Horn Point Lab Open House 2018

Sky Swanson ·
2 November 2018
Science Communication |     1 comments

It was just before 8am on a Saturday, a phrase that should never be said out loud. I was standing in Starbucks, waiting for the employees to hand me a slice of lemon cake. Why I had to wait in a drink line for a piece of cake is one of the great mysteries in life that I will never know, but I had a bigger question on my mind: “Would breakfast be provided at Horn Point?” The answer I would later find out was “yes”, however it was too late now as a piece of lemon cake was handed to me over the counter. At this point I got a call from Yesenia Valverde telling me it was time for our long drive to the Eastern shore.

An hour and a half later we arrived to the coveted Horn Point Lab and were greeted by Jamie Currie, who arrived at the exact moment we did. Quickly, we went inside and saw the different tables being set up for the different sections of the Horn Point Lab, each having a display relating to their research. One table had a small video game where you could play as a Striped bass eating smaller fish, seeing the full ecosystem at work. There was another table with a delightful series of layered cakes. You would use a syringe with the end cut off to get a core sample of the cake so that you could examine the different layers, and then eat the cake of course.

Sky (me) helping a child and his father understand and play our game. Photo credit: Jamie Currie.
Sky (me) helping a child and his father understand and play our game. Photo credit: Jamie Currie.

Our display was a modest one, with a few of our past reports and projects out on display for visitors to view and enjoy as they talked to our friendly staff. Kate Peterson greeted us as we brought inside the game to go with our station. The game was called “Which is More Sustainable?” It was a series of categories, each one having two symbols corresponding to the category. The participant would then need to tell us which of the two symbols was more and less sustainable according to the category. A simple, but fun game! The game was designed by the whole IAN staff as a wonderful collaboration, but the visuals were created primarily by Yesenia.

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Thus the event began. Jamie, Kate, and Yesenia were running the table with all the information and I was running the game. Jamie had a stroke of genius to bring in candy we could reward participants with, and this quickly became very popular with the young kids especially. I approached running the game like a game show contestant, asking people to step up and play our game over the next few hours. The most rewarding section of the day was teaching the young kids about sustainability and hoping even a fraction of the knowledge remained with them.

Yesenia and Jamie talk to visitors about what we do here at IAN. Photo credit: Sky Swanson.
Yesenia and Jamie talk to visitors about what we do here at IAN. Photo credit: Sky Swanson.

Finally, the day came to an end. As the visitors slowly trickled, we packed up the game, passed out the remaining candy to the fellow people running other booths, and got excited for dinner. The organizers provided everyone with a potluck dinner with plenty of treats and delicious sausages. Everyone sat at long tables and ate together as one large community of scientists and teachers. It was a rather nice sight to behold.

The point of an event like this is to educate the public about what the different sections of UMCES and Horn Point are working on. That way, the general public can see and understand the important work that we do. Another goal is to inspire the next generation into a passion for science and environmental work. A job well done by our fellow faculty, staff, and interns!

About the author

Sky Swanson

Sky Swanson was born and raised in Annapolis Maryland, where he spent his youth exploring the wilderness and growing a great appreciation for the environment and its many wonders. After a few years of doing that he moved off to Hempstead New York to study at Hofstra University. There he got a degree in Film Production and a minor in Mass Media studies, which he applies to the many video products IAN produces annually. Now with 3 years of science communication under his belt, he Works for UMCES-IAN as a science communication assistant and happily spends his nights playing Dungeons and Dragons.

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