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March 2, 2011
News Article: Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Posted By Will Ramos

(From Martinsville Daily) - The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville hosted a lecture by Oceanographer Dr. James Cowen titled "Life Deep Beneath the Ocean: The Most Remote Biosphere on Earth" on Friday, February 25 at the museum. The museum was awarded the Distinguished Lecture Series program and accompanying educational programs from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. Around 50 visitors attended the Distinguished Lecture, which was offered free of charge with support from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

The Consortium for Ocean Leadership (Ocean Leadership) is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization that represents 95 of the leading public and private ocean research education institutions, aquaria and industry with the mission to advance research, education and sound ocean policy. The organization also manages ocean research and education programs in areas of scientific ocean drilling, ocean observing, ocean exploration, and ocean partnerships.

The Ocean Leadership Distinguished Lecture Series brings the scientific explorations and discoveries of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) research to undergraduate and graduate students, to the geoscience community, and to the general public. Since 1991, over 250 presentations have been made through the Ocean Leadership Distinguished Lecturer Series program to audiences at museums, U.S. colleges and universities, and other organizations.

Climate change, volcanoes, and the origins of life are far flung topics unified through the IODP. The IODP and its program predecessors have been sailing the world's oceans for over 40 years, recovering over 200,000 meters of samples. In 2005, Dr. James S. Beard, director of research and collections and curator of earth sciences at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, sailed aboard the JOIDES Resolution, a research vessel operated by the IODP. Beard was one of 30 scientists from nine countries who took part in an expedition to collect deep ocean core samples.

Dr. James Cowen is a research professor in the Department of Oceanography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Cowen's research interests include interdisciplinary research into life in extreme environments and the development of instrumentation to enable such research. Cowen earned bachelor's and master's degrees in biology from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and a doctorate in biology (oceanography) from the University of California at Santa Cruz.

"We are very honored to have been selected by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership to host a Distinguished Lecture Series program," said Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. "The Virginia Museum of Natural History has a strong history working with the IODP and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, with Dr. James Beard, director of research and collections and curator of earth sciences at VMNH, having sailed aboard the JOIDES Resolution as part of an international team of scientists. Working with Ocean Leadership, with its outstanding scientific and educational programs, is a natural fit for the museum."

In addition to Dr. Cowen's program, the museum hosted school programs and teacher workshops conducted by Ocean Leadership's educational organization, Deep Earth Academy. The school programs drew around 31 middle school students and 44 high school students with their teachers on Friday, February 25. In these programs, students learned about the JOIDES Resolution and how the sediments from the deep sea help us understand Earth's history and future. Students made observations of cores, viewed microfossils, and learned more about the microbial world hidden deep in the ocean floor. A guest appearance by Dr. Cowen gave students an opportunity to ask what it is like to be a scientist and to sail on the ship.

The museum also offered interactive teacher workshops conducted by Deep Earth Academy on Saturday, February 26. Teachers learned how they can bring the excitement and adventure of the research done on the JOIDES Resolution to students through hands-on activities based on authentic ocean drilling data, the JOIDES Resolution Web site that follows each expedition through videos, blogs and other social media tools, and free posters, pencils, and loan items that bring the real science to life. At this workshop, teachers also learned how they can get on board the ship as an Educator at Sea, along with having classes talk directly with scientists at sea through video conferencing.

"This was an exceptional learning opportunity for a variety of audiences - from middle and high school student programs on Friday, to Dr. Cowen's public lecture Friday evening, to a teacher professional development workshop on Saturday," said Dr. Denny Casey, director of education and public programs at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. "This is a cutting-edge science, technology, and ocean engineering program and we are thrilled to have been able to offer this at the museum. In addition, this was an exciting complement to our new ‘Documenting Diversity' exhibit which opened January 22, along with the recently opened ‘Hahn Hall of Biodiversity'."

Deep Earth Academy works to equip K-12, university, and informal educators to teach about the Earth using all disciplines - from chemistry, physics, biology and math to engineering and technology to reading and writing. Deep Earth Academy uses exploration of the world as a model and strives to help students become better decision makers, problem solvers, science-literate citizens and stewards of the planet.

For more information about the museum's current and upcoming exhibits, research and collections, and various programs, please email or visit


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