The energy lab’s dry run. Or: I have a great team! :-)

At first, I wanted to call this blog post “behind the scenes of a school lab” until I looked through the pictures and realized that all I am showing is people sitting around my desk in my office! Actually, not only sitting — test-running all the experiments for our energie:labor!

First, here is Julian’s experiment on atmospheric CO2.

And here an experiment from Jonas’ station on the role of the ocean in the climate system. A candle below an air-filled balloon. Can you imagine what will happen next?

Yes, this.

Sorry about the jump in perspective — even though I knew what would happen I clearly didn’t expect it enough to hold the camera stable. Small consolidation that everybody else clearly jumped, too?

Anyway, the point of that experiment is to look at the heat capacity of air and water. I’ve written about this before, see here (where we also have pictures of bursting the water-filled balloon because this is how we roll. But only in the lecture theatre, not in my office… ;-)).

Below, we are looking at Jonas’ overturning experiment, apparently discussing the work sheets. It’s really great how well this team works together on developing all their materials, even though their personal styles span the whole spectrum of teaching styles!

But we were also having fun, or at least that’s what it looks like… ;-)

In the picture below, taken on the second day of our dry run a couple of days later, we are looking at Henning’s station on the ice-albedo-feedback. As Henning is sitting next to me and we are sitting around my desk, he’s unfortunately not even in the picture!

In the background of the picture above you see the next exciting station that Nicolas prepared (and big shout out to my office mate who didn’t beat an eye when she came in and the office was filled with all our equipment and smelled of vinegar and white spirit…

What the guys are doing on the picture below? Using a bike pump to increase the pressure inside that bottle to make a cloud in a bottle.

Worked really well!

And then, there comes the most sophisticated piece of equipment of the whole lab: Nicolas’ cloud chamber. I’ll only tell you this much for now: It’s awesome! And you should stay tuned for an upcoming publication on how to build it and how to use it in teaching. Because it’s that great!

Now I’m out of pictures, but there is one last thing I want to say: Thank you, team, you are awesome! :-)

My new school lab on energy in the climate system has been launched! :-)

Today was a very exciting day: We launched my new school lab on energy in the climate system! The “energie:labor” is finally up and running again!

Let me walk you through some of the stuff that is going on in the lab.

Below, you see Mirko, who leads the station on the hydrological cycle, and his group working on an experiment.

In the left jar, you see how much smoke a burning piece of paper makes. The students tried this in order to compare it with the jar on the right. Because what they see in there is not just smoke from a burning piece of paper, it’s steam from the hot water at the bottom of the jar — a cloud in the jar! And the burning paper was just added to provide aerosols as condensation nuclei for the clouds.

Another part of the energy puzzle of the hydrological cycle: How much do raindrops falling down on the ground actually heat up the ground? The students are looking at the wooden board on the floor, using a thermal imaging camera. They won’t see a lot when the bouncing ball hits, but they saw a clear signal with the heavy metal ball they used earlier! Kinda like what we did at the European Researcher’s Night (see here).

Now, they are documenting their observations.

And later, they are running an experiment looking at how much moist vs dry air heats up in that insulated container below the lamp to explore the greenhouse effect of water vapour. The setup of this experiment was developed by Julian who is leading a different station on CO2 in the atmosphere, but sadly I don’t have any good pictures of that station!

On the table next to the hydrological cycle team, there is Jonas, working on the role of the ocean in the climate system. Below, the students are dunking air-filled bottles into hot and cold water baths to watch how air expands and contracts depending on its temperature.

They seem to be having fun!

Later, the team at this station did an overturning experiment. I have tons of pictures of that experiment, because it is just super photogenic (or because I am just still fascinated every time I see it, who knows?)

They are using a very strong lamp to model the heating by the sun near the equator, and cold packs to cool near the poles.

And they seemed to enjoy playing with food dye!

We have two more stations (or three, including the CO2 station I mentioned above), one on clouds run by Nicolas, and one on ice-albedo-feeback run by Henning. Unfortunately I don’t have good pictures of those, either, but I will post pictures of our trial run soon, where they’ll be featured, too.

Let’s close this by looking at how we brought all our new experts back together (because each group only conducted one station, for which they had almost all morning) — by using the Monash Simple Climate Model! I’ve written before about how great it is in teaching (see here), and I am still a big fan!

The new “experts” on clouds, the ocean, the hydrological cycle, atmospheric CO2 and ice-albedo feedbacks explained their topics to the rest of their groups. And — surprisingly enough — in the model, you can switch on and off each of these processes individually and see what effect it has on climate!

I think this worked really well to engage students in discussions about the processes they had just explored, and how they work together. Although I want to work on the kind of questions that guide them through the model before the next class visits the school lab in January…

But all in all, I am very happy with how the launch went, and I am super grateful to my great team! Thanks, Jonas, Julian, Nicolas, Mirko, and Henning (from the left in the picture above)! Hope you are enjoying your well-deserved weekend!

And last not least: Thank you, Frank, for letting us borrow your pupils! They were the nicest group we could have hoped for!

Teacher training at Lotseninsel

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently contributed to a teacher training on Lotseninsel, a tiny island on the Baltic Sea coast. The training was run by the Ozean:Labor of the Kieler Forschungswerkstatt, and we spent Friday to Sunday there. I’m going to show you some impressions of that weekend here.

At first, it did not look promising:

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We had to pack A LOT of equipment on a small boat in pouring rain to bring everything over to the island.

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After unpacking all that stuff, we went to test some instrumentation in the pouring rain. This is our cute ROV:

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In the evening, when all the teachers had arrived, we started with the workshops and continued until late in the night. Below you see two groups of teachers working on 3×3 m stretches of the beach, collecting plastic to map the pollution of the beach.

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The next day, the group was split up in two parallel groups. One doing stuff like this:

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The other group, in which I was involved, doing stuff like this:

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Obviously we had to do the melting ice cube experiment in a workshop on ocean physics!

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But Johanna and Dennis did tons of other cool stuff, too, like for example this demonstration of salt inflow events into the Baltic Sea:

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And again, the second time that same workshop was run in the afternoon for the second group of teachers. Amazing how quickly the weather changed!

 

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But of course our group also did some field work: Water sampling and then analysing nutrients, salinity, oxygen concentration…

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The next day, I got to see my first fish dissection. I know why I studied physics…

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I am not showing you the gory pics here because that’s not what we do on this blog ;-)

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Also really cool: Those are baleens, those filters that whales use! Never touched them before.

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But we also got some time to enjoy the weather and play with our equipment: Those are Jeannine, Dennis and Johanna, who I had the pleasure to work with. It was great fun!

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Even though the amazing weather only lasted for a short while, this is them arriving back on the main land with the last of three tours to shuttle everything back…

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But I had a great weekend! And if you haven’t yet, go back and look at the lighthouse on Lotseninsel. I could spend years there, taking pictures from different angles and in different weathers… So pretty :-)

Playing with a ROV

The KiFo owns a ROV that — until now — has never been fully operational. But since I like a challenge (and have a really skilled research assistant who really deserves all the credit) it’s working again!

We first went to test it in a tiny lake on campus.

This was exciting enough, since it seemed to have been leaking on previous attempts.

But this time round it did not, and the lake wasn’t deep enough to test whether it was actually water proof even at increasing pressure.

So off to the Kiel Fjord we went!

And after some careful preparations…

…and a careful launch…

…it worked! :-)

Well, at least until the laptop battery died. But it’s a start! Thanks again for the great work, Nico!!!

Expedition learning

In July I will be involved in teaching an “expedition learning” course for a week. It will be all about coastal protection in the Kiel region, so two colleagues and I went on a private expedition to scout out what can be explored where. This is a very picture-heavy post, be warned! It’s more a note-to-self to document the different beaches we looked at than something I expect anyone else to be interested in.

We started out in Friedrichsort, where there were nice breaking waves to be observed. My part of the course, you might have guessed it, will be on observing waves…

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In Friedrichsort there is a lighthouse on a small headland, and there are sand banks around it that make for very interesting wave fields, like for example below, where the sand bank almost seems to filter out some wavelengths.

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Looking seaward over the sandbank, we see breaking waves over the shallow part, and waves being bent around the sand bank.

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A similar thing could be seen on a tiny headland: Can you see how one and the same wave crest gets wrapped around the headland?

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See? So cool!

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Btw, you might have noticed the weather changing a lot over the last couple of pictures. It’s April, I guess… But a couple of raindrops here and there make nice tracers for the time since the last wave washing up over the beach ;-)

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Always fascinating: When you can see wave-less spots that are shielded from the wind, and then local wind waves and others that are travelling in from further away. And breaking on a sand bank…

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Also, did you see how nice the weather was for a couple of minutes every now and then? ;-)

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And here is a close-up of the waves breaking on the sand bank.

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Oh, and looking back to where we came from: That’s the lighthouse on it’s headland right there! And my two colleagues figuring out what’s wrong with the GPS they brought. Their part of the course will focus on more geological things than mine…

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But I really like this view!

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See how nice and regular the waves are that reach the beach even though the local wind field is really messy (as you see a little further offshore) and the waves have gone over the sandbank?

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Oh, and always one of my favourites: When nice and regular waves hit a stone and it sends off wave rings. Love it!

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One more, because it’s so nice!

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And here waves bending around a wave breaker thingy.

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And this is a picture that really nicely shows how if you don’t have wind, you don’t have waves. The lagoon there is sheltered so well that you can actually see the reflection of the bird sitting on the edge!

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And here we have a very nice superposition of waves coming from different directions and with different wavelengths.

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And waves coming through the “slit” between sandbanks and spreading as segments of a circle. Nice!

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Oh, and more waves breaking on the sand bank.

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After a while, we reached Falckenstein:

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Not so far away from where we started out at that lighthouse over there:

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Another interesting superposition of wave fields.

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Oh, did I mention we did a lot of walking in the sand? About 20k steps. Well, I guess that isn’t even too bad…

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Below I really liked the criss-crossing of waves. It’s actually one wave crest crossing itself after being bend by the shallowing water.

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And those waves get deformed a lot, too!

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And here we knew that it was a matter of minutes until those rain showers would be where we were…

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Luckily, this shower went over quickly, too.

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And this is the kind of stuff the other courses will be dealing with: Awesome formations in the coast!

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Ha, another weather front:

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And this is my favourite geological feature: there are interesting features in the sand/soil/stone (however you call it?) and then erosion marks, clearly made by water, right below!

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A little bit further along the coast, there are weird wave breakers and if the wind hadn’t died down, we would probably have been able to see more interesting waves than these…

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But the waves below were really cool: There were the ones that you clearly see on the picture at an angle to the coast, and then there were waves that came in perpendicular to the coast (so the wave crests were parallel to the coast) and they washed the other waves on the beach and back into the sea. I should really upload the movie…

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So those waves above caused ripples in the sand which are parallel to the water line, even though in the pictures the other wave field is a lot more visible!

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See?

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We ended up in Schilksee and had a look around the marina. Apart from the typical wind / no wind resulting in waves / no waves, we saw……

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…this! Pretty cool, huh?

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And again:

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One last look at the coast near Bülk.

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At this point, only one of us still felt like exploring every nook and cranny…

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Even though there were some pretty nice wave fields, but we could see them from our vantage point without doing an extra step ;-)

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Actually, there were a couple of cool features on the beach still. What’s up with those little bays?!

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We ended the day with trying this very cool contraption to measure the coast with. It was actually a lot of fun!

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And you wouldn’t believe how much work it was to hold that ruler thingy in the wind!

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So yeah, that’s what we did. And how was your day in the office? :-)