May 28, 2016
Homer grad's books mix science, nature
A Homer High School graduate who now writes children’s books took an unusual expedition in early May: exploring a crater believed to be caused by an asteroid theorized to have killed off dinosaurs 66 million years ago.
Kevin Kurtz, who grew up in Homer and graduated from Homer High School in 1989, began writing around the time he was in fourth grade.
“I remember writing and drawing my own comics,” Kurtz said in a telephone interview Friday.
Kurtz specializes in nonfiction children’s picture books about science and nature so when he had the chance in early May to take a trip to the Gulf of Mexico to explore the crater, he was excited.
Kurtz was invited to join a group of scientists on the research ship JOIDES Resolution as an educator. The trip was to a region in the Gulf of Mexico about 18 miles offshore of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The group, European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling, was formed by the International Ocean Discovery Program and specializes in marine geology. Kurtz came in contact with them through School of Rock, which offers hands-on research experiences for Earth and ocean science educators; while working at the Science Factory in Oregon.
“I used to work in a science museum and I got a notification from School of Rock to be taken out on the ship (JOIDES Resolution),” Kurtz said.
The group was drilling into the crater to take core samples of it in the hopes of answering a few key questions.
* Why impact craters form the way they do?
* What happened to the Earth after the asteroid hit?
* How did life come back after the asteroid hit?
Answers to these questions won’t be available right away, Kurtz said. The core samples taken by the team of scientists will be sent to Bremen, Germany, and in September scientists from all over the world will come together to study the collected samples, Kurtz said.
After the scientists meet for around two months they’ll take samples back to their own labs and study them until September 2017, Kurtz said.
The idea behind doing this is to have a better idea of how life started after the asteroid and how science can look for life on other planets, Kurtz said.
Only 15 people from a large group from all countries were chosen to go on the excavation, Kurtz said. There were 11 from the United States, two from Japan, one from France and one from Portugal.
The group wanted an educator to do outreach to students, Kurtz said.
“It was a way of connecting kids to science as it is happening now, not just what we’ve already learned,” Kurtz said. It is also a way “we can still be explorers,” he said.
The boat itself was an old oil industry boat for maintenance and transportation for oil rigs, Kurtz said. “It had these 250-foot-long legs, which go down and stand off the sea floor and lifts the boat 40 feet above the water surface,” Kurtz said.
The crew was made up of a Louisiana based crew and 12 scientists from Scotland, England, France and Germany.
In over a year with the research done by ECORD, there may be an answer as to just how life started after the asteroid hit Earth, Kurtz said.
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