Teacher finds an abundance of life

Zamaria Rocio enjoying some snorkelling at Heron Island.
Image: Gary Cranitch


Wednesday 10 September 2008
SAN DIEGO school teacher Zamaria Rocio has four apt words for her research on the Great Barrier Reef.
"There's just life everywhere," she said.
"You look at just one little part of coral and there are 10 different things."
Zamaria, a science teacher at Horace Mann Middle School in San Diego, is on Heron Island working with the CReefs team, mainly on Laetitia Plaisance's coral analysis.
She came to Australia as part of the ARMADA project, which sends 10 American school teachers each year to do field work, so they can then go back and mentor other teachers.
Zamaria said a major part of her enjoyment was witnessing the scientists sharing their knowledge and ideas and being part of the scientific community.
"I'm just amazed at the experience of the group," she said.
Zamaria said co-operation between scientists should be the norm in theory, but it didn't always work in practice.
"Here you really do see it," she said.
As part of her time on the expedition, Zamaria has had to break up dead coral heads to examine their contents and search for echinoderms, molluscs and crustaceans for later study.
She said the ongoing nature of scientific work was something she wanted to communicate to her students when she got back to San Diego.
"Science is not done. Maybe you start something and continue working on it, but science is never finished," she said.
Zamaria has been writing an online diary for ARMADA, as well as e-mailing photographs to her class and fellow teachers.
A large gorgonian fan, Ctenocella pectinata, near Heron Island. Image: John Huisman
Zamaria Rocio enjoying some snorkelling at Heron Island.
Zamaria Rocio enjoying some snorkelling at Heron Island. Image: Gary Cranitch
Although keeping up with scientific advances as much as possible, Zamaria said the trip had made it clear just how much science had moved forward since she was in college 30 years ago.
"DNA wasn't big when I was in college. We've gone light years from the 1970s to here," she said.
The long hours took some getting used to, Zamaria admitted, especially with construction work on the island starting at 6am.
"Working in the field is not an 8am-5pm job. That took some adjustment," she said.
Zamaria said the scientists had to make the most of the time they had available out in the field, so they tended to work hard all day and well into the evening.
When she gets back to the United States, Zamaria said she would go to the National Science Teachers Association conference and make a presentation about her trip to the other nine teachers who went on field work this year.