See Related: Science PD Models Mentoring
  1. Martha Merson
  2. Project Director
  3. iSWOOP, Interpreters and Scientists Working on Our Parks
  4. http://www.iswoopparks.com/
  5. TERC, Winston-Salem State University
  1. Louise Allen
  2. Director/Faculty
  3. iSWOOP, Interpreters and Scientists Working on Our Parks
  4. http://www.iswoopparks.com/
  5. Winston-Salem State University, Center for Design Innovation
  1. Nickolay Hristov
  2. Associate Professor | Program Director
  3. iSWOOP, Interpreters and Scientists Working on Our Parks
  4. http://www.iswoopparks.com/
  5. Center for Design Innovation, Winston-Salem State University
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Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Martha Merson

    Martha Merson

    Lead Presenter
    May 12, 2019 | 08:55 p.m.

    iSWOOP is STEM learning in national parks delivered by park rangers with frogs, warblers, bats, Joshua trees, and Acadia's sparkling coast playing starring roles. 

    iSWOOP coordinates professional development for park rangers, the interpreters who speak to the public about their parks' natural and cultural resources. In those PD sessions, the scientists are the rock stars. 

    But in this film, we put a spotlight on the talented filmmakers and others who have contributed to the visualizations. Now in its fourth year, iSWOOP is synthesizing findings, summarizing the data we have collected on impact.

    We are open to suggestions for where and how to share our evaluators' findings. Every appliance manual comes with a troubleshooting guide--the pitfalls and problems the user might encounter (in this case in making park-based science a focus of pd for rangers and a focus of conversation with visitors) and some possible solutions. Would this be of interest along with an accompanying blurb about why it was worth it (citing the relevant impact the evaluator was able to document through surveys and other data)?

     

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    Sandra Simon

    Parent
    May 13, 2019 | 09:59 a.m.

    Voting for Behind the lens

  • Icon for: William Spitzer

    William Spitzer

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 10:57 a.m.

    I really appreciated the way this video combined some stunning footage of nature with footage of many of the people who were involved in this project. It made me curious to learn more about what kinds of scientific questions were motivating the participants (e.g. the "science of the parks" that you are trying to make more visible), and how those inspired the scientists, rangers, and filmmakers.

    I like the idea of sharing your evaluation data in ways that would be useful to others. I wonder if a "lessons learned" format might be more helpful than a "troubleshooting guide", so that you could focus more on what worked well. I do like the idea of explaining why the effort is worthwhile, in terms of the impacts you were able to capture. I am also intrigued by the "ripple effects" that you mention, and wonder if you have come up with some ways to capture those as well.

    Thanks,
    Billy

  • Icon for: Martha Merson

    Martha Merson

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 01:49 p.m.

    Hi Billy, Rangers find the public engages most readily when the scientific studies are related to their questions and the exact place they are visiting. Amphibians are plenty charismatic, but they are a hard sell for a family on the way to the beach. The wetland five miles away is not as compelling as the shoreline in front of them. When the iSWOOP team chooses to highlight questions that are answered with cool technology, where the answer can be demonstrated with an unusual visualization, then we seem to hit the sweet spot, meaning rangers have lengthy, substantive conversations. 

    Parks host a number of long-term, monitoring types of studies. These seem harder to make riveting. While this is important research, I wonder if we somehow need to pair descriptions of this type of study with studies (that happen elsewhere), that are experimental and might help us manage the huge changes that are coming. 

    As to ripple effects, we have interviews with some of the students, but at this point we haven't tried to document the ripple effects in a systematic way. Any suggestions? Do you have instruments for assessing impact on climate teens that would be appropriate/worth using as a starting point?

  • Icon for: William Spitzer

    William Spitzer

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 10:42 a.m.

    Hi Martha! It is so interesting to hear about what makes science compelling in a place-based context, and connecting to what is front of people here and now vs. longer-term and bigger trends. It sounds like "cool technology" might be able to help bridge the gap, we have done some work with interpreting data visualizations that might be of use (see http://vischange.org/ for more details).

     

    In terms of "ripple effect" evaluations for our NNOCCI climate change communication training (https://climateinterpreter.org/about/projects/NNOCCI), New Knowledge did a study where they interviewed a sample of friends, family, and professional colleagues of informal educators who participated in the training, and we were able to document those secondary impacts.

  • Icon for: Margaret Glass

    Margaret Glass

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 02:02 p.m.

    This video really helped me to appreciate the technical expertise involved in iSWOOP – the film making, technical editing, the logistics behind capturing data for the visualizations and beautiful park images.

    I am curious about the evaluation findings you are in the process of synthesizing and sharing. Do these mostly relate to the impact of this program experience on the park interpreters and the publics they engage? Did you also study the effects on the research scientists involved in the project?

    Looking forward to learning more!

    Margaret

     

  • Icon for: Martha Merson

    Martha Merson

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 10:29 a.m.

    Hi Margaret, Yes, mostly we have collected data on the park interpreters' experiences. We do have some findings related to iSWOOP featured scientists as well. Even though we weren't setting out to improve their science communication skills, we see that they are telling more stories in their public talks, leaving more room for audiences to conjecture, simplifying figures. If you are interested in more about the impacts or the design, we published articles in Integrative and Comparative Biology in 2018. The articles are on iSWOOPparks.com under About/reports. (There are also articles on citizen science and scientist-museum exhibit collaborations in the same issue on Science in the Public Eye). 

    Thanks for your comments about the logistics and technical side of iSWOOP. 

    Martha

     
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    Margaret Glass
  • Icon for: Elysa Corin

    Elysa Corin

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 10:24 a.m.

    Very engaging video, and I love the motivating idea to make science in the parks more visible.  Can you describe a few of the visualizations you are referring to, and explain how rangers use them in their interpretive work?  (For example, Are they carrying ipads on the trails?)  And, as the project is ending soon, do you envision this work continuing past the lifetime of the grant?  

  • Icon for: Martha Merson

    Martha Merson

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 10:42 p.m.

    Hi Elysa, 

    Did you catch Ranger Sardius with the iPad in the latter part of the video? In some parks, yes the rangers are using iPads on the trails. The iPads are an effective display device when there is shade. The visualizations vary with the featured science. We try to focus on aspects of the resource that are too big or too small to appreciate with the naked eye at one moment in time. Animations help visitors imagine changes due to glaciation and deglaciation. If the scientists' work results in maps or spectrographs, we include those. For example, avian biologist Katie Percy tags Prothonotary warblers and the results of her study include maps that show certain warbler's migration routes. 

    The laser scan in the video (around 1:43) is a type of visualization that is popular, especially at Carlsbad Caverns. The passage connecting bat cave and the natural entrance is one the bats use but that people, including park rangers rarely if ever traverse. So laser scans allow visitors to see parts of the cave they wouldn't ordinarily see. That is pretty special. The images are based on millions of data points. Rangers at Carlsbad talk about cave morphology and how laser scanning has changed the accuracy of cave surveys. The rangers who have attended iSWOOP professional development can explain the workflow and give an overview of how a laser scanner works. When they encounter visitors who use the technology, there's the opportunity to exchange information (architectural uses and coastline mapping are some of the uses we have heard of). 

     

  • May 15, 2019 | 01:13 a.m.

    Loved the video footage and it certainly invoked the feeling of being there in nature. What are your future plans with this work?

  • Icon for: Martha Merson

    Martha Merson

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 10:28 a.m.

    Luckily the iSWOOP team has planned a week retreat to take stock and outline next steps. In the short-term, we would like to leave interested parks with guidance on coordinating iSWOOP professional development and perhaps find a way to formally recognize iSWOOP interpreters who are in a position to be catalysts for relationships with scientists.

    There's much to do to make it easier for researchers to share methods and findings with park staff. I have lately been wondering about how to direct researchers, funding, and the public's attention to projects that will help us recover from biodiversity losses and manage the radical changes in habitats that we will see in the coming decades. 

  • Icon for: Margaret Glass

    Margaret Glass

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 11:04 a.m.

    Hi Martha, I love the idea of recognizing the iSWOOP interpreters and somehow empowering them to continue this programmatic development. As a lifelong National Park visitor, I have always been impressed at the corps of interpreters who engage visitors season after season. Do the parks involved in the project see this as a value added to their public mission?

    Margaret

  • Icon for: Martha Merson

    Martha Merson

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 09:32 p.m.

    The park rangers we've met include science coordinators, resource managers, and interpreters who are keen to communicate with the public. At the leadership level, administrators recognize that science, technology, science stories, and cool visualizations can attract the interest of new, young audiences. This is essential for building political support and commitment to collectively held lands for the 21st century. The frontline interpreters we have met are hungry to hear more from scientists. In between there are competing priorities--safety, operations, visitor expectations, decimated staffing due to sequestration, retirements, slow hiring. So, yes, in our experience, Park Service personnel are open and excited to do more, to have help to do more. The missions and goals align well. Yet occasionally and understandably they choose other priorities. 

  • Icon for: J. Clark

    J. Clark

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 16, 2019 | 08:12 p.m.

    Wow. Simply Wow. I would so appreciate hearing more about the students and community folks involved in your project and how participating in iSWOOP has impacted them. Congratulations on an excellent video and a fascinating project.

  • Icon for: Martha Merson

    Martha Merson

    Lead Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 11:01 p.m.

    Hi, I want to tell you about a presentation we did on project-based learning for college faculty who teach core courses. Hope to get back to you soon. Thanks so much for your interest. 

    Martha

  • Icon for: Martha Merson

    Martha Merson

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 07:53 a.m.

    Hi, I could share slides from a presentation called Artscience Integrating by Design. The file is enormous, so email me if you are interested and I will figure out a way to send a link. martha_merson@terc.edu

    Here is a synopsis. 

    In iSWOOP2.0 undergraduate and professional artists, filmmakers, and animators contributed to the visual libraries. While they derived benefits from their participation, the project did not focus evaluation or research on their experience. However, we can say that we worked with more than a dozen students affiliated with University of Maine, North Carolina School of the Arts, and UC Santa Cruz who contributed to iSWOOP visual libraries for Acadia, Indiana Dunes, and Joshua Tree National Parks Their contributions ranged from developing and creating videos/films to creating animations for use by park interpreters with the visiting public. They also created and adapted 2D and 3D models, maps, figures, and gifs to illustrate scientific concepts and to spark conversations among visitors. We conducted four semi-structured interviews with recent graduates, asking them to reflect on their experiences. Semi-structured interviews had three parts: background, iSWOOP experience, and opinions on national parks. The interviewer probed for value and impact of the experience with questions like:

    What aspects of your interactions with the scientist or project leaders did you find particularly valuable?

    • How did your understanding of the scientific research grow?
    • What inspires you about the project (meaning park science work, the species or phenomenon, informal settings)?
    • Has your work on this project led you to want to do more work at the intersection of art and science?
    • Have you been to the park focused on? Have your family members or friends? Would you recommend going? Are you motivated to go?

    When asked about what they learned, they all felt that their understanding of the science research had grown. Although most hadn’t thought about the intersection of art and science before, they were enthusiastic about using their art/graphic design/video skills in this way. “It’s an experiment, a challenge, to combine the scientist’s visions and secure them to the science, and get to the root of it and turn it into an art project.” They found the collaborative aspect of their work rewarding and learned communication skills.

    They were motivated too by the challenge of educating people. “That felt impactful,” said another. “It drove me to keep working on it.”

  • Icon for: Ellis Bell

    Ellis Bell

    Researcher
    May 17, 2019 | 10:01 a.m.

    What a great project. I suspect you have learned things about creating outreach/informal education opportunities that would translate to other sciences

  • Icon for: Martha Merson

    Martha Merson

    Lead Presenter
    May 19, 2019 | 04:56 p.m.

    Hi Ellis, Are you thinking of a particular group or discipline? I'm curious to hear more.

    iSWOOP is different from many projects advancing public engagement with scientists. We intentionally put park rangers in the middle. Yes, scientists can be engaging at pub nights or on panels. Audiences often love hearing directly from scientists. On the other hand, it's park rangers who see tens of thousands of visitors a year, whose full-time job it is to interact with the public. 

    For sure we have evolved some ways of working with scientists. Last year I asked scientists (who have led research at national parks) about their outreach preferences. Most said funding for travel was an obstacle, yet they highly preferred informal (in person) talks to other formats (such as being part of a teacher workshop or participating in a virtual field trip or being interviewed for an article). They were more interested in inspiring others to do science than in advancing their own science. I think it's important to pitch outreach/education opportunities to busy scientists in a way that advances mutual goals and conforms to their preferences. 

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    Christine Gerlach

    Informal Educator
    May 17, 2019 | 12:58 p.m.

    Thanks for taking the time to show us the other side of ISWOOP work; giving us inspiration to be cognizant of more than meets the eye.  

    Through your tools and training, continuing to find the inspiration for this journey.

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