Throughout the vast oceans that cover the Earth, the giant icecaps at the North and South poles, and the wide rivers that run through Pittsburgh, there exist millions of unique creatures, both known and undiscovered, living in some of the most delicate and important ecosystems that exist, supporting life both above and below the water's surface. Pittsburghers are well aware of the rivers' influence on their lives, but are they aware of their impact on the rivers?
Carnegie Science Center will bring those impacts and others to the surface during Wild Water Weekend, September 13 – 14, with special programming on ecosystems beneath the water's surface, how we interact with these environments both positively and negatively, the impact of global warming, and ways to safely experience these amazing underwater ecosystems.
The best way to explore these amazing ecosystems is by diving in, and Pittsburgh Emergency Medical Services River Rescue Unit's Master SCUBA divers are some of the most experienced in the region. During Wild Water Weekend, the River Rescue Unit will be moored on the Ohio River at the Science Center, demonstrating their unique skills in water rescue, emergency medical care, and diving.
On both Saturday and Sunday, River Rescue officers will simulate a river rescue with multiple divers, demonstrating the dry suit equipment that allows them to communicate with officers above the water while working below the surface. Rescue divers will also talk with visitors about the training required for SCUBA diving, the use of a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus that allows for deeper, prolonged dives.
From 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, visitors can tour Explorer, RiverQuest's latest addition in environmental education. This environmentally friendly, 90-foot hybrid powered boat recently arrived on the North Shore and is currently being certified by the Coast Guard to operate as a floating environmental education center. Once certified, Explorer will provide groups the opportunity to tour Pittsburgh's rivers and examine their complex ecosystems.
Science Center visitors also can explore an underwater ecosystem very different from that found in the surrounding rivers – a coral reef and mangrove swamp. The Science Center's 2,000 gallon SeaScape exhibit, a series of interconnected tanks featuring different regions of a coral reef, allows visitors to discover the numerous plants and animals – from sea cucumbers and clownfish to seahorses and jellyfish - that create this dynamic community.
Presentations throughout the weekend by Science Center SeaScape experts will help visitors understand the significance of the exhibit, explaining how human activities have damaged coral reefs and current efforts to stem this deterioration and rebuild reefs around the world.
On Saturday at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m., Dr. Joylette Portlock, a presenter from The Climate Project, a nonprofit environmental awareness organization connected to former Vice-President Al Gore's environmental efforts, will discuss the effects of global warming and the current and anticipated changes in global climate. Dr. Portlock will discuss the basics of climate science, possible future effects of climate change, and actions that can help correct this trend.
The effects of climate change can be witnessed in the Science Center's four-story IMAX® dome theater in the new film Wild Ocean, a spectacular look at the economic and cultural impacts of the annual sardine migration along the Kwazulu-Natal Coast of South Africa. Capturing breaching whales, feeding sharks, and amazing footage of this massive migration, the film explores the impact climate change has played on this delicate ecosystem and the South African economy.
In addition to these activities, visitors can explore the science of sand and sea in the Kitchen Theater, dig for buried treasure in the Science Center's sandbox, and take part in other hands-on activities throughout the weekend.