PS 1-22 - Engaging the public in observing changes in the environment

Monday, August 8, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
George R. Kish, U.S. Geological Survey, Tampa, FL

The understanding of science for students of all ages depends upon the ability of scientists to describe complex environmental issues in simple terms. Field observations of the natural world’s responses to environmental change have traditionally been conducted by university researchers and government scientists. However, due to increasingly limited resources, students and other citizen scientists are being recruited to help with this undertaking. The growing ranks of student and citizen science observers could also be mentored to observe and record detailed environmental, ecological, and phenological[1] events to maximize scientific investigations. A key component of citizen scientist and student training is to provide hands-on experiences to instill an understanding of how ecological and phenological events are influenced by environmental factors such as climate change.

In the southeastern United States, a pilot program is underway to teach climate change concepts by way of biological (ecology and phenology) principles to students and citizen scientists. The pilot program is being presented to students of varied cultural and educational backgrounds, including: 1) middle schools with limited resources for natural resources/environmental education, 2) tribal schools on native American lands to enhance natural resource conservation, 3) non-governmental organizations with enthusiastic citizen scientists, 4) agricultural extension service offices using environmental concepts to educate the public about sustainable practices, and 5) university students to spark interest in the relationship between ecology and the environment.

[1] Phenology refers to recurring plant and animal life cycle stages


Results from this pilot study will be used to: 1) incorporate phenology concepts to enhance ecology milestones for middle and high school curricula nationwide, 2) assist educators in the development of resources to be used in school programs, and 3) develop phenology networks to include nature preserves, school yards, backyards, botanical gardens, and parks for a long-term source of outdoor environmental education opportunities.

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