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.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

TERF posters under construction

On Saturday, September 25th the TERFers got together to begin work on posters! It was great to see everyone together for the first time since orientation back in May. Well, almost everyone. It is very hard to corral busy high school students from all around the St. Louis area, but we did get 11 of 18 to meet up in the Tyson Living Learning Center computer lab.

We started off with a quick slide show from the Tyson Olympics on the last day of the field season. And then I asked the TERFers to share their best and worst from the summer experience.

Some of the BEST comments were related to a sense of accomplishment - finishing the tree plot, finishing the prairie plots, catching more bees than another team. Other comments were related to specific tasks or teams - soil testing with Kristin Powell, working with tadpoles on the chytrid fungus project, visiting all of the tick research sites, counting frog eggs, getting a private tour of the Insectarium at the Saint Louis Zoo. And a couple of comments were about the sense of community - meeting people, participating in the Tyson Olympics.

Many of the WORST comments were about certain really hard tasks - working in the tree plot (x2), cleaning bottles, glade clearing (x4). A couple of comments were related to common field conditions - getting ticks, and feeling embarrassed about being muddy when returning to the Forest Part Visitor's Center. And again there were a few comments related to the sense of community - saying goodbye was hard, and hating being too busy to come back (x2).

We finally turned our discussion to the research communication part of the TERF program. There was consensus that BIODIVERSITY should be the overarching key message and it was decided that in the interest of getting three posters completed for the October 23rd symposium, the group should focus on three particular research project areas as representations of the importance of biodiversity.
  • Forest Census Research
  • Pollination Research
  • Invasive Species Research
The TERFers assigned themselves to work groups and then started to tackle text and photos for each poster. Everyone has created a free account so that they can access all of the photos from the summer. And some have even created a Google group so that they can collaborate between the poster work sessions.

There was also talk of taking TERF presentations to the high schools, both as a way to communicate the importance of the field research and as a way to help recruit for the final SIFT cohort of the NSF ISE project. I will be e-mailing teachers at each of the TERFers' schools to see what we can set up for later this fall and winter. TERF Cohort 1 was interested in the TERF on Tour idea, but we were unable to get a coordinated effort. I suspect that Cohort 2 will make this happen!

Geralle Powell smiles at one of the group photos from June

(foreground, l to r) Franklin Warner, Alex Samuels, and Taylor Rohan get started on writing about invasive species research
while (background, l to r) Ben Howard and Adrienne Ernst share stories of catching bees in Forest Park

(l to r) Max Margherio and Jessica Plaggenberg start work on a poster describing the forest census project

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fall TERFy Activities

The school year is in finally in full swing and with that comes the inevitable filling up of student calendars with homework, projects, and extracurricular activities. I realize we are asking a lot of our TERFers to stay engaged with the TERF program after the excitement of the summer internship work is over...

But, that being said, I've managed to get some responses from the Cohort 2 TERFers via a Doodle. (Cool tool for finding the best times to meet.) Here are some activities scheduled for the very near future:

Saturday, September 25th, 1:00-4:00 pm

The plan for our first fall meeting is to use the Tyson LLC computer lab to get started on a few collaborative research communication posters to be included in a symposium at Wash U. We will need to decide which research projects we would like to focus on and then divvy up the work of crafting text, selecting photos, doing the layout, etc.

Saturday, October 9th, 1:00-4:00 pm

Second meeting to keep the ball rolling on the posters...

Saturday, October 23rd

Undergraduate Research Symposium at Washington University Danforth Campus
  • 10:00 am poster set up - we will help the Undergraduate Research Office get posters attached to display boards
  • 12:00 noon symposium - we will take turns standing by our posters and walking around to view other posters (especially those of the undergrads we worked with at Tyson during the summer!)
We are very fortunate to be allowed to participate in this symposium. The Cohort 1 TERFers did attend the event last year, but did not have posters ready in time. It will be a great opportunity to see how undergraduate students present their research to the university community and to practice our own poster talks.