Certainly the most unique thing that the Cambrian Foundation does is to give students of all ages an opportunity to participate in research expeditions. This helps them to understand the importance of protecting such delicate interconnected aquatic systems while at the same time actually experiencing what it is like to work within the broad field of environmental science.
In 2002, Terrence Tysall was leading the SS Commodore expedition off the coast of Ponce Inlet, FL, made famous by the noted author Stephen Crane. Tysall teamed up with Amy Giannotti, then a high school teacher from Fuqua School in Farmville, Virginia, and together they incorporated ten high school students onto the expedition team. Students were learning about deep-sea diving technologies, working alongside a National Geographic videographer, using trigonometry to survey and map the shipwreck, and learning about the historic time period in which the SS Commodore was operating on the seas. Hands-on learning has lifelong positive effects. First, it levels the playing field between students, causing the traditional academic hierarchy established in the classroom to melt away. Students who earn below average grades in the classroom often perform at the top of their class in the field. They can rise to the challenge; they get a crucial boost of self-esteem; and they get to discover many possible careers while being exposed to a tremendous network of professionals who are willing to help them along the way.
The Cambrian Foundation is and has been actively involved in surveying and mapping underwater cave systems, documenting new cave species, and monitoring water quality in endangered subterranean systems from Florida, Mexico, and Bermuda. Data are collected in order to map patterns and pathways of groundwater flow, critical to public health in remote areas with limited infrastructure. In 2004, Tysall and Giannotti began bringing high school students from the United States to Akumal, Mexico, to participate alongside the research dive team. Students were tasked with measuring water quality in several different cenotes (sinkholes), surveying a remote, dry cave system that had not been visited by modern humans, and producing an accurate map for the landowner – to simulate what the divers were doing underwater…combining all aspects of the curriculum in a field-oriented setting.
Since then, the Cambrian Foundation has expanded to include student/teacher participation on several international expeditions. For more information, please contact Amy Giannotti.