July 5, 2011 | 2
Imagine a scientific field expedition in the middle of the concrete jungle. The looks, sounds, smells of the city – tall buildings, traffic, people everywhere, loud noise, exhaust and pollution. But where’s the wildlife – the animals, the plants, the microbes? They are there – in all of their diversity and splendor. Not surprisingly, many people forget about the wild things with which we share our neighbors and work space. I share this long-overlooked alternative world with people using photographs and narratives of wildlife in urban places and I encourage people to explore science more deeply.
I started blogging when I was smack dab in the middle of my doctoral studies and while I was co-coordinating an awesome science outreach program funded by my NSF G-K-12 Fellowship at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. I was working with inner-city high school students interested in biology and ecology and I had come to realize a stark truth: for the most part inner-city Black students were just not ready for college science courses. It didn’t matter if they were ‘good kids’ – never giving their parents/teachers a headache or made good grades. It was because they were not afforded the same opportunities to do science and be mentored by scientists like many students from more affluent school districts were. My university offered some amazing summer authentic science programs, but none of ‘my kids’ qualified because their grades weren’t high enough or potential mentors at nearby private universities weren’t equipped to deal with kids with so many social service hurdles. I certainly understood the hesitance, but I didn’t understand why a kid couldn’t be given a chance to participate if he/she had demonstrated a solid commitment to participation – in this case I meant students who were working with me or other GK-12 Fellows research projects. Couldn’t exceptions be made for these students? Apparently not, so I asked if we – a set of NSF GK-12 Fellows – could host our own summer authentic science program for such students; and I was pleasant surprised when the department (and our professors) happily agreed and signed off on it.
That blog cataloged how urban ecology is a gateway to science exploration as well as my pride in my students progress and growth in science and critical thinking. Yes, my students – I’m a little possessive in a Mama Bear kind of way with all of the students I work with. The program focused on ecological concepts easily explored in cities, as well as some one-on-one mentoring with students with doctoral students as research assistants. It was awesome. I had a ball and the students learned much, although I have no qualitative data set to demonstrate this. The blog was a space for me to share science with the public – to explain science in an easy to understand manner, to showcase the process of science as done by my students, me and others. As my eyes opened to how much under-served audiences were under-served, I expanded my science outreach more – to discuss science education, science literacy, diversity in science, as well as novel ways to explain evolutionary biology.
Behold, The Urban Scientist, a niche blogger, was born! I blog for scientifically naïve, the novice naturalist. I build bridges that connect the science community and its resources to African-American, urban, and other scientifically under-served communities. I use examples from my urban environment to illustrate scientifc concepts; and I (try to) make science information accessible, easy to understand and relate to. My outreach philosophy is to reach people by many means necessary.
Comments are welcome – everything to full-on dialogues to simple thumbs up or thumbs down are great, but in all things, please maintain civility. Assume high school students will be reading this page, so let’s all be good role models at all times.
I hope you enjoy what is in store for you here at The Urban Scientist. Here is sample of what to expect.
Urban Ecology: Chickory, the wild urban herb
Evolutionary biology remixed with phat beats: How some females respond to Nuptial Gifts
STEM Diversity: A Wise Latina Scientist
demystifying nature, letting everyone experience
Secrets of the Universe: Past, Present, FutureX