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.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

SIFT Training Week 2015 - Day 3 (Aquatic Day!)

As per tradition, the third day of the SIFT training week was focused on aquatic systems. The cohort split in two, half of them visiting Brush Creek in the morning and Wolf Run Lake in the afternoon, and the other half doing the opposite. Both groups performed water quality tests at the sites and sampled for organisms in the habitat, recording richness (number of species) and abundance (number of individuals of each species) in their field notebooks. They used these numbers and the species they found to predict whether the systems were healthy or polluted. Good news -- both groups agreed they are healthy!

SIFTers test the water quality at Brush Creek
Biotic sampling at Brush Creek
A SIFTer examining the diversity captured by the sampling at the creek
Water quality testing at the lake
Biotic sampling at the lake was done by dragging these coffee cans through the water. Mesh at the bottom kept any organisms the SIFTers happened to find in the can.
Dragging for aquatic organisms
A SIFTer caught a fishing spider! It was a big hit. Besides being interested in the large spider itself, everyone was intrigued by the shadows it made on the bottom of the container.
Identifying the organisms they found at the lake
Even though sampling in the St. Louis summer can be hard work, all of the SIFTers seemed to thoroughly enjoy Aquatic Day. They stayed focused, asked questions, and were fully transparent about their interest in the organisms they were finding. We couldn't be more happy with this cohort!

Monday, June 22, 2015

SIFT Training Week 2015 - Day 1

This week is the training week for Cohort 8 of SIFT! Cohort 8 boasts 30 SIFTers from 14 schools, and they all made it to day one, where they started off the week getting to know each other and getting comfortable at Shaw.

We started the day with an overview of Shaw and what to expect during the week, then moved outside for some icebreakers. Our discussion of field safety began with seeing who shared our opinions on what falls in our comfort, challenge, and panic zones and ended with examining live ticks in plastic boxes. Dr. James Trager gave a presentation on what exactly field biology means, and the SIFTers got to know each other more over lunch. After lunch, everyone got some practice with GPS units, navigating with a compass, and reading topographical maps before being sent out into Shaw to complete a challenge course in small groups.

SIFT Instructor Aileen Abbott starting the discussion of comfort, challenge, and panic zones
Sharing what experiences take us out of our comfort zones and seeing who agreed. Those who felt similarly challenged stepped into the larger ring representing the challenge zone, and if the experience might cause them to panic, they stepped into the middle ring representing the panic zone. Sometimes seeing that you're not alone in feeling challenged or panicked can help encourage you to step out of your comfort zone.
Learning the SIFT personalized snack system
Learning how to use the GPS units
SIFT program director Lydia Toth giving some GPS instructions that will be very important during the challenge course
This seems like a great group of SIFTers, and we're all excited to get to work with them over the coming week and year.

Monday, June 8, 2015

June TERF Day 1

Today the June TERFers arrived at Tyson! Despite having to wake up early, they were bright-eyed and eager to start their internship. They were troopers about sitting for a while to go over the new TERF guide containing directions, instructions, and policies for their time here, and then they knocked out the Tour de Tyson Challenge designed to get them familiar with key locations on the property.

One of the Challenge locations was the Mincke Quarry Cave, where we found this salamander!
(Left to right) Ciara Shaffer, Elizabeth Poor, Jolena Pang, Bailee Warsing, Katie Buatois, and Megan Kerr taking a group picture at the Tyson high point as a Challenge task.
In the afternoon, the TERFers met with their research teams, and everyone seemed to hit it off. It's shaping up to be a good month, and we hope the TERFers are as excited about it as we are. Welcome to Tyson, June TERFers!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

TERF 2015!

We're so excited that TERF is almost upon us! With the first session starting Monday, we thought we would take a moment to introduce the awesome young people joining us this summer.

Megan Kerr - John F. Kennedy Catholic High School, Natural Enemies Team
Jolena Pang - Clayton High School, Disease Vectors Team
Elizabeth Poor -  Clayton High School, Invasive Plants Team
Ciara Shaffer - Northwest High School, Forest Team
Bailee Warsing - Granite City High School, Turtle Tracking Team
Katie Buatois -  Eureka High School, Turtle Tracking Team

Jenita Larry - Hazelwood West High School, Natural Enemies Team
Lexie Beckermann - Eureka High School, Disease Vectors Team
Aspen Workman - Kirkwood High School, Invasive Plants Team
Albert Wang -Clayton High School, Forest Team
Claire Kosola - Lafayette High School, Turtle Tracking Team
Liz Rand - Parkway North High School, Turtle Tracking Team

We can't wait for the first group of TERFers to arrive, and we hope that they're as eager to start as we are to have them here. Here's to a great summer!