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.
Science comes from curiosity, and many institutions have been fostering that curiosity in our community for decades. In the case of the Cincinnati Observatory, these efforts have been ongoing for over 175 years! This week, we had the privilege of hearing more about these early efforts from Kelsey Stryffe, Docent and Administrative Assistant at the Observatory.
In the 1840’s, Professor Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel at Cincinnati College lectured on physics, math and astronomy. Although these lectures were intended for his students, the professor was so engaging and charismatic that his students frequently invited their families. His audience continued to expand until they no longer fit within the walls of any lecture hall available on campus at the time. Eventually, they moved to other locations to handle the crowds, such as Wesley Chapel in downtown Cincinnati.
Mitchel saw this interest, and in it saw an opportunity. He began raising money, door to door; for about the equivalent of a month’s salary, families could buy shares in what would become a public observatory. This sounds like a lot, especially because funding can be hard to come by in science! But people were already so excited about astronomy that they were willing to support this endeavor. Soon he raised the funds to build the observatory on Mt. Adams, and purchase a telescope. From the day the observatory opened, it was available to the public.
Mitchel did not come to Cincinnati specifically to build a research observatory, happening to provide the community with an incredible opportunity. Mitchel grew up in Lebanon, outside of Cincinnati. The people here were his community, and his intention was to stay here to teach science.
Although he sometimes struggled to do research in between everyone who wanted to look into space, Mitchel had built “the Birthplace of American Astronomy.” This was the first telescope in North America, and at our latitude; therefore, it gave scientists what was at the time a new and unique vantage point to see into space. Mitchel was able to describe the sky from here, vastly adding to knowledge that had been acquired by scientists overseas. From this telescope, he described orbits and patterns. It was also used to discover a binary star and describe a region of Mars that would be named “the Mountains of Mitchel” in the professor’s honor.
As Cincinnati’s industries grew, the city’s air became more polluted from the amount of coal being burned. It created a tar-like smoke in the atmosphere, blocking the observatory’s view of space. Eventually, the building and telescope would have to move to Mt. Lookout, which was outside of the city at the time, to continue to be able to see the sky. However, before that happened, Mitchel moved to New York to get away from the pollution, and established another observatory there. He would go on to fight in the Civil War as a Major General, and would pass away from Yellow Fever while serving in South Carolina.
However, Mitchel’s legacy of educating and engaging the community in astronomy lives on through the observatory. Even through the light pollution, the telescopes at the Cincinnati Observatory can see to the edges of our solar system, and even to our neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy. While this is more limited than most modern research telescopes, it is still a special opportunity for members of the public, and it continues to be open. Since it reopened in the 1990’s, the staff and volunteers at the observatory have worked hard to provide K-12 teaching materials affordably. They have been hosting classes about star gazing and space online since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, offer a program that allows members to borrow telescopes, and work with the Stonelick Star Gazers, a group of amateur astronomers, to have stargazes at Stonelick State Park.
The Cincinnati Observatory is currently open by reservation on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. As we get back to normal after COVID-19, watch their website for these hours to expand. In the meantime, watch their social media for events and things to watch for from your own backyard. You can read more about their history here.
In this Humanities Unbound episode of the Taft Research Center at the University of Cincinnati, Nancy Tuana (Penn State) speaks with Taft Center Director Amy Lind about how climate change affects women and men differently and other topics about climate change and social justice. You can listen to the episode here (link); the Humanities Unbound series is also available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
This episode was recorded when Tuana visited Cincinnati this fall for CLIMATE CHANGE/CINCINNATI, an event series the UC Center for Public Engagement with Science put on with the Mercantile Library. See here (link) for a writeup about this series in CityBeat.
The students in Center Affiliate Carlie Trott’s senior capstone course (PSYC 5051: Research Methods: Community Research) presented their research at Cincinnati City Hall this week: “Broadening Participation in Household Recycling in Cincinnati: First Findings from a Focus Group Study in South Cumminsville.” The research was a partnership between the class, the City of Cincinnati Office of Environment and Sustainability and the South Cumminsville-based community organization Working in Neighborhoods. The project–made possible with external funding by Rumpke–aimed to identify barriers to recycling in a majority low-income African American neighborhood in Cincinnati and to propose solutions to city officials.
The presentation was met with genuine interest and praise for the student presenters by the four members of City Council comprising the Equity, Inclusion, Youth, and Arts Committee. A research report will also be supplied to community participants.
The Center is piloting a new graduate course at the University of Cincinnati in spring semester 2020: interdisciplinary, hands-on training in public engagement with science. NSCI/HUM 7000 Public Engagement with Science is a cross-listed Natural Science and Humanities course, in which graduate students will work in interdisciplinary teams to develop effective activities or materials to engage with the public about some aspect of science. The course will draw from expertise of staff at the Cincinnati Museum Center, and teams will develop their projects in collaboration with the Museum Center, UC Field Station, and other community organizations in Greater Cincinnati.
Masters and Doctoral students at UC: sign up now! Enrollment is limited to 20.
The third and final event of the CLIMATE CHANGE/CINCINNATI series at the Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati is tonight. The series is cosponsored by our Center and the Taft Research Center, also at UC. This event, Climate Change and Cincinnati Life, is a panel discussion with local experts on sustainability steps being taken by local government and other entities, how local farming is impacted by climate change and can contribute to sustainability, and energy use and changes in our region.
Chris Anderson has written a really nice discussion of the Climate Change/Cincinnati series. Read the full article here (link).
Nancy Tuana, Dupont/Class of 1948 Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at Penn State, addressed a full house at the Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati. She discussed the formidable social justice implications of climate change, worldwide and locally here in Cincinnati. This was the second of three events in the series CLIMATE CHANGE/CINCINNATI.
This three-part series at the Mercantile Library focuses on climate change, how it affects Greater Cincinnati, and you. The series is a collaboration between the Center and the Mercantile Library, cosponsored by the Taft Research Center.
The first event is coming up on August 29! This will be a discussion with :
Brooke Crowley (UC Anthropology and Geology Associate Professor)