Nalini Nadkarni is conducting fieldwork for her forest canopy research project, sponsored by the National Science Foundation. She will be presenting a talk on her long-term research at this field site to over 60 natural history guides at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. These guides take over 100,000 visitors a year from Costa Rica and around the world through the forest trails, providing information on natural history, ecology, and conservation in the bioregion. Resident and visiting biologists will also attend the lecture.
The STEM Ambassador Program has received a new round of funding from NSF, extending the program until at least 2021.
The scientific enterprise needs transformative ways for scientists to interact synergistically with society, particularly with people who do not or cannot engage with science in informal education (ISE) venues (e.g., museums, science centers) due to variations in mobility, educational background, language, health, financial status, and other factors. Although these audiences are considered “hard-to-reach,” they can contribute to science and to a more informed citizenry.
In 2016-2018, with AISL support, the project carried out exploratory research to innovate the STEM Ambassador Program (STEMAP), which integrated three proven ISE approaches to train cohorts of scientists to meaningfully engage public audiences in venues where they naturally congregate (e.g., correctional institutions, cooking classes, senior centers). Other institutions have expressed strong interest in replicating STEMAP, but additional research is needed to make STEMAP (and other ISE programs) scalable and sustainable.
Project outcomes will include 70 trained scientists, five Mentors, two Site Leaders, two Site Facilitators, at least 70 engagement events, an Evaluation Toolkit, a “Broadening Participation in STEMAP” guide, documentation of engagement outcomes, a web-based repository of training materials and engagement resources, and a Dissemination Framework to inform actions to scale and sustain STEMAP and other engagement training programs.
This project, entitled “The STEM Ambassador Program: Supporting Scientists’ Engagement with Public Audiences,” is under the direction of Nalini Nadkarni, John C. Besley, Krista Carlson, Julie M. Risien, Dennis L. Schatz.