Thank you for your participation in the 2018-2019 GeoChallenge! Submission for this year’s challenge is now closed, and submitted projects are being appraised. Teams that qualify for the sixteen regional competitions will be notified in mid-February. We are excited to see your solutions!
Follow along with the fun at regionals and the national finals at #NatGeoChallenge!
Through her work, National Geographic Explorer Kakani Katija sees the effects of plastic pollution in our marine environment and its inhabitants. Kakani is a principal engineer and principal investigator and leads the Bioinspiration Lab at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. An active scientific diver, Kakani designs and deploys underwater tools like robotic vehicles and underwater imaging lasers to learn about ocean life. The technology and tools that Kakani develops expand the possibilities of scientific discovery in some of the most remote parts of the ocean.
On her current expedition, Kakani is exploring the ocean twilight zone (200-1,000 meters deep), seeking information and inspiration to develop bio-inspired engineering technologies of the future. Show your GeoChallenge team(s) this short video about her early research on jellyfish and water flow.
Kakani and her team have been studying Bathochordaeus, a giant larvacean in the waters off of California. Using a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, and specialized lasers and cameras, Kakani’s team discovered that these giant mucus-generating animals eat and trap microplastics in their filtering houses, and then leave behind plastic-rich mucus and feces that end up on the ocean floor. Larvaceans, their houses, and their feces are food for many other sea animals, thus introducing microplastics into the food chain. Working with other scientists, Katija has recently learned that microplastics are found from the sea surface to 1,000 meters, and potentially deeper. This research confirms that plastic pollution is not just a surface-of-the-ocean problem.
Here’s more about giant larvaceans and MBARI’s discoveries about microplastics:
Originally from Hawaii and raised in Portland, Oregon, Kakani started ice skating at the age of five, eventually becoming a member of the U.S. International Figure Skating Team. Kakani’s higher education began in aeronautics and astronautics at the University of Washington. Kakani then earned her M.S. in aeronautics and her Ph.D. in bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology. In pursuing her research interests, Kakani has lived and worked all over the world, exploring the ocean depths to learn about mysterious marine creatures using scuba and robots from the sea surface to 4,000 meters deep.
Follow these links to “dive in” to Kakani Katija’s research, career, and what inspires her:
Here is a sampling of related National Geographic resources. The following images and articles can help jumpstart your students’ project work by providing a sense of urgency and inspiration for their brainstorming.
Please use caution when sharing resources so that you do not give your students a solution. As a GeoChallenge Coach, your job is to facilitate your students' research and work. Share resources sparingly and avoid proposing solutions or steering the inquiry in a specific direction. This is a student-centered project and not an extension of instruction taking place within the school day. At most, these web pages should be a starting point for brainstorming ideas that may lead to an innovative solution.
Resources from National Geographic Kids, including a kid pledge to reduce plastics
Featuring National Geographic Explorer Shannon Switzer
A curated collection of National Geographic Education resources—a great starting point for your research
Learn more about and join National Geographic’s multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic trash crisis
Articles and images from the June 2018 Plastics issue of National Geographic magazine
Pro Tip: Having trouble finding your submission code? When you (or your school/organization’s GeoChallenge Coordinator) registered for the GeoChallenge, National Geographic sent an email with the link to the submission site and your unique code. Check your email and/or talk to your Coordinator. If you still can’t find this information, you can contact the GeoChallenge office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pro Tip: Shared by a GeoChallenge Coach from Massachusetts who has already submitted Tackling Plastic! projects for 16 teams:
“I had students take all photos and videos on one student's phone. I then uploaded all those to my computer and put a folder on my desktop with the [team’s] name. It was much easier to upload everything all at once...to the online system from that folder at the same time.”