published May 8, 2014

What's Happening in SENCER-ISE: RVCC Students and Citizen Scientists Deepen Understanding of Forest Health

Hailey Chenevert, NCSCE

The SENCER-ISE partnerships are now deep into their projects using compelling civic issues to forge lasting and valuable connections between formal and informal science educators. To share the great work they are doing with our community, we have started a new feature for the eNews on partnership activities. To learn more about the initiative and the partnerships, visit the SENCER-ISE website .

Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) and New Jersey Audubon (NJA) are partnering to incorporate work done in Dr. Jay Kelly's Environmental Field Studies course at RVCC with the citizen science activities at NJA led by Dr. Nellie Tsipoura to address forest health in central New Jersey.

The previous versions focused on exposing students to the process of conducting scientific research through less-directly related community-based field research, conservation, and restoration projects. The new version that is supported by SENCER-ISE has focused and deepened the course content, providing an opportunity for students to participate in meaningful community-based research and outreach being conducted by NJA. Ms. Dale Rosselet, Ms. Kelly Wenzel, and Dr. Nellie Tsipoura, provided guidance and helped the students develop outreach materials for communicating issues related to invasive plants with NJA volunteers.

As Dr. Kelly says, the course has "exposed [the students] not only to the principles and practices of basic scientific research, but the relevance of research methods and results to solving real-world problems, and moral civic values, roles and responsibilities of science and scientists in matters of civic importance."

As part of their course work, students conducted workshops on invasive plant identification and survey methodology for the NJA led volunteer training workshops. These workshops typically provide background information about the various NJA projects, and training in bird identification and methodologies. Through this SENCER- ISE project and collaboration with RVCC, the invasive plant module was incorporated into the survey. Each citizen scientist received a packet with CDs of all the presentations and bird sounds, protocols, any additional paper work, and a "field manual" developed by the students.

Between late May and early July, the citizen scientists and students interns will conduct bird and invasive plant surveys and collect information on deer presence at 375 points throughout natural areas within the Raritan and Piedmont regions.

For more information on the Raritan Valley Community College and New Jersey Audubon partnership, visit their page on the SENCER-ISE website.