Tag Archives: Outreach

Science Outreach in Norway House Cree Nation

20150703_131302 If you are ever looking for freshwater lakes to canoe, fish, swim, or just plain admire, then Canada is your spot. Estimated at around three million, Canada is host to more lakes than every other country in the world combined. So, it may come as a surprise that many First Nations communities located in Canada’s North face serious water security issues, largely as a result of insufficient waste and drinking water treatment facilities. The CREATE H2O program is trying to change that. Funded by the Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the H2O program aims to help address water and sanitation security issues on First Nations reserves.

I joined the H2O program in the fall of 2013 for; 1) the opportunity to do unique research in Northern Manitoba, 2) see first-hand some of the water security issues facing First Nations, and 3) experience the rich culture and history of these communities. While all three of these expectations have been met and exceeded over the course of my tenure in the program, the most rewarding experience of all has been something that was not even on my radar when joining H2O – the opportunity for science outreach and education – and the outcome has been inspiring! Before I delve too deep into my experiences in the Northern Manitoban community of Norway House Cree Nation, let me step back and explain a little bit about how I got there.

I first got my feet wet in outreach through 20150703_113152involvement in the Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Program, a registered charity foundation whose goal is to “Increase the number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students graduating from science and engineering programs in Canada.” In May of 2014 and 2015, as one of a number of science leaders in our faculty, we hosted a group of grade 11 and 12 students for one week in the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of Manitoba. The visiting students were exposed to university-level research through hands-on experiments. From learning about basic water quality parameters and instruments for their measurement, to setting up and interpreting an earthworm soil avoidance assay, to extracting fish otoliths and analyzing them for metals using an ICP-MS/MS, the Kirkness program provides these students with the unique opportunity to be exposed to the world of research at a perfect time in their educational career. The benefit of this program for these youth cannot be overstated!

20150703_133042By chance, both in 2014 and 2015, a number of students in our group were from Norway House Cree Nation (NHCN), the same community that I was about to commence research in through the CREATE H2O program. What happened next you can probably guess? We made arrangements for two Kirkness students, Chadwin and Hunter, to join us during our field sampling in July 2015. We spent the day sampling the wastewater treatment facility and surrounding surface waters. Chadwin and Hunter helped deploy passive samplers, sample water, and take water quality measurements. It was a great experience for them to learn about the water treatment system in their home community of NHCN, all the while reinforcing the skills and knowledge they gained from the Kirkness program. Hunter is entering his senior year of high school and Chadwin has been accepted to the University of Manitoba beginning Fall 2015 and has enrolled in the Department of Environment and Geography. Both of them very impressive young students in their own right! Our hope is to continue this valuable outreach with the larger community by holding a public forum to present our research. Keeping the community members and leaders informed is a crucial part of doing research on their land and studying our most precious resource, H2O.

Jonathan Challis is a graduate student in the Chemistry Department at the University of Manitoba

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Clemson WOW Project

WOW 2014-2015 group pic grad students and high schoolers

What’s in Our Waters (WOW) program was designed by graduate students in the Biology and Environmental Toxicology programs at Clemson University (CU) in June 2013. The goal of the program was to introduce high school students (in and around Clemson, South Carolina) to methods of monitoring and reporting on the conditions of local streams. We started working with environmental clubs (from neighboring high schools) and taking them to field trips for water quality monitoring. Over the next few months our vision progressed towards teaching students the importance of responsible citizen science, conducting research using the ‘scientific method’ and the relevance of science communication with the public .

We wanted to incorporate this whole process under the WOW program. We were able to launch a model for this program with the AP Environmental Science class of Daniel High School (Central, SC). This past academic year, Daniel High School students designed and conducted both chemical and biological water quality tests at Indian Creek, located in CU’s North Experimental Forest. Students measured physical attributes of the creek including dissolved oxygen, acidity, alkalinity, conductivity, temperature, and turbidity. Moreover, students also collected faunal specimens (i.e. aquatic macroinvertebrates), which serve as biological indicators of water quality.

The WOW program model is divided into four phases:

1.) In class presentation to students by WOW mentors: they talk about citizen science, other water quality programs, careers in environmental sciences, building a research hypothesis, conducting research, data analysis and research communication.

2.) Field trip: students are assisted by mentors at the field trip to the Indian Creek, in observing macroinvertebrates and measuring water quality using chemical testing kits.

3.) In class mentoring to prepare scientific posters: mentors work in groups with students to help them analyze data collected from the field trip and summarizes and presents that in the form of a poster.

4.) Participate in a poster presentation session at a biology symposium in Clemson University.

This program is valuable for several reasons: it introduces budding scientists to field techniques, serves as a platform for students to practice the scientific method, and most importantly, increases public awareness of the threats to the health of our freshwater ecosystems.

My “wow” moment from this program was when my mentees (while presenting the poster) said with confidence that , “The WOW collaboration between DHS and Clemson University should be a model which other high schools and graduate schools in SC and other states should replicate.”

WOW is not a funded or registered program, nor is it a part of an NSF or bigger outreach initiative. What I loved about this whole process was all of us (all the mentors) had a selfless involvement with this project. We did this out of our passion and to see the relevance of our passion outside our own research labs. Unfortunately a lot of high school students are deprived of real-life-mentors. I think it does make a difference when they get to talk to a mentor (outside school/classroom) and learn about the possibilities of environmental sciences, research and understand the common goal of seeing the bigger picture.

Namrata Sengupta is a graduate student in Environmental Toxicology at Clemson University.


More information:

Current partners: Pickens County 4H Club, Anderson and Pickens Counties Stormwater Partners, D.W. Daniel High School and Clemson University

Press Release: http://newsstand.clemson.edu/mediarelations/grad-students-teach-high-schoolers-how-to-monitor-water-quality/

Facebook: Clemson WOW Project: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1613862448838923/

Twitter: Follow #ClemsonWOW for more updates

Current and past North America and Carolina SETAC student members involved as WOW mentors (June 2013 to June 2015): 

Cofounders: Austin Wray, Kim Newton, Lauren Sweet and Namrata Sengupta

Mentors: Anna Lee McLeod, Erica Linard, Katherine Johnson, Maria Rodgers, Ramiya Kumar and Sarah Au

For more information on our model and if you would like to adopt it for your own campus then please email: Namrata Sengupta nsengup@g.clemson.edu