Outreach with Botanical Gardens Summer Camp

Teaching students about cryptobenthic reef fish!

For today’s SEAS outreach event, Marta and I spent time with seven students in the UW Botanical Gardens Summer Camp. Marta has a lesson about cryptobenthic reef fishes — small, difficult to spot fish that live in different coral reef microhabitats. These fishes live in coral heads, coral rubble, and sandy habitats.


Figure 1. A cryptobenthic reef fish!

In this activity, students had the opportunity to step into Marta’s shoes — or, her dive boots — and simulate her scientific process. Students first had a chance to make observations about cryptobenthic reef fish and the microhabitats they live in. Because they were prentending to dive underwater, they weren’t able to talk to eachother during their observations!


Figure 2. Marta’s coral reef habitat replica!

Once they made observations, they had a chance to talk about their findings and make hypotheses about fish abundance and species richness in the different microhabitat. Then they had a chance to count the fishes in the different microhabitats and create graphs to depict their findings.


Figure 3. Marta explaining her Ph.D project and the day’s activity.

Overall, I think they learned a lot about coral reef habitats! The rest of their day included looking at the fish collection and the Seattle Aquarium. So fake fish –> dead fish –> live fish. Quite the progression!

The activity involves a lot of small group work and discussion. To improve the experience, I think it would help to have some larger group interactions. We discussed a lot of jargon by talking at the group, but it could have been more interesting to have a trivia game, or more back-and-forth, when they learned about those topics. It also took much longer to set-up than we expected, so we need to remember that for the future!

Written on August 22, 2018