Education Outreach Floating Classroom  Internships

North Carolina Floating Classroom Program
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We have developed our research vessel, the RV Humphries, to additionally function as a Floating Classroom for estuarine education outreach. The RV Humphries, formerly a Coast Guard auxiliary patrol boat, was gifted in 2003 to the CAAE by the family of the builder, the late marine engineer and naval architect Mr. Howard L. Humphries (Forked River, NJ). The RV Humphries is 50 ft x 14 ft in size, includes a spacious cabin to accommodate indoor as well as on-deck activities, and has a maximum capacity of 20 passengers.

The CAAE operates the RV Humphries year-round in research and education outreach programs. The goal of our Floating Classroom Program is to motivate citizens to become more responsible stewards of our state's water resources, not only by experiencing estuarine water quality research firsthand, but also by learning about the policy issues that affect estuarine health, and by understanding how each person can contribute to improving protection of our state's public trust aquatic resources. This program offers hands-on experiences in informing young people (secondary and high school age) and their teachers about the factors that influence estuarine water quality and aquatic communities, and the various tools used to identify, characterize and manage our state's water resources. Through on-site demonstration and education activities, the NC Floating Classroom Program is providing participants with an understanding of the key stressors threatening the Neuse Estuary, the research being conducted by the CAAE and others to characterize the extent and causes of impaired water quality, and solutions toward which each citizen can contribute in strengthening water resource protection. Examples of activities conducted as part of the NC Floating Classroom Program are given below.

X-Stream Aquatics Program

With funding support from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund (March 2011 - February 2014), the CAAE's present, three-year project is based on a partnership of the CAAE and the NCS Center for Earth Observation with Wayne County Public Schools (WCPS). The program is designed to engage eighth and ninth grade students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information technology (IT) content and career education, through hands-on research experiences in aquatic science.

Floating Classroom Photo

The specific project goals are to:

  • Kindle students’ interest in aquatic science careers through a short presentation, a half-day cruise aboard the RV Humphries, and dockside learning experiences;
  • Provide classroom activities, career information, and references for ninth grade teachers;
  • Train X-Stream Aquatics cohorts (10-15 highly interested students selected each summer) in an advanced summer research internship program; and
  • Provide X-Stream Aquatics students with science content, content mentors, and teacher mentors for competition in a Senior Science Fair project. Parents are encouraged to become involved in the project activities, including attendance at student research presentations.

Junior Volunteer Riverkeepers Program

The Junior Volunteer Riverkeepers Program is an inquiry-based learning experience for 8th grade students in the Craven County School System, made possible through a partnership of the NCSU CAAE and the Neuse River Foundation ( Through this partnership, which is aligned with the NC Standard Course of Study for Grade 8, young people can learn about the value of estuaries and the importance of tracking water quality and river “health.”

The goal of this program is to help eighth graders become more effective stewards of our state's natural resources, through practical knowledge and experience. The ongoing program is designed to reach half of the schools in Craven County each year. After a classroom session, students can take a field trip where they visit the New Bern Wastewater Treatment facility. Then, aboard the NCSU CAAE's research vessel, the RV Humphries, students leave from New Bern and travel upstream to the CAAE's automated platform sampling station at Mills Branch. This station is one of several automated platforms operated by the CAAE that provide real-time remote monitoring data on an hourly basis, 24/7. Students learn the answers to frequently asked questions about the Neuse River and Estuary, and a background of water quality issues and concerns. Students also take water quality readings using a Secchi disk (to assess the turbidity of the water) and a Hydrolab (which takes measurements of physical and chemical conditions through the water column). They also observe the NCSU scientists take a full array of water quality samples that will be analyzed in the CAAE's state-certified laboratory, including samples for a suite of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, silica, dissolved organic carbon), fecal coliform bacteria, phytoplankton biomass (indicated by the concentration of the "universal plant pigment," chlorophyll a), and phytoplankton species abundances (including potentially harmful algae that can hurt humans as well as fish).

Project WET Workshops

Project WET is a non-profit water education program for teachers (, representing a partnership between the CAAE and the Cool Springs Environmental Education Center ( This program provides hands-on experience on water quality sampling, water resource issues, and policy for high school teachers in Craven and Pamlico Counties. Teachers assess data graphics and other data summary information posted to the CAAE website from the automated platform stations. The training sessions additionally include handouts and discussions about water quality issues on the Neuse. Project WET workshops can be scheduled by request for groups of 10-15.

Environmental Technology Program

In 2004-2006 over summer break, we took 20 high school science teachers (of biology, chemistry, environmental science, and earth science) out on the RV Humphries for a field water quality analysis field trip. We provided each teacher with a full day on the boat, including instruction on how biological and chemical water quality analyses are done, and the important uses of such data. We also gave the teachers a detailed handout that described our Neuse Estuary Monitoring and Research Program (NEMReP). The handout included a description of changing trends in water quality, as well as how these trends reflect changes in the land use patterns in the watershed over the past decade. This effort was part of a week-long workshop called "Monitoring Our Environment: Environmental Technology/Natural Resources Workshop for High School Teachers," sponsored by the College of Natural Resources, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources.

Leadership Craven

Leadership Craven was founded in 1991 by the New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce. It is designed to provide a forum for shared viewpoints on future needs of Craven County, involving a diverse group of young potential leaders (community college level). The mission of Leadership Craven is to develop a new generation of leadership to take Craven County into the 21st century and beyond. In October 2004 we took 26 Leadership Craven group members out on the RV Humphries for a day-long water quality informational trip. The young professionals were given detailed information on the water quality of the Neuse Estuary. Working with the Neuse River Foundation and the NC Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources' Fish Kill Rapid Response Team, we described ongoing monitoring and research efforts and demonstrated how to take water samples and to use hydrological probes. The young professionals were very interested and concerned about environmental issues related to the Neuse and how to best protect the watershed, and asked many excellent questions.

North Carolina Floating Classroom Program at the Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology


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