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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Happy Back to School!

Hey kids! 

I hope that you are having a fantastic first week of school! I visited school last week and hung out with Mrs. Kasparian and your new Social Studies teacher, and I know they have been working very hard getting ready for you and preparing a fabulous school year! I wish more than anything that I was starting school with you this week, but that is not the case. Regardless, I will be around occasionally and will try to help out when I can. I thought you might be interested in hearing more about my summer adventure, because it truly was an adventure!

I posted when I was at "the Pad" before my students arrived, but I haven't posted since then. I was incredibly busy working and living with students 24 hours a day. There was lots of grading to do, lots of lectures to give, lots of diving, hiking, exploring, and meeting local people. We worked with the St. Barth's marine park, St. Eustatius National Parks (STENAPA), and Saba Conservation Foundation, to help leave the islands even more beautiful than we found them and to collect valuable data about the health of the coral reefs so that the parks will know whether all their hard work is paying off or not. On top of community service, students participated in guest lectures, took a midterm and a final, wrote a final paper, gave a presentation, became advanced open water divers, earned 3 PADI specialty certifications, and learned the basics of yachting. Overall, it was a very successful summer and the students and I both learned a lot!

On St. Barth's we met with the marine park ranger and he taught us all about the park and the problems it is facing. He had a rehabilitated seabird with him and we all got to hold it; it only pooped on one person. We collected data using ReefCheck and REEF survey techniques and we monitored water quality. On Statia (short for St. Eustatius) we weeded and cleaned up the old botanical gardens (a tourist attraction) for the Statia Bureau of Tourism. We went with STENAPA to the turtle nesting beach and picked up tons of garbage so that it will be easier for turtles to nest there. We also walked the entire beach looking for seaturtle tracks so that the rangers can protect their nests. We found the tracks of a hawksbill turtle, which was exciting because the organization had been finding tracks very rarely. We covered the tracks so that other people and animals would not go looking for the nest. In Saba, we cleaned up a beach and participated in the Ocean Conservancies International Coastal Clean-up (ICC). This collects data about what kind of garbage is found on beaches world wide and uses the data to lobby congress to better regulate that type of garbage. Can you guess what types of garbage we found? That's right! Plastic! And, lots of it! We found over 1,000 plastic bottle caps, the kind you find on plastic water and soda bottles. We also did a coastal clean-up in the harbor using snorkel and SCUBA gear as well as people on kayaks to get garbage off the bottom. We found a bunch of garbage there, but some of the garbage had little organisms making a home for themselves in it! We found several little octopuses living in plastic containers.  

Here are some pics from my summer adventure!

If you would like to read more about my summer adventures, you can check out the blogs the students kept during the trip!
Session 1 Trip Updates
Session 2 Trip Updates

If you would like to learn more about Broadreach and maybe find a trip you would like to go on next year (there are middle school and HS trips) check out the website. There is also scholarship money available for trips.

So, now that I am back in ABQ, what am I doing? I am working on an organic farm in the South Valley helping to bring fresh local organic food to the people of Albuquerque. The farm provides 1,000 ABQ families with weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) boxes. So, I am spending my days in the sunshine harvesting pepper and tomatoes, planting winter crops like chard and kale, taking care of seedlings, and helping pack up boxes of food for families to enjoy. As an employee, I get my CSA box for free. This week I received baby spinach, onions, avocados, giant green tomatoes, red tomatoes, eggplants, roasted green chili, and pears! On Monday night, Jamie and I made a stir-fry with carrots, onions, garlic, green tomatoes, tempeh, and spinach served over quinoa. Last night we made a green tomato, eggplant, and onion casserole, which was delicious. It is so rewarding eating fresh, local food and it is even more rewarding knowing that I was a part of growing and harvesting it. Maybe the school can take a field trip to the farm to help out and take home some samples!

If you think you might be interested in getting your own weekly CSA box, check out the farm website! 
CSA boxes are available in 3 different sizes and you can customize the boxes to make sure that you like everything that is included. The boxes are affordable and support a pretty awesome organization! 

I Miss you all greatly, and I hope this school year is amazingly successful for you! Keep in touch and I will too! I will be writing on the blog occasionally about life and science. I will post about cool new things that I learn and share interesting resources that I stumble upon. Hope to see you soon! 
<3 Mrs. Maggi Brisbin 


As always, Gnasher remains the cutest little monster out there.