Science - What lies beneath

1st June 2012 at 01:00
Hook your scientists with a hunt for 'zombie' worms

One chilly Friday afternoon, I took a call from zoologist Adrian Glover of the Natural History Museum. "Do you want to go to the Bahamas?" he asked.

Glover and his team were travelling to the Caribbean island in search of a specialised marine worm called Osedax, a peculiar species often nicknamed "zombie" worms because they consume whale bones at the bottom of the sea.

They would be searching for the worms using a remote-operated vehicle. My job as one of the science communicators for the museum would be to report back to schools in the UK.

But how do you engage pupils with science that is happening 5,000 miles away? We planned a series of video conferences and live chats with scientists before, during and after the trip. Pupils would be able to follow Glover and the team from their initial hypothesis, through collecting data and then interpreting their findings. It was a first for the museum: an amazing way to connect schools with scientists in remote places and revealing elements of the scientist's job that children don't usually see.

Neil Strowger, head of Bohunt School in Hampshire, says: "This innovative project has captured and held students' interest superbly due to the purposeful use of technology, in particular the video link and the ability to comment in real time."

For 13-year-old Charlie, it ignited an interest in a career in science. "It really improved my confidence in asking questions to scientists and I'm really glad I got to take part," he says.

For me and the scientists, the most exciting part was being able to share the discoveries in the Bahamas with pupils in the UK, live. Unfortunately, we didn't actually find Osedax worms, but the great thing about science is that a negative result is still a result. We have already replicated this success with another trip to Costa Rica, and in the future we hope to go as far afield as Borneo - the sky's the limit with this kind of technology.

Ivvet Modinou is one of a team of science communicators at the Natural History Museum. For more information see

What else?

Explore how animals adapt over time on Natural History Museum Learning's evolution site.

Look at creatures living under the sea with kCOATES' picture presentation.

Find all links and resources at

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