Fourth Graders Talk Oceanography and Geology With Scientist Ashley Braunthal
Julian Corbett

Last Wednesday, fourth graders got a special visit from Ashley Braunthal, a scientist who specializes in geology and oceanography. Ms. Braunthal, who is a PhD student at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, spoke with students about the work she’s done on research projects and expeditions studying past climates and marine sediment. 
Students in 4-1 and 4-2 have been studying landforms and how everything from volcanic eruptions and earthquakes to tsunamis and landslides have shaped environments over time. To supplement their current unit on sediments, Ms. Braunthal talked about the research she’s done on sediment in the Arctic Ocean.
Ms. Braunthal walked the students through the process of doing field research—identifying locations to investigate, taking a research vessel out to sea and extracting a sediment sample from the ocean floor. And she spoke about what tools and methods she and her team use to analyze the data they collect in the field, explaining how the ways of observing and thinking about nature the fourth graders are learning now develop into the research methods of a working scientist.
“It’s a type of science that keeps you busy,” Ms. Braunthal said. “You’re not doing the same thing every moment, which I find really exciting. And it brings you to remote parts of the world, so it gives you a chance to travel to places you wouldn’t get to otherwise.”
Ms. Braunthal also took questions from students about what inspired her to become a scientist, what it’s like to travel all over the world for research and why she chose to study sediment in the ocean instead of on land. Her answer to the last question: “I’m interested in the more recent past.” While on land, Ms. Bruanthal said, sediment is usually millions of years old, but in the ocean, it’s “only” 100,000 or 200,000 years old!

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