Ocean Learning Communities

COSEE-Ocean Learning Communities 2008-09 Update

COSEE-Ocean Learning Communities (COSEE-OLC) is focused on bringing cutting-edge research about the ocean out of the laboratory and into learning communities that can put that knowledge to work so that citizens become better stewards of our marine and aquatic environment. The COSEE-OLC effort is organized around four intersecting initiatives:

  • Cultivate and Study a Marine Naturalist Volunteer Community
  • Engaging Citizens in Contemporary Ocean Science Research
  • Conduct and Communicate Research on Learning Science in Diverse Communities
  • Conduct Inreach to Researchers, Outreach to Citizens

We end our fourth year in COSEE-OLC in a position of programmatic expansion and broadening partnerships. Among our accomplishments in the past year, several stand out:

  • Our successful stewardship of a new student-driven cooperative citizen-science endeavorSoundCitizen
  • The success of continued efforts to conduct and publish research on how people learn about the ocean and the environment and to communicate learning sciences research to oceanographers and marine volunteers
  • Our inreach initiative to better connect with NSF-funded ocean researchers
  • The incorporation of the Ocean Inquiry Project opportunities into the COSEE-OLC umbrella of opportunities, and
  • The successful delivery of web-based tools to our volunteer community.
  • In addition, COSEE-OLC held two large events for researchers, scientists, educators, graduate students and marine volunteers that included establishing new collaborations with local partners, including Washington Sea Grant, the Puget Sound Partnership, and the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

Below we provide a brief update on these accomplishments.

COSEE-OLC Hosted Two Events for Researchers and Marine Naturalist Volunteers

In November 2008 we hosted a one-day event Communicating Ocean Sciences that was attended by more than 140 individuals. In collaboration with Washington Sea Grant, we presented opportunities for marine volunteers and teachers to learn from and alongside scientists about issues that affect marine waters, discuss and reflect on ways to effectively communicate and engage around ocean and marine science, and interact with marine naturalists that work in the Northwest region.

UW graduate student Amanda Bruner engages marine volunteers in a discussion about her marine research during a research poster session
In collaboration with the Port Townsend Marine Science Center and the Washington State Puget Sound Partnership, we hosted a two-day workshop in April 2009 entitled Exploring the Spectrum of Citizen Science. The workshop addressed two key issues that many marine naturalists, volunteers, scientists and educators are challenged with; engaging the larger public in marine science, and helping citizens better understand the role of the ocean in their daily life. The event was our first workshop outside of Seattle and was sold out, with more than 160 persons attending.

Friday evening Professor Bruce Lewenstein, from Cornell University, presented on "Citizen Science: What makes it citizen? What makes it science?" Dr. Lewenstein is a leading authority on public communication of science and technology and has done extensive work evaluating citizen science outreach projects including efforts with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Saturday offered an array of activities including panel sessions on various aspects of citizen science and a poster session focusing on citizen science topics and current ocean/marine science. The event saw COSEE-OLC expand its reach into government scientists, with more than forty marine scientists attending the meeting, many of whom had never attended a COSEE event before.

Engaging Citizens in Contemporary Ocean Science Research

Discussion of citizen science taking place during the COSEE-OLC event on Exploring the Spectrum of Citizen Science
Sound Citizen is a relatively new effort brings university students, K-12 students and citizen volunteers together to investigate regionally and nationally significant questions on the chemical connectivity between households, watersheds and receiving waters. Participants collect data on a variety of organic chemicals (e.g., cooking spices, emerging pollutants) found in homes and trace the chemicals through terrestrial environments to the ocean. The program was started, and is maintained, by undergraduate students in the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington. The motto for SoundCitizen is "Students and citizens working together to conduct significant science". SoundCitizen improves the lives of citizens by combining research and education, and creating shared knowledge of the connected nature between human activity, and human and environmental health.

Conducting and Communicating Research on How People Learn about the Ocean and the Environment

UW Undergraduate students Brittany Kimball and Jaqui Neibauer introduce the Sound Citizen project to marine volunteers and invite their participation in the effort
COSEE-OLC both conducts primary research on how people learn about the ocean and the environment as well as communicates educational research findings to ocean scientists and marine volunteers. This past year the COSEE-OLC team continued to conduct research studies about how, why, and where youth learn about the oceans and the environment using field-based and educational design methodologies. Within the past year, they have presented this research at the following conferences: the International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS, Utrecht), the Environmental Education Association of Washington (EEAW) Annual Conference (keynote), the Ethnography in Education Research Forum, and the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST) Annual Conference. A research article entitled "The role of environmental narratives and social positioning in how place gets constructed for and by youth: Implications for environmental science education for social justice"was accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Equity & Excellence in Education. Other publications are in process.

Philip Bell co-edited an NRC consensus study on Learning Science in Informal Environments that was released this year. He and Dr. Carrie Tzou, a post-doctoral scholar on the COSEE-OLC team, communicated about the NRC study and COSEE-OLC learning research to marine volunteers through one of the COSEE-OLC events described above. He also testified to a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives on the NRC study and used the COSEE Network as an example of a successful federally-funded partnerships between universities and school systems during the question period.

Inreach to Ocean Researchers

Philip Bell and Carrie Tzou present an overview of the research consensus on how people learn science in informal environments and COSEE-OLC learning research to marine volunteers
We added a half-time postdoctoral associate, Dr. Tansy Clay, to the COSEE-OLC team with the specific goal of developing new ways to collaboratively integrate COSEE-OLC activities into UW Oceanography’s education and outreach mission. Tansy has expanded the role for young ocean scientists in our education and volunteer communities, has helped mentor the Schools Graduate Student Outreach Coordinator, and has developed criteria for managing and documenting COSEE-OLC’s interactions with faculty. Tansy has positively influenced our interactions with colleagues and helped COSEE-OLC develop a local reputation for quality E&O support. Since Tansy joined the COSEE-OLC team, we have developed two iterations of a special brochure for ocean researchers presenting COSEE-OLC and mentioning how we can help develop proposal outreach ideas. Through Tansy, we also collaborated with Washington Sea Grant both in teaching the COSE course as well with consulting with applicants on the broader impacts portions of their Sea Grant proposals.

Engaging Citizens in Contemporary Ocean Science Research

Tansy Clay engaging a room of marine volunteers in learning about ocean research
Our new partner, the Ocean Inquiry Project, provided new opportunities to integrate our communities through experiential field work. We have collaborated with OIP to foster an appreciation of the ocean and increase awareness of our impact on it for students and volunteers ranging from fifth graders to retirees. Our participants have cruised together on our local marine waters, blurring the lines of distinction between scientists and student. All OIP participants have been enlightened to the process of scientific research through direct involvement. Exit interviews of community members who have participated in OIP cruises highlight the successful nature of the collaborative shipboard environment fostering new mutual respect between students, teachers, volunteers and researchers.

Jonathan Kellogg, OIP volunteer and UW oceanography graduate student, engages marine volunteers in conducting ocean research on the Puget Sound

Delivery of New Web-based Platform for Marine Volunteers

Our new web site debuted in March 2009 and has already resulted in many marine volunteers, ocean/marine scientists, college students, educators and citizens joining our online community. The new new COSEE-OLC site links well with the new national site and provides visual continuity with other COSEE sites. It ‘pushes’ user-driven content to viewers in a hopefully fun and informative manner, and generates databases for service requests, thus helping with tabulation of data about the growth of our communities.

Key aspects of the site that are intended to help develop our communities include the ability to archive discussions and threads, ways to share data and ideas with subgroups of the users, the ability to access scientific content as well as on-line educational resources, and a robust architecture that is forward compatible with future changes in web design and social networking approaches.

Visit COSEE-Ocean Learning Communities!

Contributed by the COSEE-OLC Team