On the first of June, Tyson welcomed its first round of environmental research fellows (TERFers, as they are affectionately called). They embarked on their four-week adventure with a tour of Tyson in the form of a field challenge that allowed them to discover a bit of the land's present and historical use.
The tour included a few Tyson gems, like this bird feeding station in front of the headquarters building. Named for Joyce Duncan, a beloved office manager, this group of feeders welcomes hummingbirds, cardinals, nuthatches, woodpeckers, finches and many others.
On the first two afternoons, the teens jumped right in with their mentors on projects studying glades, prairies, ticks and their hosts, aquatic communities, wildflowers and pollinators. Unfortunately, some of the next few days were not as conducive to fieldwork.
Rain meant TERFers were stuck at headquarters, gazing longingly at the sogginess outside.
As a consolation prize, they enjoyed Dr. Tiffany Knight's introduction to population ecology, that taught them to use basic demographic data to project the future of species growth or decline. Other rainy day activities included a discussion of the nature of science with Dr. Tim Dickson, following the path from inquiry, data collection, analysis, peer review and dissemination to our current body of knowledge. Tips for keeping a lab notebook were reviewed and when the clouds began to separate, TERFers toured the new organic garden and joined the fight against weeds.
As the weather began to cooperate, allowing for more time in the field, the teens began to find their place on their research teams and in the greater Tyson community.
This educational collaboration between Washington University's Tyson Research Center and the Missouri Botanical Garden's Shaw Nature Reserve is designed to engage St. Louis area high school students in scientifically-based exploration of the natural world. Linked programs of field training (SIFT) and field research (TERF) provide teenagers with experiences that realistically reflect research in environmental biology. Participating teens learn a variety of field investigation skills and then have the opportunity to put those new skills to work assisting career scientists with real research projects.