|One of Jim Luppens fishing flies, made from a tuft of hair from his dog, Clancy.
Good Science and Fast Fish
Whether hes coordinating the activities of ASTM International Committee D05 on Coal and Coke or chasing fast-moving fish up and down the Atlantic coast, James Luppens is a roll-up-his-sleeves, hands-on kind of man. Its not surprising then, that, when he turned his attention to education, the award-winning result was an earth sciences curriculum that aims to get kids involved in every aspect of the coal industry.
Luppens, who has been an ASTM member since 1979, was working as a chief geologist for the Phillips Coal Company in 1990 when the company began to develop Resources and the Environment, a program to educate people about coal mining. We wanted to be able to explain to communities what coal mining was all about when the company was going to be working nearby, says Luppens, who coordinated the program. We wanted to explain all the different steps in coal mining, to help the community accept the new neighbor. The program was developed at Texas A&M University with a grant from Phillips.
Luppens, who currently is project chief for the coal assessment program of the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Va., says the program is unique because of its adaptability. It was designed for middle school students, but it can be easily adapted for high school and college classes, or even for use in elementary schools, says Luppens, who thinks that a key to the program is training the teachers to make them feel confident in taking the new curriculum back to their students. Teachers spend a week during the summer at regional coal mines to learn about mining and reclamation efforts.
What was fun for us is that we always got the teachers who were motivated enough to want to spend a week of their summer improving opportunities for their kids in the upcoming school year, says Luppens. He notes that the program has always gotten a great response from participating teachers.
We based our program on good science, says Luppens. We didnt say, Hey, were the coal industry, were going to beat you over the head with our message. We said, Heres what we do, heres the science behind it, here are the regulations. Luppens says a goal of the program is to show, rather than tell, what scientists do for a living, and to show the real-life applications of tools students learn about in school.
We wanted to show that science is fun and challenging, Luppens says.
The culmination of the program is a mock public hearing on bringing a mining operation into a region, in which students take on different roles, for example, mine manager, town mayor, geologist, and landowner. Students must research their roles extensively in order to successfully participate in the hearing.
Resources and the Environment, which has been taught in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi, won several national honors, including the Excellence in Mining Education Award in 1998. Nearly 1,000 teachers have been trained in the program since its inception.
Luppens is currently the chair of Committee D05 on Coal and Coke. Of the many standards that Luppens has been involved in, he has probably put the most work into the development of D 5192, Practice for Collection of Coal Samples from Core, which was originally approved in 1991. In addition to the development of the standard, Luppens involvement was instrumental in ASTM Manual 11, Manual on Drilling, Sampling, and Analysis of Coal, which is a support document to Practice D 5192. Luppens ASTM experience also includes serving as chair of the Committee on Standards.
Luppens hands-on approach to life clearly extends to his love of fishing, since he builds his own fly rods and ties his own flies. A fly fisherman since the late 1960s, he has been saltwater fly fishing for about 15 years. Some of his favorite fishing spots include the Snake River in Teton National Park and Green River in Utah. For saltwater fishing, Luppens is partial to the Chesapeake Bay and Cape Hatteras.
I enjoy saltwater fly fishing because youre never sure what youre going to get, says Luppens. You might get a blue fish, then a striped bass, then maybe a shark or false albacore. The fish can be quite big and the fight is unbelievable.
When it comes to fishing, Luppens says he subscribes to the catch and release ethic. All the fish I catch are still swimming in the stream, lake, or ocean the next day, says Luppens. I also use a barbless hook which helps release the fish without harming them. According to Luppens, false albacore especially qualify as catch and release fish, because, unlike other fish in the tuna family, false albies just dont taste very good. False albacore taste lousy, but theyre a blast to catch, says Luppens.