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, October 27, 2012

TERFers present at WUSTL Undergraduate Research Symposium

On Saturday, October 27, 2012, several of the TERFers presented posters at the WUSTL Undergraduate Research Symposium in Olin Library.  This is an amazing opportunity for high school students to participate in an advanced college-level experience in scientific communication.  And I'm happy to report that they are easily mistaken for undergraduates!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The 2012 Tyson Olympics

As with every year, the end of the field season at Tyson Research Center also means that it is time for the Tyson Olympics. The morning began with the various research teams going off to set up their events for the day.

The Pollinators
The Pollinators
The Turtle Team and Eric
The Mighty Oaks (Forest Team)
The Aquatic Team
The Glade Runners
The Fire Ecology Team
After the Opening Ceremony, it was time for the competitive events.
  • Measure to the Sharpie
  • Seed Trap Toss
  • Count the Seeds 
  • Tree Diameter 
  • Leaf Identification
  • Bee Ball
  • Prairie Plant Sorting
  • Kiss From a Rose
  • Fire Obstacle Course
  • Cattle Tank Run
Flag Ski-ball
Taste That Plant
Measure to the Sharpie
Taste That Plant

After a fun-filled morning, the Awards Ceremony closed out the Tyson Olympics for 2012.

Monday, July 23, 2012

SIFT & TERF National Dissimenation Workshop - July 18-20

During mid-July, Shaw Nature Reserve hosted the second SIFT & TERF National Dissemination Workshop for Year 5 of the NSF Informal Science Education project. The purpose of the 3-day workshop is to showcase the SIFT and TERF program models, share lessons learned from working with high school students, and present the results of the informal science education research.

Participants were invited from all around the country and from a variety of professions related to environmental biology and education. The July group consisted of four science teachers, an educator from the Botanical Society of America, a representative of the US Forest Service, an instructor from the Conserv School, a field station director, and four research scientists interested in learning more about engaging pre-college students in authentic field research. The workshop was designed to lead the participants through activities to get them thinking about the logistics of having a similar project back at their home institutions. Throughout the three days they had unlimited access to Project Director and TERF Program Director Susan Flowers, SIFT Program Director Lydia Toth, Evaluator Kathi Beyer, and Shaw education staff. There were also moments for discussion with other people who have been engaged first hand with both programs.

The workshop opened at noon on Wednesday with lunch, introductions, and goals. During the afternoon there was an overview of the SIFT & TERF programs followed by a tour of SIFT programming sites at Shaw. 

Later on in the early evening, the workshop group made their way to Tyson Research Center for two special seminars with the Tyson community. The two presenters for the night were workshop participants Dr. Nicole Miller-Struttmann (University of Missouri-Columbia) and Dr. Brad Oberle (University of Missouri-St. Louis).

Once the Wednesday evening seminar was over, the group made their way back to Shaw to have dinner with SIFT & TERF alumni and Dr. Tiffany Knight, who shared her journey from skeptical scientist to enthusiastic mentor of high school students. Former TERFers were invited back to serve as a panel for the teachers and scientists to get the participants' perspective. All the responses we received showed that the participants really enjoyed meeting with alumni of the program and hearing about their personal experiences.

The Thursday morning agenda included group work sessions designed to address program logistics, barriers to implementation, and budget issues. The afternoon included a tour of Tyson during which participants were introduced to large-scale Tyson research projects that have had support from SIFTers and TERFers.

The workshop participants were welcomed in by the Tyson community for the usual Thursday evening seminar and barbeque dinner. The two presenters for this night were Dr. Kay Havens (Chicago Botanic Garden) and Dr. Charles Nilon (University of Missouri-Columbia).

Friday included a final work session, reflection, and survey before the participants made their way back home. The surveys results were very positive and showed that the teachers and scientists are interested and willing to create similar programs back at their institutions.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Third and Final SIFT Prairie Work Day

 On July 16th, the Tyson Prairie Team led their third and final SIFT Prairie work day. Some of the participating SIFTers are veterans when it comes to plant sorting, whereas a few were new to the whole process. Uber-TERFers Alex Samuels, Brendan Hellebusch, and Taylor Rohan organized the work day and taught the new helpers the techniques.

Adam Reiter and Mo Vanacht recording the mass of their sample.

These SIFTers were so determined and hard working that they were able to help the Prairie Team finish the last of their biomass sampling. Once all the work for the day was done, the SIFTers were given a tour of the experimental prairies and Tyson Research Center were they learned more about the work that goes on here.

The plant sorting team of Maddie Herries and Courtney Vishy.
SIFTers not pictured: Virginia Lee and Jonathon Winkler

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Fire Team Continues to Grow

Kathleen Endicott and Noah Feuer sample a quadrant in the 
Fire Ecology Team's forest plot.

As we move into July, the Fire Ecology Team has moved into the forest for their next chunk of work. The new July TERFers, Kathleen Endicott and Noah Feuer, quickly learned the ropes and have been hard at work ever since.

A pleased Kathleen during her first week of work.

Noah counting the number of plants in each plot.

Undergraduate Mikala and June TERFer Nithya John working 
on a hot July day.

July TERFers

We have added in a few new faces for July, but kept on quite a few familiar ones from June. The TERFers often become so well integrated into the Tyson research teams that no one wants to let them go!
Fire Ecology Team
Noah Feuer
Kathleen Endicott
Nithya John ~ returning from June session
Tyler Pokoski ~ returning from June session

Forest Ecology Dynamics Plot Team
Tom Hogancamp
Alex Duchild ~ returning from June session

Aquatics Team
Alex Ford

Glade Team
Julia Steger ~ returning from June session

Turtle Team
Meredith Hessling ~ returning from June session

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cohort 2 is in the house!

You never know who is going to show up at Tyson on a summer Thursday evening!  Max dropped in to see how Jessica is handling being the TERF undergraduate intern, and what Alex and Taylor are up to in the experimental prairie.  Or he just really misses the bison burgers!

(l to r) Jessica Plaggenberg, Alex Samuels, Max Margherio, Taylor Rohan

Friday, July 6, 2012

July Week 1 Discussion

Lauren Woods leads the TERF paper discussion.

After a long, hot July week the second session of TERFers finished their first week of work. This week was a lot different than the first session’s seeing as there were a few TERFers who carried over from the June session. During the Thursday group discussion we checked in on how everyone was doing and how they were adapting to their team. While some TERFers had a smooth transition into their team, others were a little more rough.

“I feel like the chunky pineapple bits in the jello. You aren’t quite in the jello like the rest,” says Alex Ford.

The students also discussed what their hardest experience of the week was and what the best was. 

“I really liked starting early to avoid the heat,” said Tom Hogancamp of the Forest Team.

Later on during that afternoon, Lauren Woods, the TERF T.A., came in for the group’s first paper discussion. As a group they went over strategies for reading scientific papers and what makes a good research question. To get the TERFers thinking about their experiences, Lauren had each of them explain what the main question and hypotheses were for their research teams. 

 Tyler (June), Noah (July), Meredith (June), Nithya (June), 
Alex F. (July), and Tom H. (July)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tyson Welcomes the July TERFers

Without any hesitation, the July TERFers jumped into work with the Tyson Community. On Monday morning the four July TERFers met Susan and myself in the LLC for a brief introduction and welcome to Tyson. Being such a small group, it didn't take long for everyone to get acquainted  to one another.

Susan going over contact info with the July TERFers, 
Tom Hogancamp, Alex Ford, Noah Feur, and Kathleen Endicott.

The morning began with introductions and ice breakers to get everyone comfortable with each other. From there we gave out the TERFers binders, field guides, and Tyson water bottles. Susan went over the binder contents with them and what the expectations are for the work they will be doing. Once that was all explained, it was off for the Tour de Tyson Challenge! 

As a part of the Tour de Tyson Challenge, the TERFers had to learn more 
about the Living Learning Center and what it means to be a certified living buillding.

These TERFers became acquainted with the layout of Tyson with the help of their "scavenger hunt" to all of the facilities and major research sites.

Tom Hogancamp in the Headquarters kitchen/classroom reading off the clue 
for the next location.

TERFers in the main office as they leave a note saying "Hi from the 
July TERFers" for Tyson Associate Director Dr. Kevin Smith.

Monday, July 2, 2012

June Session Comes to A Close

 The June Session of TERF at B-7 (the highest point at Tyson).
Back Row (left to right): Susan, Tom, Alex, Adil, Tyler
Front Row (left to right): Jackie, Meredith, Nithya, Amber, Julia, Maddie
Front Sitting: Jacqueline

As sad as it is, all good things must come to an end. The June session came to a close last Friday for this summer's first group of TERFers. During the morning, the students went out into the field with their teams for one last time. Once lunch time passed, all of the TERFers piled into the TERF Mobile for one last ride around Tyson. As we visited each of the research sites on the toasty afternoon, everyone enjoyed drumstick ice cream treats while Susan quizzed them on Tyson knowledge. It was so exciting to see just how close everyone got after a month of working together. Even though we were packed into the Suburban, everyone was talking, laughing, and having a good time

Susan lifting up the tarp just inside the cave entrance so the 
TERFers could see some cave salamanders.

The tour of Tyson ended at Mincke Quarry Cave where we all headed inside for a last debrief. While sitting on top of some large boulders in the cool cave, everyone went around and said what their favorite and least favorite parts of TERF were. This gave the high schoolers a moment to get away from the craziness of the Tyson community and to just relax and reflect on the past month.

 Tom, Nithya, Meredith, Jackie, Alex, and Tyler in Mincke Quarry Cave.

Being in a relaxed environment allowed us to discuss what the program did for them, how they benefited from it, and how TERF could be made better. It was also interesting to hear the TERFers' opinions on environmental biology as a possible career. A few said they can definitely see themselves pursuing something similar. While some others said they can't see themselves having this as a career, they could see themselves doing field work after this experience. All in all, it seems that these TERFers had a few personal growth moments throughout June, as well as having a good time with peers and mentors.

The glade TERFers, Maddie and Julie, standing on a 
boulder in the cave.

Jacqueline and Amber happily enjoying their TERF debrief.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Another SIFT Prairie Work Day?

SIFTers from session 2 were given the chance to help the Tyson Prairie Team with some plant sorting this week. To start off this SIFT work day, project leader Dr. Tiffany Knight gave the students a presentation on what the prairie project is all about. Once the presentation was over, SIFTers got a chance to go see the 102 prairie plots for themselves and also other research sites at Tyson Research Center.

Dr. Tiffany Knight explains how each plot has a different treatment.

 Super-Uber-TERFer Taylor Rohan teaches SIFTers about plants found within prairies. This is Taylor's third summer at Tyson and she is an expert.

Once the tour was over, everyone headed back inside the LLC for a day of plant sorting. By assisting the Prairie Team, the students were able to get a feel for what real data collection inside a field research project is like. SIFT students also had a chance to meet the Tyson community and talk to current TERFers about their experience in this program. 

 Jonathan and Louis weighing their plant sample.

 Trey sorting prairie grasses.

 Working together, Adam and Ben get ready to record the weight of their plot sample.

Uber-TERFer Brendan Hellbusch expresses his excitement for prairie plants! This is Brendan's second summer working on the experimental prairie project.