Students from Shuksan Middle School spent a week learning about marine and other sciences from faculty at Western Washington University. The week-long course, “Real World Applications of Environmental Research: Ocean Acidification in the Salish Sea,” allowed students to engage in actual research projects being conducted by Western faculty and graduate students.

Students learned about eel grass, ocean acidification and the effects on marine animals and the scientific process in the field.

Callum Gilbert said he enjoyed “learning about how the Salish sea helps us” including how it “provides oxygen for us and seafood.” Other students said they learned how to protect oceans by using less carbon and want to share that information so others can be more informed.

The course is made possible thanks to the generosity of Shelley and Steve Sulkin of Bellingham. The Sulkins made a $50,000 gift to the Western Washington University Foundation to establish the Sulkin STEM Inclusion Odyssey of Science Fund. Shelley Sulkin is a retired teacher, who taught at the Bellingham and Ferndale school districts. Her husband, Steve, is the longtime former director of Western’s Shannon Point Marine Center in Anacortes, a position he retired from in 2012.

“We anticipate the fund will support 20-to-25 students per year for 10 years, beginning in the summer of 2018,” Shelley Sulkin said. “We feel it’s important for future stewards of our environment to have an understanding of the ways in which scientific inquiry can inform how we use and protect natural resources. To be effective, we must intentionally include more students in this type of learning.”

Participation in the course was targeted at groups underrepresented in science and those whose economic status would otherwise preclude their participation.

The camp was also intended to encourage students’ interest in STEM careers. Student Celeste Fisher said it has affirmed her interest in astrophysics and she appreciated learning about molecules and subatomic chemistry.

For many, the highlight was creating a video research project on the effects of ocean acidification. The students recorded and edited videos, which they hope will help others learn about issues important to the future of oceans.


Photos: Students work on their video projects. Brooke Love, Professor of Environmental Science and graduate students Tyler Tran and Cristina Villalobos at Western Washington University are the course faculty. 

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