MARTINSVILLE – A nationwide project will bring ocean exploration inland – and Martinsville will be the first city to experience it.

It’s a traveling exhibit called “In Search of Earth’s Secrets: A Pop-Up Science Encounter.” The exhibit highlights information obtained by the JOIDES Resolution, the main research ship for the International Ocean Discovery Program. The program is dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of the Earth through drilling, coring and monitoring the sub-seafloor.

Dr. Denny Casey is the Martinsville team leader and science education consultant. The exhibit’s local partners are Blue Ridge Regional Library, the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) and Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline Council.

The exhibit is funded for five years by National Science Foundation (NSF) through The Consortium for Ocean Leadership, Casey said. The first year was spent in designing and creating the exhibit, and the next four years will be spent bringing the exhibit to 12 localities.

The exhibit will arrive in Martinsville on Feb. 5 and be in the area through April. Then it will go to New Brunswick, New Jersey from April through June and in Brooklyn, New York, June through August.

The next three cities it will visit are being determined now, Casey said.

Casey said he first became involved with the project in 2012, when he went out on the ship. He was part of a group of people who talked about the idea of creating a traveling exhibit that shows what the ship does, and he helped write the grant proposal for funding.

“We wanted to involve underserved populations in STEM” (science, technology, engineering and math), he said.

The idea was to target communities that didn’t have much access to science, he said, but at least had libraries and science centers to host the exhibit and a strong group for girls, such as Girl Scouts, to serve as volunteers and docents.

He said the Blue Ridge Regional Library is a “uniquely distributed library system,” with five branches plus a Bookmobile across a broad area. The libraries in the other cities are centralized, he said. So, where the libraries in the larger cities would receive more foot traffic, the Blue Ridge Regional Library would cover a larger geographical range.

Including libraries would “establish more of a link to the public” than in a museum or science center alone, he said.

The exhibit

The exhibit will feature an immersive theater presentation inside a 45-foot long inflatable structure in the shape of the ship, eight interactive hands-on learning stations and a 30-foot long floor map.

All of the components of the exhibit can be shown in the same place at once, or they can be separated and shown in different places at the same time. In the Martinsville area, the plan is for both to happen, as the exhibit will change location a few times during its stay.

Seeing the exhibit will show what lies beneath the ocean’s waters; what the sub-seafloor’s rocks and sediments can reveal about Earth’s development and ancient history; and how these explorations can help people understand phenomena such as climate change and geo-hazards such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

Presenters of the exhibit will be able to convert the kiosks for early or advanced learning levels.

While the exhibit is in Martinsville, the ship it’s based on will be in the South Pacific and Antarctica, Casey said.

At a few times during its stay in the local area, a Skype session may be done with the people on board the ship, said Rick Ward, executive director of the Blue Ridge Regional Library.

“It’s such a powerful thing to see the ship, see the drill operation happening,” Casey said. People in Martinsville “can connect live to the ship while someone’s facilitating at this end, to see what’s happening aboard the ship.”

It would not be possible to set up live feeds at all times because that type of internet transmission just is not possible in some of those locations where the ship will be, Casey added.

Casey described how the ship conducts it research: “Probably the most important thing (the ship does) is it drills in the sea floor. The deeper you go, the older you get,” which results in “big findings” about the Earth and its history.

“It can go to the deepest part of the ocean and stay put, no matter what the ocean is doing,” Casey said. “It drills miles down into the water, then drills into” the Earth’s core to pull up samples. Then the scientists look for rocks, sediments and microfossils, he said.

“The JOIDES Resolution provides an incredibly compelling hook to get kids and the general public engaged and excited about science and technology,” stated Sharon Cooper, the project’s lead and the IODP U.S. education director, in a press release. “Since it’s impossible to bring large numbers of people to the ship, we are eager to bring the ship and its science to people wherever they are.”

The exhibit was created by Luci Creative, an exhibit design firm, and Ravenswood Studio, a fabricator. ScienceMedia, based in the Netherlands, created the immersive media production.

For more information on the exhibit, visit its website, insearchofearthssecrets.com.

Article publish by Martinsville Bulletin.