Alicia Rinaldi-Schuler, a fisheries graduate student at CFOS, volunteered for NGA LTER’s Spring 2018 cruise aboard R/V Sikuliaq. Ordinarily, Alicia studies humpback whales. However, we put her to work sampling zooplankton on the night shift. She filmed the equipment they used (bongo nets, multi-net, and methot net) and the creatures they caught (squid, jellyfish, euphasiids, and fish larvae). Her engaging video summarizes of some of the research that occurs during our cruises.
When Michele Hoffman Trotter, Columbia College, participated in our April-May cruise, educators and home school parents were invited to enroll in her educational series, Expedition Gulf of Alaska! The learning modules were geared for grades 5-12. They were titled:
Changing Climate Changing World
Biodiversity: Our Lives Depend on It, and
Plankton to Whales: How Energy Flows in the Environment.
Enrollees received a PowerPoint presentation on the topic, teaching activities, a supplemental reading list, links to the daily video uploads, and access to a forum where students could post questions to the science team and receive answers.
Schools in Alaska (Chugiak and Seward), California (1 school), Chicago (4 schools), and Canada (1 school) participated in this pilot shipboard education program aboard the R/V Sikuliaq. Her audience also included 24 homeschooling families in California and 32 adult participants. In Michele’s outreach team, Carlee Belt served as a media and education specialist and Katherine Brennan served as the cinematographer. All together, the team provided 15 daily dispatches from the ship – videos of ship operations and sampling equipment and interviews of scientists and crew. Additionally, they collected footage for the on-going Microcosm film project that will feature the diversity and roles of microscopic life in the ocean.
Alaskan teachers were a special focus of this educational outreach. Therefore, we recruited a middle school teacher in Seward (the port the Sikuliaq departed from), a high school marine biology teacher in Chugiak, and a middle school teacher from a Fairbanks watershed-themed school. These teachers were asked to pilot at least one module and will provide feedback that will help develop virtual field trip products.
According to the LTER’s Guidelines for LTER Information Management Systems, “Information Management System architecture, procedures, and protocols should be clearly documented”. So in this spirit, I’ve posted some information about this website (as it was when I wrote this).
Essentially, this website compromises between feature/code heavy options (drupal, bootstrap) and user-friendly, but proprietary, options (Wix, Squarespace). It uses WordPress with the make theme. Additionally, the Make Builder plugin adds additional formatting options to pages. A Zotero database manages citations and displays them on the site using a plugin. Axiom will supply access to our LTER data, so the technical requirements at this end should be light. Instead, the website should introduce our project and direct interested readers to more complete information.
As part of the LTER community, we are trying to make a web page that is accessible to the wider community, as well as useful to our LTER team. To accomplish this, I’m adjusting the language used on this website from what I’ve used in the past. To improve the clarity of my writing, I’ve relied on three helpful resources:
The Yoast WordPress plugin: Primarily, this plugin helps Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but readability is an important factor of that. As I write, the plugin judges me. It assigns a Flesch reading ease score and counts the number of transition words used, among other things. The technical aspect of our work limits the text’s ultimate simplicity. However, Yoast constantly reminds me that the website is not a scientific journal.
Writing Science in Plain English: This short book taught me that making readable scientific text does not depend only on reduction of jargon. Clarity also depends on the structure of sentences and paragraphs. As a result, I now continually try to reduce the number of abstract nouns I use, and to increase the number of active verbs. It’s fun – like a puzzle.
The American Geophysical Society’s Sharing Science materials: In January 2018, I attended a scientific communication workshop that was hosted by the Alaska Marine Science Symposium. The focus was storytelling, and on how identifying the intended audience changes the language that should be used.
Hopefully, these changes will make information more accessible. We want other people to discover our research and to be interested in it.