Category Archives: Science Education

Citizen Scientist

Here’s a great chance for anyone, specifically teachers and students, to be citizen scientists and be part of a real-life, real-world science test.

The Cameron Siler lab at the University of Oklahoma and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History is launching the Oklahoma Infectious Disease Citizen Science Project. Basically you would gather information from the state’s reptiles and amphibians. Researchers are specifically looking to track cases of chytridiomycosis or chytrid fungus. It’s a deadly disease in amphibians.

Jessa Watters is the collections manager for herpetology at the Sam Noble Museum, she says “The project is important because we know so little about this life-threatening disease for amphibians in Oklahoma. Understanding where it occurs in the state can help us track its progress and work with state officials to protect amphibians that may be particularly at risk due to already low population sizes within the state. In other parts of the United States and globally, chytrid fungus has been blamed for local extinctions.”

The lab is looking for help from teachers and students (or really anyone who wants to do a little science). All you need is access to a pond or stream. You’ll get a kit with all the equipment you need, teachers will get a packet, and you’ll be given resources online to to show how to collect the data and work in the field. “By having students help us collect the data, they will gain an appreciation for ponds and amphibians, and how things in their own neighborhoods are at risk. They will also learn how to correctly swab frogs in order to collect accurate and relevant scientific data” added Watters.

SIO has profiled Jessa Watters before. Below are the two stories we’ve produced showing what it’s like to do science in the field and why she likes herpetology.

 

Someone has to love bugs

Dr. Katrina Menard is an entomologist, so she studies bugs (someone has to, right??). She was in Black Mesa this summer as part of the ExplorOlogy program. She was teaching the students how to develop a scientific study by taking a census of the local insect population.

So why entomology and why insects? Well at the 1:10 mark she explains what led her to a career studying the tiniest of creatures. At the 1:48 mark she talks about the importance of funding for scientific research and why the decision makers need to look at the long term results.

(For more on ExplorOlogy click here, here, here, and here.)

Tools for Digging up Dinos

Ever wonder what tools paleontologists use for digging up dinos? Wonder no more. Here’s the second video from my trip to the Oklahoma Panhandle. (Here’s the first.) It was part of the ExplorOlogy program sponsored by the Sam Noble Museum. We went to Kenton, OK and Black Mesa. It’s home to a ton of fossils from about 150 million years ago.

Dr. Lindsey Yann of the OSU Center for Health Sciences explains the main kinds of tools they use to dig up those fossils and why it’s important to study Oklahoma’s past.

Dr. Yann is the volunteer coordinator for the Vertebrate Paleontology lab in Tulsa. It’s a great place to volunteer if you want to see fossils up close but can’t make it to the Panhandle.

Thanks again to the scientists at the Sam Noble Museum and the OSU Center for Health Sciences for inviting me on this trip.

Digging for Dinos

Who doesn’t like digging for dinos? I had the chance this summer to go on a real-life, honest to goodness dinosaur dig in the Oklahoma Panhandle. It was in Black Mesa near Kenton, OK. That’s about thisclose to the New Mexico and Colorado state lines.

I was a guest of Dr. Anne Weil of the OSU Center for Health Sciences. (She’s been featured before here, here, and here.) The dig was part of the ExplorOlogy program run through the Sam Noble Museum in Norman. ExplorOlogy is all about helping Oklahoma students and teachers get a hands on look at the wonderful world of science. The kids spend the night in the Sam Noble Museum, they get an up close look at the OKC Zoo, and they go work in the field on actual science expeditions.

The dinosaur dig in Black Mesa is an example. The students were helping dig up some Apatosaurus bones. That was a huge dinosaur most of us grew up calling a Brontosaurus.

In addition to digging up the dinosaurs the students went hiking and took a census of the local insects in Black Mesa (video to come!!).

I can’t thank Dr. Weil and the staff at the Sam Noble Museum enough for letting me tag along.

If you know a student who is interested on going next summer click here to learn more about the program and how you can register.

 

Herpetology Field Trip

The Cameron Siler Lab is based at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Researchers there study herpetology, which means they know just about everything there is to know about reptiles and amphibians.

They just started the first year of a three year grant to study the diversity of those creatures in Oklahoma. They’re also looking to see if any of them show signs of certain diseases that could have a major impact on the populations.

Special thanks to Jessa Watters, the herpetology collections manager, for letting me tag along on one of their field trips. We went to the James Collins Wildlife Management Area in Latimer County. It’s not know if any of the animals you see in this video suffer from those diseases. The researchers take what they’ve collected back to their lab to perform the tests.

If you know of a group of scientists doing field work in Oklahoma please let me know. I’d love to go out there with them. Drop me a line at scienceisok (at) outlook (dot) com.

This Scientist Is OK- Dr. Stanley Rice

Dr. Stanley Rice is a botanist and professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant. He’s one of the more active scientists in Oklahoma in terms of public outreach. He works with Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education and he’s well known for channeling his inner Charles Darwin (check it out at the 1:50 mark) and click here to go to his YouTube channel.

Dr. Rice loves science and has made it his life mission to share his passion. He says, “What’s most important to me is that people can understand why science is important and how that fits in with their lives and their responsibility to all of humankind and to all the world. All the little things we do matter and science helps us understand how those little things matter.”

 

 

What is Scientific Evidence?

The amazing folks at Compound Interest are at it again. This time they’ve created an easy to follow guide explaining what makes up scientific evidence. The chart is below but you can click here to read their entire article.

Here’s why they made it,  “You might think science is science, but some evidence is ranked higher in the scientific community than others, and having an awareness of this can help you sort the science from the pseudoscience when it comes to various internet claims.” They go on to say, “The idea that sources of internet misinformation like the Food Babe might cease to exist with a better public understanding of scientific evidence is a bit of an idealistic one, but perhaps it might give those following cause to stop and question evidence provided, rather than merely accepting it at face value.”

Courtesy: Compound Interest

Courtesy: Compound Interest

Compound Interest has all kinds of wonderful information and they encourage teachers to use it in their classrooms.

Camp Quest

Here’s a great chance for you and your child to learn about science and take in the great outdoors this summer. It’s called Camp Quest. The camp focuses on science and caters to the non-religious. Here’s how it’s described on its website, “The purpose of Camp Quest is to provide children of freethinking parents a residential summer camp dedicated to improving the human condition through rational inquiry, critical and creative thinking, scientific method, self-respect, ethics, competency, democracy, free speech, and the separation of religion and government.” 

The kids learn about everything from DNA to biology. They also go canoeing and learn archery. I spent some time at the camp back in my TV days and it looks like a lot of fun. Click here to see that story from 2013.

You can register for the camp here. They’re also looking for adult volunteers. Check out what the president of Camp Quest Oklahoma posted on Facebook about her experience as a volunteer, “I’ve watched these same children blossom from shy, quiet, and immature kids to outspoken and proud young adults. The best part is returning and seeing these kids year after year and seeing how they’ve grown and matured. These kids let me know that they are going to change this world into a better place.

Got STEM?

Phil Plait is the Bad Astronomer and writes for Slate. He wrote a short post about the need for STEM education and critical thinking in the U.S.

Check it out here.

There’s a fantastic video in that article about a talk at TEDx so be sure to click over there and take a peak. You’ll notice at the top of Plait’s post is a picture of that senator with a snowball, Jim Inhofe. So sad that one of our state’s leaders has become the poster child for a lack of critical thinking.

Summer of Science

How about a summer of science for your high schooler (or 8th grader)?!?! OK Higher Ed is offering a fantastic opportunity for students who will be in 8th-12th grade next year. It’s called the Summer Academies.

A total of 26 academies will be held at 17 college campuses across the state throughout the summer.  Topics include biology, engineering, math, aeronautics, meteorology…you know, all the STEM stuff. Best of all, it’s FREE!!!

Check out these quotes from former academy attendees courtesy of OKMath.

“No field of study has started a fire within me like architecture and interior design has. Your enthusiasm for my ideas and designs was new and exciting for me.”

“This is the best thing I will ever do this whole entire summer.”

“College doesn’t seem as unimaginable as before. I will definitely be going to college.”

OKMath also reports, “a greater percentage of Summer Academies students go to college immediately after high school than compared to other students.” Also, “Summer Academies students earn degrees at a higher rate than other students.”

Click here to register and see a full list of academies being offered. You can also call 1-800-858-1840 for more information.

And remember, it’s FREE!!

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