An important part of the scientific process—one as carefully planned as every experiment in a well-thought-out program—is how to share findings with the community who will benefit most from understanding them. The education program of CONCORDE addresses the level of public trust in science through a two-pronged approach to make sure the information produced by CONCORDE scientists gets into the right hands.
Jessie Kastler, Coordinator of Program Development at the Marine Education Center of USM’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, is engaging two specific audiences to work with CONCORDE researchers.
The first group Kastler has targeted for outreach is regional high school science teachers. During the first year of the project, a selected group of highly qualified teachers interacted with scientists during the technology-rich learning experience of the AUV Jubilee. “This is awesome technology,” Kastler explains. “Oceanography is filled with cool gadgets that teachers can learn how to use themselves whenever possible.”
During the AUV Jubilee, teachers saw or used autonomous underwater vehicles, CTD (conductivity-temperature-depth) samplers, and multi-net plankton samplers during a day cruise aboard the R/V Point Sur into the Gulf of Mexico. Taking part in daily briefings about AUV activities in the Gulf and conversing with project scientists, the teachers learned firsthand about CONCORDE’s research mission. They are developing lesson plans with this information. They will teach the lessons in their classes, revising the plans based on student reaction. Once presented to the group, the plans will go on CONCORDE’s website for teachers around the country to use. Later workshops will train additional teachers.
While the teachers spread CONCORDE’s findings to the younger generation, Kastler will reach out to adults in the community by targeting local stakeholders, the commercial fisher folk most impacted by the lingering effects of the spill. On the Gulf coast, specific cultural groups tend to gravitate towards this profession, including a large group of first-generation Vietnamese who emigrated as a result of the conflict in their home country. Kastler has identified local Vietnamese leaders to act as liaisons with this fishing community, and both sides are very excited about working together on this project.
“We want to know more about how people who make their livings on the water feel about science, what their trust level is for our work,” Kastler says.
To that end, CONCORDE is enlisting senior commercial fishermen in a citizen scientist program, allowing them to do valuable hands-on work collecting data that CONCORDE scientists will assimilate into their findings. They will collect samples for the team to study during both fall and spring research missions. These fishers are working with CONCORDE educators and researchers to share project missions, methods, and results through fishing community forums. Participants will be invited to complete questionnaires to gauge the depth of their personal scientific knowledge and how they feel about people who study the Gulf and the data they present.
By targeting these two groups, teachers and fishermen, Kastler hopes to grow the local investment in the health of the Gulf across the community while spreading knowledge of CONCORDE’s work.
For more news about CONCORDE Outreach and AUV Jubilee be sure to check out our CONCORDE Newsletter Fall 2015!