Journalists and scientists talked environment at summit Tuesday


 

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Cwiertny, Dalrymple and Jones answer audience questions on nitrate pollution in Iowa (photo by Julia Poska).

Julia Poska | March 7, 2019

Urgent environmental challenges like climate change have made it increasingly vital for the public to know the facts. General audiences get information largely through news media, but distilling complicated science accurately is not always easy for writers. Friendly collaboration between scientists and journalists is crucial, for the sake of accuracy and public good.

An Environmental Journalism Summit in Grinnell, Iowa brought students and professionals in both fields together Tuesday to share thoughts on improving environmental science communication.

The University of Iowa’s Environmental Health Sciences Research Center organized the summit and presented on three “hot topics” in environmental news. Peter Thorne, head of the UI Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, spoke about his experiences advising the EPA under changing administration. Dr. Robert Blount discussed his medical research on air pollution and tuberculosis.  Darrin Thompson, associate director of the UI Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination (CHEEC), shared his knowledge and research on neonicotinoids, a controversial class of pesticides.

Two expert panels shared their knowledge and answered questions from moderators and audience members. The “Science and Media” panel featured Iowa Public Radio’s Amy Mayer, journalism professor Daniel Lathrop, Iowa Watch executive director Lyle Muller and engineer Craig Just, who discussed the complexities of communicating science. They stressed the importance of fact checking, including people in storytelling and maintaining responsibility to the audience.

Another panel focused on nitrates and water quality, featuring IIHR research engineer Chris Jones, CHEEC director David Cwiertny and Kajsa Dalrymple, who researches media effects on agricultural practices. They discussed gaps in coverage of the issue, the magnitude of the problem and the complex system that created it. 

Researchers also participated in more journalistic activities, like generating story ideas on hog manure. The summit ended with a showcase on Cedar Fall High School’s news team, which has published award-winning investigations on pesticide drift, climate  change education and drinking water nitrates through Iowa Watch. 

Iowa City Darwin Day events this weekend


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Jenna Ladd | February 23, 2017

Just after what would have Charles Darwin’s 209th birthday, Iowa City will host its 12th annual Darwin Day celebration this weekend.

Each February, the non-profit Iowa City Darwin Day organization brings scientists from around the country to provide free, public workshops to residents. The organization aims to “recognize and show our appreciation for the enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, has contributed to the advancement of humanity” through its lectures and social events.

The weekend’s events kick off today at 2 pm in the University of Iowa Biology Building with an art exhibit followed by a presentation from Jacquelyn L. Gill, Assistant Professor at the University of Maine Climate Change Institute, titled “The Past is Not Dead: How the Last 2.5 Million Years of Global Change Can Prepare Us for the Next Century.” In all, Friday will feature presentations from three scientists, including former NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies director and University of Iowa Alumni, Dr. James E. Hansen.

Tomorrow’s programming will run from 9 am to 5:30 pm and be rounded out by a workshop for Iowa teachers. The workshop, titled, “Getting Students to Think, Talk and Write Like Scientists” will be facilitated by Dr. Paul K. Strode. A doctorate in ecology and evolution, Dr. Strode teaches science to high school students in Boulder, Colorado. His efforts are centered around teaching students to distinguish between real science and pseudoscience and engage in inquiry-based learning.

Local teachers also have the option to register for a two-day course and interactive workshop, which is sponsored by the Darwin Day Iowa City organization. Titled “Raising Scientific Literacy in a Time of Climate Change,” the workshop will take place during the other public events and provide participants with 1 semester hour of continuing education credit.

Have a busy weekend and can’t make it to all of this fantastic programming? If nothing else, be sure to attend Darwin’s birthday part on Saturday at 1 pm in MacBride Hall’s Hageboeck Hall of Birds!

More details about Darwin Day Iowa City activities can be found here.

EnvIowa Podcast: Next generation science standards come to Iowa


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(Jonnie 5 Apparel)
Jenna Ladd | September 29, 2016

The University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research is proud to present the first episode of its new monthly podcast, EnvIowa. Each month, EnvIowa hosts Jenna Ladd and Jake Slobe will discuss environmental news, research, and initiatives that affect Iowans.

To kick off season one, EnvIowa discusses the coming introduction of new science standards to schools across the Hawkeye state with Scott Spak, assistant professor of urban and regional planning and civil and environmental engineering, and Ted Neal, clinical science instructor at the University of Iowa. The podcast explores the ins and outs of the Next Generation Science Standards, what researchers know about how climate science is currently being taught in the state, and how the new standards will enhance learning for students.

Listeners can access the podcast below or find it on iTunes.

Next month we will discuss the upcoming Climate Festival with University of Iowa associate professor of chemistry, Besty Stone.

On The Radio – Workshop brings together scientists and educators


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Teachers participating in a curriculum development workshop at the Critical Zone Observatory environmental science workshop last month. (Nick Fetty/CGRER)
Jenna Ladd | August 1, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment covers the Critical Zone Observatory environmental science educator workshop that took place last month.

Transcript: Workshop brings together scientists and educators

Two University of Iowa professors from different disciplines came together last month to host an event aimed at helping teachers better connect with their students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Nearly two dozen Eastern Iowa teachers got together last month for a workshop that taught them about hands-on activities and lesson plans to better engage their students and potentially attract them to STEM careers. The event was organized by UI earth and environmental sciences professor Art Bettis along with College of Education clinical assistant professor Leslie Flynn. The event was also sponsored by the UI State Hygienic Laboratory and the Intensively Managed Landscapes Critical Zone Observatory, a National Science Foundation-supported research collaborative that studies the impact agriculture has on land, air, and water in the Midwest.

The workshop consisted of two parts: a morning session that had the teachers at a research site in eastern Iowa County learning about hand-on activities and potential field trip opportunities for their students. The teachers took water samples and tested them for various metrics such as nitrate levels. In the afternoon, the teachers took part in a curriculum development exercise at the State Hygienic Lab.

Dr. Bettis – who is also a member of the UI’s Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research – said he was happy the event was able to bring together scientific researchers and public educators.

Art Bettis: “With the CZO, we want to, just like all scientists we want to be able to get our science out to the public and there’s multiple ways of doing that but I’m a pretty firm believer that one of the really, really critical and best ways to do it is through education.”

For more information about the Critical Zone Observatory Environmental Science Workshop, visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

New science standards approved for Iowa K-12 schools


(Danny Nicholson/Flickr)
(Danny Nicholson/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | August 7, 2015

The Iowa Education Board voted unanimously Thursday to implement new science standards for K-12 public schools in the state.

Iowa is the 15th state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which “spell out science-based knowledge and skills that students should possess at each grade level.” The new standards focus less on memorization and more on other skills such as “analyzing data, developing a model and constructing a logical argument.” Students will also now be required to take an engineering course, previously offered only as an elective.

The adoption the new standards met some resistance by an Iowa House bill which aimed to block the new standards for “miss[ing] some key math and science concepts, present[ing] evolution as scientific fact and shine[ing] a negative light on human impacts on climate change.” The bill was defeated earlier this year.

A study by the American Society of Human Genetics found that the NGSS were effective at covering 10 out of 19 core genetics concepts compared to previous state standards that only covered about five core concepts.

Last year Wyoming became the first state to block the NGSS. The Wyoming state legislature has since lifted the block though the state’s Board of Education has yet to implement the standards.

Iowa along with 26 other states and the National Academy of Sciences teamed up in 2013 to develop the NGSS.

Other states that have adopted NGSS: Arkansas (for middle school), California, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.

On the Radio: Spurring interest in the sciences, Back to School Special


This week marks the beginning of CGRER’s new radio segment (unsurprisingly) called the Iowa Environmental Focus. Below is the audio and transcript of our first clip. For more information on the segment, check out our “On the Radio” page.

Click here to listen to the clip (1:15).

TRANSCRIPT:

How can we improve science education in Iowa’s schools?

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

As Iowa kids head back to school this fall, we would like to highlight a group of Iowa researchers working to make our classrooms better places to learn.

During the next two years, Cory Forbes, a U of I education professor, is leading a team that will engage 30 Davenport teachers to study how to improve the way science is taught in our schools.

Right now, many American kids are falling behind in science, showing little interest in the material. This project looks to change that by promoting interactive learning.

If more kids get the chance to DO science, kids may decide they like it. And if we see more interest in science here, our kids will better equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century and to keep Iowa prosperous.

For more information visit us at Iowa Environmental Focus dot O-R-G.

Welcome back to school, everybody. Let’s make this another great year in our local schools.

I’m Jerry Schnoor from the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Thank you, and enjoy Iowa’s environment.

END