Outreach at PLE

The educational mission of PLE extends beyond our undergraduate students.  PLE has made a substantial effort to increase the amount of outreach that our staff and researchers conduct with the public.  We have recently hired new staff and are have built a new facility that expands our ability to host K-12 groups for biological outreach opportunities.  These are some of the types of outreach we do at PLE:

K-12 programs

This is the newest area of outreach effort at PLE.  This year we are offering three exciting programs in aquatic ecology (descriptions below).  

Fall 2014 – Lake Ecology on Pymatuning Reservoir

Fall/Winter/Spring 2014-15 – Experiments in EcoToxicology

Spring 2015 – Adaptations to Pond Life

Lake Ecology

Bring your students to PLE this fall for a hands-on lake ecology experience!  Your students will learn about physical zones of a lake, how those zones affect the biotic communities that can live there, and how scientists go about assessing the health the lake.  Activities caninclude open water biotic sampling (phyto- and zooplankton, benthos) and abiotic sampling (dissolved oxygen, nutrients, pH, temperature), near-shore macroinvertebrate  and  fish collection, and lab identification of specimens collected.   We have 2 pontoon boats that seat 12 persons each, so we can only have ~20 students on the water at a time.  Group size can be larger if given time to locate a collaborator.  Obviously, poor weather gets to be an issue as we get late into fall, so this program will only be run through the end of October.

 

EcoToxicology

This program is a very exciting and intense dive into the world of ecological toxicology.  Students will be tasked with designing and running two experiments.  The first to assess the LC50 (lethal concentration that kills 50% of experimental organisms) of a commonly used garden/lawn pesticide on an aquatic organism.  The second experiment will be to study if sub-lethal concentrations of the same pesticide have major impacts on the experimental organism.  PLE will provide all the supplies needed to run these experiments and we will also provide the technical assistance in guiding the experimental design.  While I am happy to do classroom visits to provide guidance, most questions will be posted on a weblog dedicated to the project.  This forces the students to think through their questions carefully and lets other groups see the answers to the difficulties others encounter.  This project takes a substantial amount of time to plan, though the actual experiments typically only last a couple days to a week at most.

 

Adaptations to Pond Life

Pond-dwelling organisms have to deal with a variety of challenges from both environmental stressors and the other organisms they live with.  This program looks at the variety of ways that these organisms have adapted to deal with these challenges.  This program involves a lecture on these challenges and adaptations, collection of organisms, and lab identification of organisms.  This program is typically run at PLE, but could be taken on the road to your school if a suitable sampling location can be found within walking distance.  This program has a limited availability as it can only be run April 20 – May 8.  Ideal class size is ~25 or less, but there are collaborators we can work with (such as the nearby fish hatchery) that can increase the number of students we can work with in a given day. 

Any area educators who would like to take advantage of these programs or would like to work with us on developing a program tailored to their educational needs, please contact our Assistant Director Chris Davis at chd47@pitt.edu.

Teachers Workshops

High school teachers have the opportunity to work in the field environment with hands on training. Activities  take advantage of the many excellent field sites surrounding the Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology. In addition, researchers from PLE go into K-12 schools to teach them about science and do real experiments!

Open House

Every year, early spring, there is a display set at the fish hatchery open house. The reseachers from PLE take time to educate the public about critters in their own back yard! It is a wonderful way of demonstrating some of what is going on at PLE.

 

fish hatchery

 

The growth of PLE outreach from 2007 to 2013The growth of PLE outreach from 2007 to 2013