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EDUCATION AND OUTREACH

The ARC LTER project maintains a multifaceted education and outreach program.  Each component of our program is selected to optimize the particular education opportunities available to this project and its institutional resources.  With a few carefully-selected activities, our strategy is to reach a diverse audience ranging from kindergarten through graduate students to the general public and to governmental and scientific planning agencies.  Each of these high-impact activities is independently funded but receives support from the ARC LTER in the form of investigator, student, or RA participation, and through access to our field sites, laboratories, and data base.  We also provide small subsidies from LTER research or supplemental funds especially for travel and logistics costs for participation by LTER students, investigators, and teachers and journalists at Toolik Field Station. 

  1. Our Schoolyard LTER program (http://ecosystems.mbl.edu/ARC/schoolyard/index.html ) focuses on Barrow, Alaska, because it is the nearest large town to Toolik Lake and because a strong link to the local community is desirable for several reasons.  The reasons include a historic involvement of the community of Barrow with science on the North Slope of Alaska and a strong community interest in and feeling of ownership and responsibility for North Slope Science. The community of Barrow is also interested in science because subsistence hunting and fishing is still a major activity there and many residents feel closely tied to the land and to scientific understanding of the landscape.  The activities at Barrow include two main components: (1) , a weekly lecture series on a wide range of scientific topics. and (2) an inquiry-based program that replicates some of our experimental and monitoring activities in tundra and lakes, which have been used as part of the K-12 science program in Barrow schools.  Each year 1-4 LTER personnel visit Barrow to lecture in the “Saturday Schoolyard” series and in the public schools. Both activities have been very well-received by the Barrow community and we have received many requests to continue them.  Both the public lectures and the in-school activities are managed in Barrow by The Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BSASC; https://www.facebook.com/pages/Barrow-Arctic-Science-Consortium/329805053000).  BASC also supplements our investment in these Schoolyard activities with additional funds. 
  2. The Polar Hands-on Laboratory  is offered each year by Logan Science Journalism Program of the Marine Biological Laboratory (http://hermes.mbl.edu/sjp/index.html).  Our aim in this program is to infuse professionals at communication with the public with the excitement of arctic research and with the principles of doing science.  There is a tremendous multiplier here because we cannot bring the general public to our site, so our strategy is to develop ambassadors of our research that communicate through highly visible media to the broadest possible audience.  Every summer, 10-20 journalists from all media (print, radio, film, electronic, freelance) participate in a 2-week course at the MBL in Woods Hole; following this and depending on the funding available, 2-12 of these journalists then come to Toolik Lake for intensive, hands-on experience with field data collection and practical environmental science. After leaving TFS, the journalists then produce articles and stories about our science, and our life as scientists, in a wide range of media.
  3. Education of undergraduate and graduate students in arctic research is our fifth educational activity (Table 5-1).  Each year we support at least 2 REU students at Toolik Lake with LTER supplemental funds, and 2-10 others in association with collaborating NSF grants.  REU students are selected via a national search each year and come from a wide range of states and institutions.  We promote the training of graduate students by supporting them with collaborating grants, and we continue to encourage foreign collaborators to send their students to us for a summer at Toolik Lake.  To promote communication among these students, every summer we organize a weekly seminar series, "Toolik Talking Shop", and at the end of the summer we organize a poster session for REU students to show off and to “defend” their summer projects to an interested and friendly audience.  Since 2005, each summer we have included 4-8 REU students in a group research project of monitoring of recovery from a small tundra wildfire near Toolik Lake.  Most of our REU students have gone on to graduate school and often they are included as authors on publications.  Graduate students, and occasionally REU students, are invited to our annual winter workshop in Woods Hole to present their results and to participate in planning for the following summer's research.  These initiatives have helped us to increase the number of active graduate students by more than 2-fold over the past five years. 
  4. Outreach to the general public. locally and nationally includes occasional talks given in Alaskan Native communities such as Anaktuvuk Pass, Kaktovik, and Barrow.  As part of our attempt to build a social science component, Gary Kofinas and students from the University of Alaska have interviewed local citizens about their perceptions of climate change and how it has affected their subsistence life styles.  Local hunters are particularly interested in the impact of our research on wildlife, and we try to keep them well-informed of our activities through the land use permitting process.  Finally, we are particularly pleased to have published a new book on the natural history of northern Alaska (“Land of Extremes” by Alex Huryn and John Hobbie, 2012); the book is intended for tourists as well as scientists to use as they travel through northern Alaska including the area around Toolik Lake.
  5. Outreach to federal, state, and local management agencies is an important component of our outreach program.  Much of the research done at Toolik Lake is directly relevant to the problems of managing the huge expanse of publicly owned, wild land on the North Slope of Alaska.  We provide regular briefings of BLM, ANWR, DNR, Alaska Fish and Game, and North Slope Borough officials; usually this consists of visits to their offices in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Barrow, as well as tours of our research sites at Toolik Lake.  We work particularly closely with BLM, Alaska Fish and Game, and with the North Slope Borough in association with the annual permitting process for our research.  The Alaska Fish and Game office has used our data and advice in the past to set angling policies and fish catch regulations.  Our contacts with the North Slope Borough have increased in frequency lately as our research increasingly involves helicopter travel through areas where subsistence hunting takes place.  Each year we invite representatives from these agencies to attend our winter meeting in Woods Hole, to learn about our latest results and future plans. For the past several years, Toolik Field Station has also invited representatives of these agencies to speak at our weekly “Toolik Talking Shop” evening seminars for Toolik scientists and students, helping to make this a two-way channel of communication.
  6. National and International Research Planning and Organization:  We will continue our long-term participation in a wide range of national and international research planning and oversight organizations.  In the past 5 years this has included participation in the steering or advisory committees for SEARCH (the Study of Environmental Arctic Change), ISAC (International Study of Arctic Change), and the ACIA (Arctic Climate Impacts Assessment), and we will continue to help with the long-term management and organization of the University of Alaska's Toolik Field Station. The planning activities are particularly important in development of broader scientific impacts of our research, and for applications of understanding developed from our research at the PanArctic, continental, and global scales.

 

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