Q&A with Ari Daniel: Telling Science Stories on the Airwaves

June 26th, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions, Q&A by Emily Schuster

Interviewed by Joelle Seligson

This interview appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of Dimensions magazine.

Strange noises in a Connecticut backyard, love affairs between tiny copepods, and chemicals that exist in the clouds between stars: These are a few of the subjects that Ari Daniel has turned into fascinating science stories. Daniel has united his lifelong passions for science and storytelling through his work as a freelance radio journalist (you may have heard him on (U.S.) National Public Radio) and digital associate producer at NOVA. He also hosts the Boston chapter of the Story Collider, in which other narrators take the stage to relay their science-related tales. Here, Daniel reveals how—and why—to find and share great scientific anecdotes with the public.

Read the full transcript, or listen to the podcast below.

Science Within Reach: Engaging the Public in Scientific Research

May 30th, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions by Alejandro Asin

May/June 2014

What happens when the public is given the opportunity to engage meaningfully in authentic scientific research? Participants may develop a sense of ownership and a deeper understanding of science, and scientists gain access to valuable resources and fresh perspectives. As sites for community engagement, education, and sometimes scientific research itself, science centers, museums, and related institutions are ideally positioned to connect the public with authentic research.

In this issue of Dimensions, we examine three ways our field is doing this work. A major part of the issue is devoted to citizen science, where volunteers partner with scientists to investigate real scientific questions. We define citizen science broadly here to include many different models of public participation in scientific research, whether laypeople are collecting or analyzing data, interpreting results, or determining research questions. In addition, this issue looks at research labs housed in museums, and programs that connect youth to scientists as mentors.

• Everyone a Scientist? Opening Scientific Research to a Broader Public, by Martin Storksdieck
• Six Practices for Engaging Underrepresented Communities as Citizen Science Partners, by Norman Porticella, Flisa Stevenson, and Jennifer Shirk
Bridging the Gaps: Integrating Citizen Science Throughout an Institution, by Christine L. Goforth, Julie M. Urban, and Julie E. Horvath
• Select Resources to Support and Inspire Citizen Science, compiled by Christine L. Goforth and Jennifer Shirk
Powered by the People: A Citizen Science Sampler
• Testing the Waters: Students in India Monitor Arsenic Levels, by Niranjan Gupta, Nikhiles Biswas, Naba Kumar Mondal, G.S. Rautela, Emdadul Islam, and Marilyn Hoyt
• Teen Scientists: Youth Doing Rigorous, Authentic Research at Museums, by Preeti Gupta and Oscar Pineda
• Native Science Fellows: Supporting Native American Students in Geoscience Research, by Helen Augare, Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer, Shelly Valdez, and Melissa Weatherwax
• There’s a New Lab in Town, by Sara Poirier

Online Departments
From the CEO: The “team sport” of science center learning
Viewpoints: Are making and tinkering spaces just a fad, or are they here to stay?
Q&A with Sean Carroll: Science and the silver screen

Subscribe/order back issues

Bridging the Gaps: Integrating Citizen Science Throughout an Institution

May 30th, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions by Alejandro Asin

By Christine L. Goforth, Julie M. Urban, and Julie E. Horvath

From Dimensions
May/June 2014

At the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCMNS), Raleigh, we’ve made citizen science a priority, because we recognize its power to teach people about the natural world and the role of science in their daily lives. The value of the citizen scientist is apparent throughout our museum, including in our research and collections, educational programs, exhibits, and outdoor facility, Prairie Ridge Ecostation. We constantly improve our public science offerings to reach out to our visitors and engage them in scientific experiences.

Powered by the People: A Citizen Science Sampler

April 28th, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions by Emily Schuster

This is an extended version of an article that appeared in the May/June 2014 issue of Dimensions magazine.

Many people think that cities, especially ones as large and stereotyped as Los Angeles, are devoid of nature, and certainly devoid of any nature worth studying. Scientists at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) think otherwise. “We are just as likely to find a new species of insect in Los Angeles as in the forests of Costa Rica and Brazil—that is, 100%,” said Brian Brown, NHM entomology curator. In fact, Los Angeles is located in a biodiversity hotspot, one of 34 scientifically recognized places on Earth that are home to an incredibly high level of biodiversity and that suffer high threat from human actions.

But how do you study biodiversity in a vast metropolis where much of the land is private and thousands of observations and specimens are needed? “Citizen science is the only feasible answer,” said Greg Pauly, NHM herpetology curator and project leader for Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California (RASCals). The public has the time, capacity, and access to private lands (such as backyards and schoolyards) that scientists do not. The fact that scientists have a real need for help is not lost on participants. As it turns out, it is a key motivator. One participant in RASCals noted, “If I didn’t contribute, then your map of distribution would have had less data. I had to make sure that Woodland Hills [a neighborhood in Los Angeles] was represented!”

The “Team Sport” of Science Center Learning

April 25th, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions, From the CEO by Anthony (Bud) Rock

Watching young visitors move among the exhibits in science centers and museums, I am often reminded of how my children first learned to play soccer (or football in most of the world). We called it “pack ball” because of the way the entire team tended to follow the ball in unison. Groups of young people often navigate through our science centers in much the same collective fashion. This is not surprising, but it creates a challenging knowledge acquisition environment that must accommodate both individualized experiences and the dynamics of small group learning.

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