Prescott College is Growing by Degrees
“Nature serendipitously supplies opportunities for wonder and discovery that you cannot plan for but occur on a regular basis in Prescott College field courses. It’s these true teachable moments that make our education so powerful.” David Craig
It’s the catch of the day for Adventure Education and Environmental Studies professor David Craig and students from Sea Kayaking & Marine Natural History. In this course students combine time at the College’s research facility in Kino Bay, Mexico with multiple-day kayaking expeditions. This unique perspective allows students to experience the power of the ocean’s physical nature as well as give them the opportunity to intimately observe the living communities in the water and on the shore. Topics for study include tides and currents, wind and waves, and the natural history of near shore organisms including fishes, seabirds, marine invertebrates and marine mammals. It’s an amazing way to learn!
Bringing Learning to Life
A frequenting occurrence of unknown origin, Humboldt squid, commonly known as jumbo squid are beaching themselves on shore and dying at increasing numbers. The grisly reality for these mollusks is the immediate convergence of sea gulls who ravish the mollusks leaving little to nothing. As is common on a Prescott College field course, Professor Craig took advantage of a spontaneous and wonderful teaching opportunity for students.
Upon the squid’s death, Craig gathered his students around for a field dissection and discussion of the digestive system, reproductive system, etc. One especially fascinating feature of the Humboldt squid is the eye and its amazing similarity to the human eye. Convergent evolution, the process whereby organisms not closely related (not monophyletic) independently evolves similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments or ecological niches. Students learned first-hand how the squid’s eye parallels the human eye as both organisms worked independently to find a similar solution to their challenge. Amazing! After the learning experience, the students returned the squid to the beach where a few happy sea gulls feasted and the natural process was allowed to finish.
It was a cool find for that day because the Humboldt squid live at depths of 660 to 2,300 feet in the eastern Pacific, ranging from Tierra del Fuego north to California. This squid was found on the beach at our Kino Bay Center for Cultural and Ecological Studies in Kino Bay, Sonora, Mexico. They take their name from the Humboldt Current in which they live off the coast of South America. Recently, the squid have been appearing further north, as far as Sitka, Alaska, raising alarm about ecological problems possibly underlying the northward migration. Some oceanographers imply that warming oceans are to blame, while others speculate that declining numbers of the squid's predators (Sperm whales, sharks, seals, swordfish, and marlin) due to overfishing may have allowed the squid to migrate further north. Jumbo squid can reach up to six feet and weigh as much as 100 pounds. The average life span of a Humboldt squid is about one year and they are considered very aggressive to divers.
Find out more about our new Bachelor of Science Degree for fall 2012 and what it means for your future. You can be in the field immersed in hands-on learning in exciting scenarios just like this.
Photo credit: West Howland
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Prescott, Arizona 86301