Maury Project 2018

Latest update August 20, 2018 Started on July 8, 2018

Science teachers explored physical oceanography, meteorology and climate science through lectures, activities, research-cruises and study trips to share what they learned with other educators.

Join us! And, watch for workshop opportunities to explore activities, labs and demos to apply in your own environment!

July 8, 2018
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Its been a while since I posted, but I'm still trying to digest all the information we received on this trip.

Today's post will be about the field trips we took during the first week of the project. I don't know about anyone else but I learned a lot those two days. The ship we went out on was the YP-686 (108 ft) research vessel. On the day before our group was to go out, we did a dry run with the Ocean Instruments. We used a water sampler, "Rosette CTD, Secchi Disk and PNF. The CTD measured the following: Conductivity Sensor, Temperature Sensor Pressure Sensor, Water sampler/sensor interface , pH Sensor, Dissolved Oxygen Sensor, Transmissometer, Pump, Data logger, Deck unit . The Profiling Natural Fluorometer (PNF) measures the visible light penetrating the water column". We practiced how to use each of the instruments and learned what type of data we would gather the next day. It was a great time seeing the boat and learning all the ways we would gather data.

The next was the day we went on the boat, YP-686. We visited different parts of the boat, taking a tours below deck. Which by the way was a very interesting experience. Our day was filled with data collection at three different sites on the Chesapeake. Just being out on the boat was a great experience.

Data collected was shared at the end of the experience. What is really great is the AMS leaders shared all the data, from both field trips. Two groups went out on separate days. This would be a great comparison to see if any readings changed. I'm hoping to use this data in class to show students how to organize and analyze date.

The next day we were on the beach working with various instruments. I think the most fun I had was using the Beach Seine. Our group caught a needle fish and blue crab. Pretty cool. I'm excited to share all this information with my classes this year. I especially would like to go over the data and organize it. I'm thinking of having them use the data to learn how create tables and analyze the results.

This was the first week of the experience, there was more to come.

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I’ve never really strayed too far from the water throughout my life. In my early years I lived along the lake shore in Oakville only to find myself as a young teen watching the waves crash on the shores of the Atlantic while living across the harbour from Halifax. Throughout my adult life I’ve lived, lounged, loved, laughed and worked on the west coast with the mighty Pacific lapping at my feet. By plane, train, car and bus I’ve traveled the inner bits of our country, but it has always been the margins that have drawn me in; the coasts have always called my name.

For the past 23 years, I have been incredibly fortunate to call Vancouver Island my home. Living on an island off the west coast of Canada with the Salish Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, one would be hard pressed to find a day where the ocean that surrounds us doesn’t make a significant impact on our lives. The daily weather we live with, the transportation of goods and people to and from our island, the industry and jobs we work at, the vibrant, dynamic and unique Indigenous cultures and our collective history on this island, the food we eat, the air we breathe all depend on the Pacific that surrounds us. So, if the oceans are the lifeblood of planet Earth and play such a central role in our lives, one work think that the topic is well covered in our education system, right? Wrong.

Now let me state, I’m also at fault here. I am both a physical and human geography teacher for grade twelve and eleven students. Although I do have units on coastal geomorphology, climatology, meteorology, and tectonics in my physical geography class, my coverage of oceanography is marginal at best. In my human geography class, I cover units on development, transportation, agriculture and urbanization and given that about 40% of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast the dearth of coverage I give oceanography is wholly inadequate. This is why I was excited when the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) and the Canadian National Committee/Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (CNC/SCOR) offered a Canadian teacher the chance to participate in the American Meteorological Society/United States Naval Academy Maury Project workshop.

The goal of the Maury Project is to provide teacher enhancement on the physical foundations of oceanography for science teachers. As such, I was prepared to absorb as much information as I could over the two-week workshop at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland and absorb I did; my brain is figuratively full. The co-coordinators Dr. David R. Smith, retired professor and former chairman of the Naval Academy oceanography department, and Ms. Wendy Abshire, Education Director of the American Meteorological Society, set out an ambitious and detailed itinerary for the 23 American participants and the lone Canadian (me) to follow. Daily work in the classroom included lectures, the examination of teaching modules, and demonstrations for lab work connected to the topics we covered. Commander William Swick (USN), Commander Shawn Gallaher (USN), Commander John Bleidorn (USN), Dr. Joseph Smith, and other esteemed faculty gave fascinating conversations on a wide range of topics including: ocean water column structure; ocean biogeochemical profiles; open ocean circulation and fluid dynamics; ocean acoustics, sound speed variability and detecting objects in the ocean; thermohaline circulation and global heat transfer; and individual ocean overviews.

I must admit, being the lone geographer in a crowd full of physics and chemistry teachers, there were moments during the lectures when I did feel a bit lost; mostly when formulas showed up on the overhead, like the simplified linear approximation to the equation of state for seawater or the formula for the transfer of heat across the ocean surface…Having said that the instructors took pains to explain the physics of fluid dynamics and ocean chemistry in a manner that the common layperson could understand, and the general concepts were easily transferable to a variety of subject areas.

What I was interested in doing was seeing connections among topics in a geographic perspective. Making connections between open ocean circulation, global heat transfer, ocean biogeochemical profiles, and coastal upwelling allows for a better understanding of natural resource distribution and the cooperation and conflict that arises between competing interests for them. This is where I spent my time in the classroom, furiously scribbling notes about teaching ideas for physical and human geography. What I found, is that I learned a great deal and found ways to apply that learning to the core subject I love, which really was the goal of the Maury Project. We also go to complete some model teaching through cooperative activities and team demonstrations for lab work connected to the set of Maury Project teaching modules. Of course, a day would not be complete without the poetic words of Matthew Fontaine Maury fondly espoused by retired naval oceanographer and instructor extraordinaire Don McManus.

Not only did we work on some theoretical physical oceanography in the classroom, we also did some practical work in the field as well. Out in the Chesapeake Bay, on the naval research Yard Patrol Craft YP-686, we deployed a Rosette CTD, to analyze the conductivity, temperature, pressure of a vertical column of seawater, also taking water samples at depth. The CTD was lowered into the bay by a hydraulic winch at the stern of the boat and we analyzed the measurements on a computer graph while the CTD was still deployed. We also used a refractometer to determine the salinity of our water samples that we took at depth. In addition, we deployed a Profiling Natural Fluorometer (PNF) along with a Secchi Disk to measure the depth of the euphotic layer in the Chesapeake. In addition, we conducted a coastal analysis at Matapeake Beach on Kent Island. Using a beach seine, we looked for nektonic organisms (we did find a few small blue crabs). Being a geographer, I was really at home when we used topographic surveying equipment (a grading rod along with a line and transit) to create a beach profile to examine beach morphology. These active field studies allowed us to connect practical experiences to the in-class lecture topics of oceanography that we explored. Along with the active field work, we also made our way to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for more learning opportunities.

Two big takeaways from the Maury Project for me were connections and knowledge. I already had a basic understanding of ocean topography, thermohaline circulation, shallow water ocean waves, ocean tides, and the processes of coastal geomorphology but the depth of information presented to us was amazing. This was, for lack of a better phrase, a two-week crash course in physical oceanography and we were fully immersed in the subject. I now have a much more complete understanding of ocean dynamics and that bodes well for the geography classes I teach. This is also especially important given the curriculum revisioning process that we are currently involved with in British Columbia. I needed to know more, and this opportunity provided me that; my students will directly benefit from my participation in the Maury Project. So too, however, will those of my colleagues with whom I work in British Columbia. A province that is so fortunate to have such an incredible coastline needs teachers who can nurture student interest in the ocean. The scientific study of the ocean has applications across all studies in school; the opportunities for cross and co-curricular studies, projects and field work are virtually limitless and, as the poster in the NOAA headquarters stated, “All Life Depends on the Ocean”.

So now what?

As a graduate of the Maury Project, I carry the responsibility to share what I’ve learned and further the understanding of physical oceanography with my colleagues and peers. I have arranged to conduct a professional development workshop on wind driven ocean circulation and coastal upwelling for both Science and Social Studies teachers this August in my school district. I will also be presenting a workshop on wind driven ocean circulation and El Niño at the British Columbia Social Studies Teachers Conference in October this year. Hopefully that’s just the start. I was fortunate enough to attend Project Atmosphere in 2000; eighteen years later I still use the meteorological material I learned then with the students I work with now. In the words of Matthew Fontaine Murray, “The wonders of the sea are as marvelous as the glories of the heavens”. It seems pretty clear to me that the material I engaged with this summer will tumble down my remaining years of teaching both Human and Physical Geography and beyond...ocean and sky.

I am eternally grateful for the people and organizations who put together this opportunity. First and foremost, I want to thank the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) and the Canadian National Committee/Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (CNC/SCOR) for selecting me as the lone Canadian participant; supporting the opportunity to attend and learn at the Maury Project. Thank you to Canadian Geographic Education (CGE) and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) for promoting this opportunity to its membership. I wish to thank the American Meteorological Society (AMS), the United States Naval Academy (USNA), the California University of Pennsylvania (CalU-Penn), and the United States Navy (USN) for not only maintaining but being champions for the Maury Project. I wish to give thanks to my American teacher colleagues / fellow participants at the Maury Project, y’all were so welcoming and I learned a great deal from you. Lastly, I think I can speak for everyone who’ve gone through the Maury Project when I say that this professional workshop experience is in no small amount the result of the passion of two phenomenal educators, David R. Smith and Don E. McManus. I was lucky enough to catch both together as this was Don’s last year with the program and next year David will take his parting bow as well. Building, growing, maintaining and now transitioning others into this program was no small feat for these two. Just from the participant’s view, the amount of energy required to organize and run the Maury Project appeared to be overwhelming, yet these two dedicated educators transferred their passion for oceanography in what seemed to be an effortless manner. Thank you, David and Don, for building such a rewarding professional development opportunity.

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Whew! We’re relieved to be finished and sad all in one! We’re worn out, but sad to leave each other and beautiful Annapolis! We strategized how to share what we learned in at least 2 workshops over the next year. We can share things within our districts, at teacher conferences, with pre-service teachers and online. Since I live overseas and am technology savvy I want to explore conducting my workshops online. And, a friend chimed in that we could do a couple of them together! So, I think we’ll conduct a couple that will be interesting for geology teachers and science teachers, like ocean currents and El Nino and La Nina. The great thing is after participating in AMS’ Project Atmosphere and Maury Project, I am finally wrapping my brain around El Nino and La Nina weather conditions!

I’m really excited about exploring the Google products more, like Google Hangouts, to conduct the workshops and Google Forms, to get insight on the best workshop times for people, along with feedback after the workshop.


Wow! What a treat! We learned about the research NOAA is doing and the products it provides on weather, oceanography and climate. I’m amazed to learn how much we depend on the oceans, in contrast to how little we know about the oceans. I’m also amazed learn how much our weather forecasting has improved over the last 25 years with improvements in radar and satellite imagery, to especially help communities prepare better for natural disasters.

Also as a culmination, we were able knit the interaction of air and sea interactions together, like the interaction that occurs in hurricanes, Nor’easters and El-Nino and La-Nina. It took me two workshops to wrap my brain around El-Nino and La-Nina, but I think I’ve got it, with the help of a few activities.

After our last day of lectures, we had a lovely seafood banquet to celebrate the Maury Project’s 25th year and the project retirement of one of the project founders. I’m always impressed with how well military organizations recognize contributions and share appreciation. We were not disappointed with great food, original poetry, themed gifts and colorful speeches.


We learned about satellite oceanography, NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program and Ocean Exploration, and the best way to conduct workshops for adult learners. Since participating in a satellite launch event at the European Space Agency's Mission Control in Germany, I have been in love with satellites! To top it off, my favorite satellite, the Sentinel 3-B is an ocean-monitoring satellite! It was amazingly interesting to learn how satellites have evolved since the 1960s and what they do for us.

From our briefings, I learned I can apply what I learned during our workshop on an ocean exploration vessel next year! Both, NOAA and Ocean Exploration invite teachers to join their explorations to conduct and communicate the important work they do.

After learning about amazing opportunities for teachers at sea, we learned the best ways to develop workshops for teachers, to share what we learned. It was refreshing considering the may ways adults learn, along with ways to make professional development beneficial for lifelong-learners.

As Mary Project participants we will be sharing activities and demos we learned with educators in at least two different workshops. The workshops will be offered at district, regional and national meetings and remotely. They will be especially engaging for educators who teach science or geography, or educators who simply want to weave refreshing oceanography topics into their curriculum.


What an action-packed day! We had a tour with briefings at NOAA’s headquarters in Silver Spring, MD and had tours at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. I even had the privilege of meeting Bruce Moravchik, who I have been working with over the last year as a NOAA Planet Steward! We started with a scavenger hunt in their visitors center, learned about NOAA’s education programs and then viewed amazing presentations on their sphere and learned how to access NOAA presentation products in our classrooms. We also learned about the NOAA library, complete with national artifacts, including a book from Benjamin Franklin and Captain James Cook!

After a quick lunch on the bus, we arrived at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for more tours and presentations. We learned about the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope and the latest and greatest WFIRST space telescope! Like NOAA, NASA had amazing presentations, in their own beautiful theater. We begrudgingly left NASA at the end of the day, wishing we had more time to enjoy more.


Saturday arrived and we got to take a road trip to Baltimore to visit the harbor and the National Aquarium! The we dove right into the aquarium and ran around like little kids, until families with their own children started arriving and we had to behave like professional teachers again! In the meantime, we enjoyed exploring all the exhibits.

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We got to go to the beach to explore the plankton in the bay and conduct a survey of the beach and sediment. I felt very sophisticated recalling from our briefings that plankton are the small and young organisms that float in the sea or freshwater. We used a Nekton to sample the plankton in the bay and found fish and small crabs! We also learned about a project that moved some extra deposited sand to the neighboring youth camp and restored their beach. I never realized how much planning and work go into restoring sand on a beach, but the county and contractor did a great job with the project as it was completed under its budget and looks beautiful.

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Woo-Hoo! Our group got to go on the ship today! Not that the beach wouldn’t be interesting, but exploring with an ocean exploration vessel is the essence of cool, even if we were on an ocean vessel in the shallow Chesapeake Bay! We got a tour of the ship that is used to train up to 18 midshipmen how to navigate and conduct research on a ship. It had everything needed for ocean trips, including berths (bunk beds), heads (toilets) and galley (kitchen and dining area).

We started our exploration by deploying the Rosette CTD. It was lowered into the sea by a hydraulic winch and just needed to be guided into the water. We successfully lowered the CTD and took samples of the water at different depths and were able to analyze the samples on a graph while the CTD was still deployed. We also measured the turbidity of the water, the rate at which sunlight flowed at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay, and brought up samples of the water to compare the impact of the different depths.

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What’s more fun than seeing midshipmen (mids) in meal formation in front of King Hall?!? Joining the mids for lunch in King Hall! Really, we got to go beyond the “No Visitors Authorized” sign and eat in the same facility as the mids. After enjoying a nice meal with delicious desserts, I decided there are great benefits to working out 3-4 hours/day!

After our lunch, we learned about the Chesapeake Bay and the instruments we would be using to explore the bay on the ocean vessel YP-686 and a beach along the bay over the next couple of days! We learned about the most important instruments and how to use them. The most complex instrument we got to deploy is the Rosette CTD, with capacity to take 11 water samples to analyze conductivity, temperature, pressure, pH and dissolved oxygen.

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We learned how density drives the ocean circulation, completed an activity on ocean circulation and explored low-pressure eddies and high pressure eddies with blocks that modeled warm water and cold water. For the first time, I intuitively understood why oceans currents circulate they way they do and why there are only 5 gyres! The 6th gyre would be located in central Asia, but I can clearly see now that a continent would be in the way. As a result of the Coriolis effect, the gyres rotate to the right, in the Northern Hemisphere, and circulate in a clockwise motion.


When we arrived at the Naval Academy for the first day of class, I didn't realize how much I would learn before the end of the experience. It was pleasure and honor to work with some amazing teachers. I was given an opportunity to collaborate with one. During our demo we partnered up with another teacher.

I thought the demos were one of the highlights of the experience, they were simple but yet informative. Each one supported a topic or concept we were studying in class. The demo below was about waves and wave speed. Definitely a great way to show it to students.

During the day we meet some of our guest speakers. Pretty much the stars of the experience. The in depth talks and information they would present were far behind what I ever could imagine.

When day one had finished I couldn't wait to see what else they had in store for us.


After a hearty breakfast, we headed over to the Naval Academy for our first day! We learned about physical ocean oceanography and wind driven current circulation. We also had time to explore the demonstrations we were preparing and presenting with our educator-partners who taught different age groups. My demo was on the refraction of laser light in salt water and my partner teaches 3-5th grade science, in contrast to my 9th -12th graders. It was great working with a partner on a quick class demo, as the activity that we presented was significantly different, and much simpler, than the activity I prepared on my own.


Woo-Hoo!!! It’s my free day and I get to meet my Maury Project colleagues in the evening! After my release from veggie jail, I found my hotel and got almost 12 hours of sleep. I’m ready to explore the National Air & Space Museum! I had just a taste of it for an hour last summer and can’t wait to finish my air and space adventure!

My favorites this visit were seeing the Saturn V and Hubble Space Telescope models. I also loved learning about the Earth observation satellites and seeing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) models. I nerded out a bit to learn more before visiting NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the NOAA Headquarters later this week!

The best part of the day was meeting my Maury Project colleagues! By late afternoon I was super jet-lagged, but joined our group for dinner and an evening tour of the Naval Academy. We were so fortunate to have 2 young ensigns, who just graduated, give us a tour of the amazingly beautiful Naval Academy. One of their favorite experiences was entering through the middle door of King Hall, which is a tradition reserved only for graduates. We not only visited King Hall, we visited Memorial Hall that is beautifully decorated and preserves national artifacts.

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My expedition is starting with my release from “Veggie Jail”! Really! I ended up in customs jail after not eating all the veggies I carried on my 8-hour flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Washington,d D.C. Trying to do the right thing, I declared that I still had some veggies remaining. My passport and luggage claim were confiscated and I was directed to a customs holding area to wait on my checked luggage. After my checked back was finally found, I handed over the suspect veggies, re-scanned my bags and was on my veggie-free way. What a surreal experience, while being exhausted and jet lagged! With my crisp American English and science teacher demeanor, I was treated very well, but I can only imagine how intimidating the experience must be for people speak English with an accent, or don’t look so “American”.

Expedition Background

Since 1994, the Maury Project has provided training for 24 master teachers per year in a two-week summer workshop, and developed quality instructional resource materials primarily for peer training. Maury is administered by AMS in partnership with the United States Naval Academy (USNA) and with the assistance of the U.S. Navy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U). Maury participants are registered for 3 low-cost graduate credits for successful completion of the Cal U course corresponding to full participation in Maury known as EAS 515. The 25-year partnership for offering Maury has been successfully lead by Dr. David Smith as the Co-PI for for all 25 years of the program’s existence and he continued in this role in 2018. Many other dedicated experts contribute to the delivery of this top notch physical oceanography content throughout the two-week residence experience at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Persons interested in applying to participate in future offerings of the Maury Project are encouraged to monitor the AMS website at Information regarding other AMS K-12 teacher professional development opportunities in weather, ocean, and climate science can visit Further opportunities through Cal U that build upon these courses are described at and For any further questions, email the AMS Education Program staff at

Wendy Abshire, Education Program Director, American Meteorological Society


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