Outreach at PLE

The PLE outreach program has grown substantially over the years. We now offer not only programs for K-12 school kids, but have recently launched our first citizen-science initiative, FrogWatch USAtm, aimed at people of all ages.These are some of the types of outreach we do at PLE:

K-12 programs

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 of the lake.  Activities can include 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.  


Forensic DNA analysis

How do scientists use DNA-related technology to link a blood or tissue sample with a particular person?  In the winter, we make use of PLE’s superb laboratory facilities to offer a program that explores how scientists make use of modern molecular techniques in forensic science to make these types of connections. Students will learn, through both lecture and hands-on experience, how to extract, replicate and separate strands of DNA using the same tools and techniques as scientists at Pitt!


FrogWatch in the classroom

Why do frogs breed in some ponds but not others?  Why do we hear them calling on some nights but not others? As an extension of our FrogWatch USA citizen-science program, we invite high school students in the region to utilize advanced equipment and software to explore aspects of frog biology and conservation.  Students receive full FrogWatch USA training (to recognize the calls of local frog species and to be familiar with the FrogWatch monitoring protocol) and are then asked to develop a research project using remote recording devices and software for analyzing recordings. Possible research questions include (but are not limited to) testing the effectiveness of the FrogWatch protocol or exploring environmental predictors of frog calling activity (air temperature, water temperature, humidity, etc.).


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 includes 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.  

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 chris.davis@pitt.edu.

Citizen-Science Programs

Spring Program for all: FrogWatch USA

Starting in 2016, PLE began training citizen-scientists in western Pennsylvania to be FrogWatch USA volunteers.  FrogWatch USA is a nationwide citizen-scientist program where volunteers help monitor frog and toad populations by recording and reporting information on their calling activity.  For more information, checkout the FrogWatch website: http://www.aza.org/frogwatch.  Also, checkout this spotlight story on a FrogWatch training we did at Frick Environmental Center:


We schedule at least two volunteer training sessions each spring…please inquire if you are interested!  

FrogWatch Training Dates for 2020:

February 15, 2020, 2:00 PM - 4:30 PM @ Frick Environmental Center, 2005 Beechwood Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15217

Registration is required. Please go to this website to register: https://www.pittsburghparks.org/park-events

March 28, 2020, 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM @ Pymatuning State Park Environmental Learning Classroom, 2660 Williamsfield Road, Jamestown, PA 16134  (at the Jamestown Marina).

Registration is required. To register, please contact Emily Borcz at eborcz@pa.gov or (724) 932-3141 ext. 106.


Open House

Every year, early spring, there is a display set at the Pymatuning State Fish Hatchery's 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