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Since I’m not registered for any classes this semester, I tried to fill my time and energy with extra-curricular endeavors. I’m proud to describe two of these projects here!

First, as an idea that began early last fall, I’m working with Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, whose staff instructs a course on natural and cultural history interpretation for undergraduate “SEED” students majoring in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Management, outdoor education, and other majors that like being outside and learning and teaching about the environment. Both the Shale Hills CZO scientist and staff at Shaver’s Creek are interested in educating the public about the importance of studying the natural world and recognizing the effects of human-environment interaction and climate and land-use change. We decided on a project that involves pre-existing trails around the Environmental Center that intersect study sites around the CZO. Along this “science loop,” hikers would pass by a notched weir, cross a geologic contact, and observe the numerous permanent observation sites along the ridgelines measuring properties of soil, carbon and water. The SEED students are tasked with taking some of the more technical scientific information put out by CZO scientists and interpreting these sites for the general public.

Later in the semester, these students will take their interpretive materials and turn them into an “e-trail guide,” designed to augment visitors’ hikes with multimedia informational displays. Stay tuned for that outcome!

A second project with which I am involved is a new coalition of students and some faculty called We Are For Science, and it’s a group of science workers interested in promoting science in policy and science communication, as well as diversity and inclusion within the sciences. I’m focusing on the latter – after November 9th, I wanted to show my friends and colleagues that I was their ally in what would be a difficult time in navigating an atmosphere of fear, hatred and closed-mindedness. I worried about my classmates and fellow scientists – women, religious minorities, people of color – and I wanted their work to be taken seriously, and for them to feel safe and welcomed in my department and scientific discipline. Attending a liberal arts school in southern California equipped me with the language and tools to address inequality and privilege, but there never seemed to be as dire of a time to employ that knowledge as their is now. My hope is that the few events we’ve planned – student mixers aimed at POCs, inviting speakers who can tell their stories about being an under-represented group or recruiting minority student – will do a little bit in making our little bubble of academia more welcoming to groups who face systematic discrimination. If you’re reading this, and have any advice or questions, I would be very interested in learning more.

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