where Engineering Meets Science
When Kakani asked her engineer grandfather what direction she should explore in her education, he replied, “well, civil engineering is about concrete, and that can get boring. So, aerospace seems like a good idea.”
And so began an incredible journey from championship figure skating to groundbreaking discoveries of our oceans and how much we have to learn from larvaceans. Larvaceans, our featured chordate, are a vital part of the food web. Through Dr. Kakani Katija’s research we have learned just how pervasive plastics are in our oceans.
“Really, I want to develop tools that will help science discovery explode.”
- Dr. Kakani Katija
Just like us, larvaceans are chordates. These small tadpole-like animals live at midwater depths of the world’s oceans. All species construct complicated, mucus structures, called ‘houses’ where the animal lives. To feed, the larvacean beats its tail, pumping seawater through its house. The sticky filter structure has two parts: the outer filter traps coarse particles; the inner traps fine ones. When the house becomes clogged, the animal discards it and it sinks to the bottom. In Monterey Bay, there are giant larvaceans that create large houses that can exceed one meter (three feet!) in its greatest dimension.
Bones, Brawn & Brains