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Franklin Regional biology and zoology teacher Mark Wolfgang will sail the open ocean sometime in the next nine months.
Only he doesn't know where — or what he'll be doing.
Wolfgang was accepted into the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's Teacher at Sea program, an opportunity for kindergarten through college-level teachers to sail aboard NOAA research ships and work under the tutelage of scientists and crew.
The trip, which lasts anywhere between 11 days and three weeks, will take place between March and November aboard one of 16 research vessels. NOAA officials guarantee at least six weeks' advance notice to participants.
Wolfgang said he is looking forward to gaining some experience in the field that he can bring back to students.
“Professionally speaking, so much of what I teach in zoology, you don't ever see. I know what these animals look like, but I haven't really experienced them,” he said. “Personally, it helps to have this kind of a refresher.”
Wolfgang doesn't know the particulars of his assignment just yet, but he will assist on-board scientist “with whatever's being done,” he said.
“I was accepted to do fisheries work, but it could be watching migratory rates, it could be observing predator-prey relationships,” he said. “I'm excited to find out.”
Wolfgang also is expected to write a lesson plan addressing the science and research aspects of his mission and, in his application, had to describe how he will use his experiences in the classroom.
He said he plans to bring back some insight on interaction between various types of fish and its effects on the overall ecosystem.
It will be a new challenge for someone who describes himself as “an insect guy.”
“I can look at a bug and tell you what that is,” he said. “I'm not that way with fish, so I'm looking forward to getting more familiar with that.”
Wolfgang said his biggest concern is making sure he is a help and not a hindrance.
“I don't want to be in the way,” he said. “I know so little about boats and sailing and the pecking order. I want to be able to help with what they're trying to accomplish.”
But he is confident in his sea legs.
“I've been on a cruise for a week, and I don't get motion sickness,” Wolfgang said. “I think I should be OK.”
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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