News

Geology Students Spearheading Outreach Program

In response to recent conversations about increasing diversity in the sciences, graduate students in the University of Cincinnati Department of Geology have begun spearheading efforts to learn about and discuss diversity as well as work to make science more readily available to a wider audience, especially underserved communities. As a part of these efforts, graduate students and faculty have been working to increase the department’s engagement with the local community to bring scientific research directly to students through partnerships with local schools.  

Each graduate student and faculty member has designed activities and presentations about their work that are meant to engage K-12 students. Descriptions and contact information related to these activities and presentations were put together into an Earth Science Outreach Program website. For each opportunity, a graduate student or faculty member has committed to visiting classrooms to lead the activity, bringing interesting materials and their own unique experiences. Presentations are free and can be adapted to suit the needs of specific curricula, teachers, and classes. 

The group is excited to start working with teachers and is ready to adapt to virtual or in person settings as current COVID-19 conditions change. 

Speakers Hosted by Science Policy Ambassadors this Spring

The University of Cincinnati’s Science Policy Ambassadors are excited to host a series of talks this semester. Below is the schedule with links to the virtual talks, along with the speakers who will be presenting. Descriptions will be available shortly before each talk. Follow @SPAUCS for updates!

Tuesday, February 2nd at 5:30pm: Naomi Charalambakis, PhD (FASEB)   

Registration link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUqc-GrqzwjH9GY0Fo-Jvu6gor5RKoKk98n  

Naomi Charalambakis, PhD, is a Senior Science Policy Analyst for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), a coalition of 29 scientific societies collectively representing over 130,000 individual biological and biomedical researchers. In this role, she leads efforts of FASEB’s Animals in Research and Education working group, developing policy statements, tracking congressional legislation and agency directives related to animal use in federal research, and creating resources for the lab animal community.  

Monday, March 1st at 5:00pm:  Sheeva Azma, MS (Former Legislative Intern) 

Registration link:  

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwuceGgqTwpG9YEtUeev2B21xY7hIflaFaV

A freelance science writer since 2013, Azma recently founded her own science writing company, Fancy Comma, LLC (www.fancycomma.com). She has also advocated for science on Capitol Hill and has served as a legislative intern in a House office. Sheeva’s work has been published in The Motley Fool, The Xylom, The Kim Komando Show, and LifeWire. 

Tuesday, March 23rd at 5:00pm: Cameron L. Tracy, PhD (Kendall Global Security Fellow)  

Registration link:https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAudu6uqTMrHtyaRHt_ltPlZLD4gkEppv27 

Cameron Tracy on nuclear arms control and the interface between science and security policy. His current research involves analysis and modeling of the flight conditions of hypersonic weapons in order to determine their effects on global strategic stability. 
 

Monday, April 12 at 4:00pm : Matt Robson, PhD (Assistant Professor at UC College of Medicine)  

Registration link:https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcvduyhqzIvE9PxETt1_Z6XpDx7RGbfD9gg 

Into The Woods: Cincinnati Nature Center

For over 50 years, the Cincinnati Nature Center (CNC) has aimed to inspire people, especially children, to enter nature and explore. Children have innate fascination and curiosity surrounding nature; CNC has a history of fostering this fascination and of getting children and adults alike “into the woods.” In 2020, students in our course Public Engagement with Science partnered with CNC to lead and judge a virtual poster contest, challenging K-12 students to create materials about planting native. This week, the Public Programs Manager Jason Neumann shared part of CNC’s story with the Center for Public Engagement with Science.

 The Cincinnati Nature Center came to be as people were becoming more aware of environmental issues; Silent Spring had recently been published, and new parks and nature centers were being founded. CNC is made up of two locations, Rowe Woods and Long Branch Farm and Trails, with two different stories. Prior to their donation, both sites were mostly farmland. Rowe Woods was the original semi-wooded site for CNC, named for and founded by Stanley Rowe. Rowe was involved in his community and was an advocate for nature and education. He and a core group wanted to found a nature center. They purchased land owned by the Krippendorf family who wanted to sell the land but avoid it being developed. From the beginning, Rowe meant for CNC to captivate children’s curiosity. Schools came there for field trips, founding members led educational hikes, and people bought memberships to hike the trails.

Long Branch Farm and Trails was donated to CNC in 1972 by owners who wanted it to be used to teach people about where their food comes from. Like Rowe Woods, it has hosted a lot of field trips over the years. It operated as an educational farm with domestic animals until 2005. When school curricula changed in the early 2000’s to no longer include agriculture, fewer school groups visited the site.

Since then, Long Branch Farm and Trails has been more focused on native plants, converting old farm fields to pollinator habitat, and removal of invasive species. More recently, native perennial edibles  plants such as pawpaw, persimmon, passionfruit, a variety of berries, black walnuts, and sumac have been added with future visitor engagement in mind. Mr. Neumann started a small foraging group that eventually grew to 500 members who hike at Long Branch Farm and Trails and learn to harvest these plants. They teach the slogan “right plant, right part, right time, right preparation” in reference to foraging safely. Mr. Neumann says that a food-based interaction with the natural world can inspire people by giving them deeper interactions with the natural world. Being able to recognize plants and animals on a trail; being able to recognize, sustainably harvest, then eat part of a plant adds yet another level to being outside. This can even include beer and wine! Currently some of the Long Branch Farm and Trails produce is taken to a local brewery and the resulting brews are served as story-laden beverages at member events. CNC is planning to scale this up in partnership with HighGrain Brewery to make things out of plants such as elderflowers.

Much of CNC’s story that Mr. Neumann recounted involved more recent events, since he began work at CNC 25 years ago. Although people still join CNC for access to the hikes at both Rowe Woods and Long Branch Farm and Trails, other programs and opportunities have continued to be developed.

Even with new programming, the core goals of CNC have hardly changed. Its mission still centers around encouraging children’s curiosity and getting people into nature, as well as being responsible stewards of their sites. In 2011, they opened one of the first “Nature PlayScapes” for children. Not just a playground, the space is filled with natural materials for open-ended play and is intended to be a place where children can build and dig, providing them ways to explore nature that are not always available in a city. Their efforts inspired other groups in the region to create similar spaces, including in local parks and schools.

CNC focuses on meeting people where they are and helping them learn. Their focus has shifted from purely natural history focus to applications of natural history knowledge, which appeals to more people. Cincinnati Nature Center staff create public programs, including the foraging group at Long Branch Farm and Trails, weekend children’s programs and a teen interest group. The teen interest group is designed for adolescents who enjoy nature and gives them a community of like-minded peers. They hike, work at Long Branch Farm, get involved in science summits, and do other projects.

In response to COVID-19, CNC began using reservations to control numbers and keep visitors and staff healthy. Even with the new system, CNC’s membership “skyrocketed” as people have sought safe diversions during the pandemic. Mr. Neumann is excited for the new creative opportunities that CNC has to serve members’ interests, both now during the pandemic and in the coming years.

Krippendorf house pre-1934, on the property that would become Rowe Woods

Affiliate Spotlight: Dr. Arnie Miller

Arnold Miller

This week, we highlight the work of Dr. Arnie Miller. Dr. Miller is an Advisory Board member of the UC Center for Public Engagement with Science, as well as Professor Emeritus, former Head of the UC Geology Department, and former Senior Associate Dean of the UC College of Arts and Sciences.  

Dr. Miller is an evolutionary paleontologist and paleoecologist. His research has focused on mass extinctions and their impacts on global biodiversity, environmental gradients, and anthropogenic effects on modern coastal communities. Dr. Miller differs from a lot of paleontologists in that his passion did not stem from a childhood interest in dinosaurs or other fossils. He grew up in New York City, and with the exception of the American Museum of Natural History, there are not a lot of fossils to be found there. Dr. Miller found became interested in geology while living among geology majors in college. He took a course in geology to learn more about what his peers were talking about, ultimately leading to him pursuing majors in geology and biology. During his studies, he was inspired by a professor who introduced him to using fossils as data to study biodiversity and mass extinctions, which is when he first became passionate about paleontology.  

In 2007, Dr. Miller was elected as a Fellow of the Paleontological Society for, among other work, being instrumental in the Paleobiology Database (PBDB). This website is a compilation of  fossil data, where they were found, the publication that described them, and where they can be found now. It is used by paleontologists with an interest in “big data”- the use of multiple collections to piece together an understanding of broad trends in space and time. However, this database is open source, and is also used by instructors to give their students experience processing data.  

Since then, Dr. Miller has served as the President of the Paleontological Society; he is currently finishing his term as Past President. In this position, he has strived to champion diversity, equity, and inclusion. He has encouraged the scientific community to acknowledge our previous shortcomings in these areas. He is co-chair of the Society’s ethics committee, dedicated to ensuring that Society is inviting, safe, and inclusive for all participants in its activities. He and his colleagues are working to improve opportunities for people with diverse backgrounds to enter all fields of science. The Society has been developing financial opportunities for underrepresented minorities, and Society representatives now regularly attend  meetings focused on minority inclusion in science, such as the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). They also work to increase education and outreach that specifically targets underrepresented audiences.   

Dr. Miller also addressed outreach and community involvement in science in his role as Head of the Geology Department and as A&S Senior Associate Dean. When the Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) closed for renovations a few years ago, he was a part of a group that worked to bring some of the exhibits to the University of Cincinnati campus. Along with this, they scheduled programs such as a panel on global climate change that drew in community members in Cincinnati. CMC exhibits were also set up at the airport, and the teams behind this and the University exhibits held a townhall at a conference for museum professionals about their experiences setting these up. These exhibits being in different environments effectively brought the museum to people who might not normally visit, resulting in more engagement than may normally be possible.  

Dr. Miller also has had the opportunity to engage in debates about evolution and creation. He thinks that engaging people of all backgrounds and belief systems is important without being perceived as condescending. As part of the 2009 North American Paleontology Convention hosted at UC, Miller, who was chair of the organizing committee, took 75 paleontologists to visit the Creation Museum to give them a firsthand look at what and how ideas were being communicated there. Members of the group found the visit to be eye-opening, with respect to how professionally ideas were presented from a strictly technical standpoint, even though those ideas diverged from accepted science. Responding to dissent is important, but scientists do not always communicate well, and doing so well with humility and respect is crucial. Every year while teaching an introductory-level course on the history and evolution of life , he spent a week on the creationism-versus-evolution question, including inviting a representative from the Creation Museum to speak to the class at the end of the semester ; this was followed by extensive, in-class discussion . While Dr. Miller does not think that direct debates with creationists are helpful or productive, he does encourage scientists be aware of  and understand the bases of other views. Through the study and discussion of creationism, he hoped that students would come to understand what information was being taken out of context. He also encouraged them to listen, rather than making wholesale judgements about what others think; everyone’s beliefs and ideas have multiple dimensions and need to be taken seriously. 

As an emeritus professor, Dr. Miller is continuing to work with the Paleontological Society and University. Besides his work on the Center’s Advisory Board, he is also helping to develop a Digital Futures Consultant program for new and young faculty at the University of Cincinnati. He’s also becoming more politically involved; in the most recent election, he served as a poll watcher and on a “Protect the Vote” hotline for people who had questions about how to vote.  

Dr. Miller’s message is one of encouragement. He wants people to keep their minds open to other people and opportunities around them, especially those outside of the classroom. Had it not been for the experiences he had in college, especially those that focused on working with data  , he likely would have taken a different path. In recruiting diverse participants to paleontology and geology, he advocates speaking  about the diverse opportunities there are for people who want to work in these areas.  “Field work and adventures in the out of doors can be off-putting, at least initially, to people who grow up in  urban settings, for example, and yet we do other things that aren’t field work, such as working on computers and in geochemistry labs.” Paleontology and geology are not just for those who enjoy field work and dinosaurs; these fields, and science in general, are diverse and have something for everyone.  

Science Policy Ambassadors Social

The Science Policy Ambassadors, a new student group at the University of Cincinnati, will be hosting an online social on Monday, November 9th at 5 pm.   

Affiliated with the Union of Concerned Scientists, this student group aims to provide graduate and undergraduate students opportunities to learn and engage in science policy, and ultimately help them gain experience as advocates for science. The Science Policy Ambassadors aim to help build a network of these opportunities, to create resources for students with an interest in these careers, and promote the opportunities that already exist. 

This student group is open to all majors, and hosts six to seven speakers each semester. You can follow them @SPAUCS to get involved, and RSVP for the social hour here

Welcome Dr. Ryan Feigenbaum

We are excited to welcome Dr. Ryan Feigenbaum as the Center for Public Engagement with Science’s new Program Director. Dr. Feigenbaum will also serve as the new Executive Director of the Philosophy of Science Association (see PSA announcement here). He combines experience in digital media, web development, and digital humanities with expertise in the history and philosophy of the life sciences. His writing encompasses everything from best practices for the visual aspects of online communication to digital exhibits that explore the intersections of history, science, and art.

Dr. Feigenbaum’s efforts in public engagement include a digital exhibit called “Poetic Botany,” created for the New York Botanical Garden. In this exhibit, Dr. Feigenbaum explores the biology of each of nine plant species, incorporating art and poetry from people who were inspired by these plants, as well as the stories of these artists and scientists. The end result has the potential to reach a broader audience than a physical exhibit would, and appeals to people with a variety of interests.

“The Sensitive Plant,” part of the Poetic Botany virtual exhibit

Dr. Feigenbaum has also written about seemingly less exciting organisms, such as algae. In “Visions of Algae in Eighteenth-Century Botany,” he recounts how scientists discovered and improved our understanding of algae. He begins with the early classification of algae and perceptions of it as unremarkable, and then he walks his readers through the observations of its biology that led to it being more appreciated and sought out by more scientists, and even referenced in literature. He ends with a quote encouraging us to “look again” as something that once failed to capture our imaginations; perhaps this encouragement is useful elsewhere as well.

You’ll find more enagaging writing on Dr. Feigenbaum’s website. He has written about human sleep cycles, and the language we use to discuss it; philosophical arguments about whether life can be explained with science; and other intersections of history, science, and art. He also provides guidance for effectively creating digital spaces for communication and offers suggestions for best practices in web design.

With his abiding interest in communicating science and philosophy to a broad audience, and helping others do so, Dr. Feigenbaum will be a tremendous asset for the Center for Public Engagement with Science.

Samanthan Finkelstein: Science Outreach for Social Impact

Join us (virtually) on Friday, October 23, for a talk by Samantha Finkelstein:

Science Outreach for Social Impact

Practical lessons from experience design, pedagogy, and social justice

This virtual presentation is taking place in the middle of a pandemic while school children around the country are Zooming into their classrooms – there is no better time to talk about opportunities to break some unquestioned classroom norms. This talk is about designing meaningful outreach, and how to think about what meaningful means for you and – more importantly – for the people you’re engaging with. I want to share a few real life examples of creative and powerful outreach programs at different scales that can inspire your own designs, and talk through some frameworks you can use to bring your ideas to life.

Samantha Finkelstein earned her PhD from Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction program in 2017. She has focused much of her work on supporting the needs of marginalized communities, especially youth. She’s spent time in classrooms, and worked on projects that involved web interfaces, conversational agents, mobile platforms, and immersive and augmented virtual reality systems.

To join the talk, go to https://ucincinnati.zoom.us/j/98596246956 

To find a local number to dial in, go to https://ucincinnati.zoom.us/u/abniEA5nQt