We’ve developed an updated strategic framework that will guide our activities and programming as we transition to a more proactive state of operations and focus our activities on long-term outcomes. It is an exciting time for LDEO and, more broadly, the field of Earth science. The principal activities and accomplishments during 2018 within our five strategic areas are outlined below:
Advancing Research and Pedagogy
In this area, we have focused on engaging in educational research that will produce evidence based strategies and measures that inform our knowledge of the kinds of learning environments, curricula, and support networks that are needed to advance student learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). From the research perspective, we have been carrying out work on three projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), one under their Cultivating Cultures for Ethical STEM Initiative (CCE STEM), one under the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) initiative, and the third under our ongoing Climate Change Education Program.
Creating research experiences for students traditionally under represented in STEM/Sustainability fields
Under this strategic area, we are creating and implementing authentic research experiences in which learners from all backgrounds, races, and ethnicities engage directly in doing hands on scientific work alongside researchers to further the development of their science literacy skills.
This summer, we launched four pilot projects for high school and undergraduate students, as part of our NSF INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) program. Each pilot operated at a satellite location, with sites including the Hudson River Park in New York City, Cary Institute of Ecosystem, Dominican College in, and Rutgers University. Participants worked on projects that included studying the impact of microplastics in the Raritan River in New Jersey, stream ecology studies in Dutchess County, ecology and microbiology of the Sparkill Creek in Rockland County, and the impact of the New York City waterfront pilings on the waterfront ecology.
At the undergraduate level, we were awarded a grant renewal from the NSF to continue our Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, which focused on diversifying recruitment strategies to target liberal arts colleges as well as community colleges to ensure a larger cohort of under-represented STEM groups in the program. Our recruitment efforts resulted in students coming from Dominican College, Orange County Community College, Dutchess Community College, Housatonic Community College, Queensborough Community College, Kingsborough Community College, and the Borough of Manhattan Community College.
Strengthening STEM instruction
This strategic area has focused on preparing educators to have sufficient content knowledge as well as pedagogical approaches in order to ensure that classroom teaching in STEM subjects at school mimics how STEM research is done in the real world.
For example, we have worked with the New York City Department of Education’s STEM office over the past year to deliver tailored Professional Development workshops designed to engage teachers in current research and practice in STEM. We developed multiple workshops connected to the Hudson River, as well as a series on local climate impacts from the polar-regions.
Ensuring innovative curriculum development
Along with strengthened STEM instruction, LDEO is playing a role in the development of innovative curricula. Through our collaborative efforts, we prioritize the 21st century skills (e.g., collaborative work, problem solving through data, and critical thinking) over rote learning, and we have emphasized thinking outside of the box when it comes to curricula.
In fall 2017, we piloted a class at the Grace Church School in Manhattan where students were presented with an introduction to science communication and learned about “real-world” communication issues related to science research and policy. The course was designed by the E&O Office at Lamont and is one of many examples of how a research institution such as Lamont can partner and develop strong communities of practice with schools on STEM themes to connect students more deeply and directly to science learning.
Increasing public engagement in STEM through outreach
Our last strategic area is perhaps our broadest, with an aim to engage public audiences in the ongoing scientific work that we do so that the work of LDEO becomes more accessible to people of all ages. We’re doing this through sustained participation in events such as speaker series, science fairs, and citizen science and community engagement efforts. Lamont’s Hudson River Field Station is a particularly exciting aspect of our outreach in LDEO’s own backyard. The station is moving quickly toward completion with funding for the exterior of the building having enabled that work to move forward.
In addition to our annual Open House, LDEO is committed to participating in the SUBMERGE Marine Science Festival at Hudson River Park, the Sun/Earth Day at the American Museum of Natural History, the Girls in Science and Engineering Fair at the Intrepid Museum, and the World Science Festival’s Fish Count and City of Science Fair in Washington Square Park. These events reach more than 25,000 people per year and have served as a great way of sharing our work with the communities around us.
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences Much of our formal education is taught through the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (DEES), which was named in 2010 by the National Research Council as the best Earth science Ph.D. program in the country, a ranking that reflects Lamont’s exceptional people, resources and affiliated programs. Globally, U.S. News & World Report 2017 ranked Columbia #4 for geoscience programs. The students in DEES bring enthusiasm and innovative ideas, lend fresh energy to our investigations and help inspire future research.
In the fall of 2018, DEES welcomed 19 new graduate students who hold citizenship in four different countries. Many of our new and continuing graduate students were recipients of prestigious fellowships this year.