We aim to help foster an appreciation of nature and an understanding of the scientific process by students and the general public, as well as to help society improve management of the environment. Below are examples of our recent outreach activities:
- In collaboration with Cat Stylinski and Andrew Elmore at the Appalachian Lab, the lab is helping to lead a student-teacher-scientist partnership in which students in environmental science classes from western Maryland are using water chemistry and stable isotope measurements to investigate nitrate pollution in stormwater runoff from their schools. Here’s a short clip we made to kick off the project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNCYo9m1i9Q
- As part of our NSF funded project “Fire, Atmospheric pCO2, and Climate as Alternative Primary Controls of C4-Grass Abundance: The Late-Quaternary Perspective” we conducted a 4-day course (in summer of 2010 and 2012) for middle and high school teachers in Illinois. A main goal of the course was to help the teachers incorporate research-based learning activities, related to climate change, ecology, and paleoecology, into their teaching. Some of the materials that were developed as part of the course will be made available at http://www.life.illinois.edu/eew.
- Assessing the potential impacts of wind energy development to wildlife, such as birds and bats, requires an understanding of geographic origins of populations potentially under threat. As part of our MD-DNR funded research into the impacts of wind-turbine mortality on bat populations in the Central Appalachians, we’ve been sharing our results with wind energy companies and state agencies.
- We’ve provided teachers in the central Appalachians with professional development opportunities and the chance to learn about environmental issues associated with wind energy development in our region. Most recently, we hosted 2 local science teachers, John and Jennifer, in summer 2013. These teachers collected stable isotope data to help determine the geographic origins of birds in regions with wind energy development. This research was done in collaboration with Dr. Todd Katzner at WVU. The teachers prepared lessons that they will implement in their classrooms in fall 2013. John’s lesson for high school students is entitled “Forensic Sleuths use Stable Isotopes to Track Golden Eagles” and Jennifer’s lesson for middle school students is entitled “Stable Isotopes as Geographic Indicators of Monarch Butterfly Origins”. Both lessons focus on the use of stable isotopes to infer the origins of migratory organisms. We plan to eventually make their lesson plans available online; please email us if you would like a copy before then. John and Jennifer were able to complete this internship thanks to funding from the Race to the Top program and to Allegany County Public Schools.
- Dave has served as a judge at the Mineral County (West Virginia) high school science fair each of the past few years. It’s been a great opportunity to learn about the research that local students are doing and to encourage the next generation of scientists.
- The Appalachian Lab has an open house for the public every spring. As part of this event, we’ve organized hands-on activities involving pollen identification and tree coring.