Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Diversity in Science Carnival #6: Perspectives on STEM Diversity and Outreach from ScienceOnline2010

Originally conceived as a Science Blogging conference for science bloggers in the Research Triangle, North Carolina (because obviously that little piece of real estate is the center of the science universe) it has expanded into something more, something grand, something viral. ScienceOnline is an international meeting of hearts, minds and modems of scientists, communicators, and students of all ages & levels who have at least two things in common – Science and the Internet.

I was scheduled to co-moderate a session about STEM Diversity, but was unable to attend for personal reasons (the dissertation). I was able to follow all of the proceedings online – which was the point of the entire conference: how to engage the public in science conversations using the internet. Many people think of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as fields with too few women or people of color among the ranks. This is true for some fields and in some places. However, I can tell you that the ScienceOnline Community is dedicated to diversity and inclusion of traditionally under-represented peoples. This brings me to a very well made point by IrrationalPoint at Modus dopens On gratitude of science scholars, e.g. white males, who are actually decent and kind people who treat women and minorities like, well, regular people.

There were 5 sessions that discussed Diversity and Outreach – the hurdles, the successes, and new directions.
· Casting a wider net: Promoting gender and ethnic diversity in STEM (I was supposed to co-moderate this one)
· Talking Trash: Online Outreach from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
· Citizen Science
· Citizen Science and Students
· Science Education: Adults
· Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Session: Engaging underrepresented groups in online science media.
At first I thought this session and the Casting a wider net session were redundant. But co-moderator and college professor/administrator Abel Pharmboy presents this topic in a new and compelling way in his post #scio10 Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Session: Engaging Underrepresented Groups in Online Science Media

Janet D. Stemwedel of Adventures & Ethics in Science seemed to be everywhere at once. She seemed to have attended every one of these panels and live-tweeted like crazy. She recaps her tweets:
· #scio10 aftermath: my tweets from "Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Session: Engaging underrepresented groups in online science media".
· #scio10 aftermath: my tweets from "Talking Trash: Online Outreach from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch".
· #scio10 aftermath: my tweets from "Casting a wider net: Promoting gender and ethnic diversity in STEM".
and also offers thought-provoking summaries from the sessions as well:
· scio10 aftermath: some thoughts on "Casting a wider net: Promoting gender and ethnic diversity in STEM"
· #scio10 aftermath: some thoughts on "Talking Trash: Online Outreach from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch".

Greg Laden, who is always a slice of heaven, gives a very good overview of all of the sessions he attended, which included the Citizen Science session and the MLK Memorial Session in #scio10 Science Online 2010 recollections and reflections on the sessions I attended.

And one of my newest blog friends, Vicky of TGAW (and I’m really sad I didn’t attend and meet her) had me in near tears with her post Science Online 2010 and the Neighborhood Kids – Community and Role Models. This summary is one of my very favorites from the conference. Vicky and her husband Ryan of Ideonexus, completely embody the heart and soul of casting a wider net in STEM. She weaves personal accounts of their experiences with teaching, providing laptops, and free internet access to the neighborhood kids as she summarizes the sessions related to diversity and outreach. Ryan's summaries were on point, too.

· Science Online 2010: Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Session: Engaging Underrepresented Groups in Online Science Media
· Science Online 2010: Casting a Wider Net: Promoting Gender and Ethnic Diversity in STEM

Last, but certainly not least is Dr. Isis’ account of online diversity and inclusion in her always straight-forward and provoking way. MLK Day, Blogrolling, and Protecting Your Brand briefly summarizes her take home points from the MLK Memorial Session and how African-American and Latino Americans are over-represented in the mobile tech markets. Everyone who attended that session noted this and all agreed that IF we are serious about engaging these audiences in STEM, then we must meet them in their preferred social media space….Hmm…That has me thinking – Urban Science Adventures! © on a Blackberry, iPod, or mobile phone near you….

Finally, Dr. Isis is reminded by one of her readers, and in turn reminds us all, that Including Disability in Diversity Discussions #scio10 is equally important. I admit to dropping the ball on this one, not because it isn’t important, but because of my lack of experiences. So, this carnival will also highlight Inclusion efforts and role models of people with disabilities in STEM.

Be sure to check out the video mash up of the ScienceOnline 2010 conference.

Science Online 2010 Flickr/Picasa mashup from Graham Steel on Vimeo.

See you next month for Black History Month! Submissions can be made here. Carnival will be posted February 27, 2010.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Open Laboratory: The Best Writing on Science Blogs 2009 Edition

With the decline of science journalism and just good science writing in traditional media altogether, someone hatched the idea to pluck out the best science writing online and put it into a printed book. In 2006, a community of science bloggers, many from the SEED sponsored collective known as ScienceBlogs put words to action and the first anthology of blog posts showcasing the quality and diversity of writing on science blogs was created and it was named Open Laboratory: The Best Writing on Science Blogs.

I submitted two essays and one was selected by a panel of judges for Open Laboratory 2009, an anthology of the best science blogging for the year. Only 50 posts were selected per year and I am told it was a very competitive selection process, with an unprecedented 760 entries submitted this year. Whew, that was some very, very stiff competition and the selected works are amazing in range and topical diversity. I am indeed head-over-heels excited to have been selected, thanks Scicurious (edition editor), Bora (anthology editor), and Open Lab judges (referees). The submissions will be sent off to the publishers and available to buy. The 2006, 2007, and 2008 editions are available to purchase, and the 2009 version will be available later this spring.

My blog post “The Rightful Place of Science in Society and the African-American Community”, originally posted at YBPGuide and also published in the 2009 Black History Month edition of the St. Louis American weekly newspaper. Below is the essay, with revisions for the upcoming 2009 Open Laboratory Anthology.

In President Barack Obama’s Inauguration Speech on January 20, 2009, he vowed “to restore science to its rightful place” in society. Wow, that fills me with an excitement and eagerness to do and share science more than before, particularly to audiences that have long been under-represented in science. I ask myself, “What is science’s rightful place in society? Furthermore, what place should science have in the African-American community?”

There has been a long and understandably uneasy relationship between the Black Community and Science. Being regarded as less-than-human by other groups has put many of our fore-parents in harm’s way. I could speak volumes about unethical medical research and heartless medical providers; acknowledging the pain of the past is important. However, in order to move forward me must also accept that “this is a new day”, as Obama declared. It is time to restore Science – the offspring of Education and Intellectualism – to its rightful place in the African-American community.

The rightful place of science in our society and in the African-American community is within us. Science rightfully belongs to us, the people. It is not some mysterious activity done by others. In fact, many of the greatest scientists of all time came are also African-American: Dr. Charles H. Turner – Zoologist, Dr. Edward Bouchet – Physicist & the first Black American to earn a Ph.D., George Washington Carver – Agriculture Scientist, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson – Astrophysicist & Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Dr. Mae Jemison – Physician & NASA Astronaut, Dr. Ian Smith - Physician, Dr. Shirley Jackson – Nuclear Physicist & President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Dr. James Gates - Physicist, Dr. Shirley Malcolm – Ecologist & Head, Education and Human Resources of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Dr. Maydianne Andrade – Behavioral Ecologist.

In order to restore science to its rightful place, we must first acknowledge what science is. Science is a pursuit of knowledge. It drives us to question, to critique, to hypothesize, to measure, to evaluate, to interpret, and to propose solutions to the most pressing needs of our communities. It is an exercise of intellect, discipline and curiosity that compels us to want to understand our world and to make it better. Science is simply information about our world, our environment, and our health.

Science is the handiest of tools in our arsenal against discrimination, poverty, hunger, socio-economic disparity and environmental injustice. People’s lives are impacted by information, and failing to comprehend information can be very detrimental. Many have paid the price of ignorance and misinformation. I have personally witnessed the heartbreaking consequences of scientific illiteracy within the African-American community, such as individuals deciding to forgo life-saving medical procedures, not following a doctor’s health advice, or moving into environmentally hazardous buildings. Many people have confused superstition as fact and shared false information about health or medical issues. We come to depend heavily on the advice of well-spoken, sometimes well-meaning celebrities and nationally-syndicated radio personalities. They share information that they believe to be true, but they are often under-informed.

Restoring science to its rightful place requires a dedication for every single citizen to become scientifically literate, to understand science, and use it to enhance our lives. Moreover, this restoration must include people who have been under-served and under-represented in science for too long. One way to achieve this is to integrate science into our everyday lives. One barrier to this is the fact that many of our social circles do not include scientists or doctors so we have no one to call when questions arise. Imagine how much more informed we would be if more people had access these experts. How much better would our lives be if science were a part of the decisions we made about our health, our children, and our environment?
The rightful place of science is in the social commentary of popular speakers, in our day-to-day dialogue with friends and family, at our dinner table, happy hour gatherings, within the banter of men in barber shops and among the chatter of ladies in hair salons. It is time to restore science in the African-American Community.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Guide to Urban Ecology

Today, was a great day. It all started last week when I posted my New Year's Resolutions which included speaking and presenting more with my pending graduation. Later that day I recieved an email from the St. Louis Academy of Science Speaker Series Director. She said she had seen my Science Matters interview on the local PBS station and asked if I would speak at an upcoming event for middle schoolers. The program is called Green Your Future - a discussion about eco-related jobs. I spoke to the students about urban ecology.

It was my very first time speaking to a general audience group on request. It was also the first time I gave my Urban Science Adventures! © schpeel to a live audience. The 7th graders from the St. Louis Public Schools were great. They were attentive and asked lots of questions. Great questions. And they offered several of their own Urban Science Adventures! © stories. Many of the kids had their own sightings of urban wildlife including opossums (both roadkill and alive), rabbits, squirrels, and hawks. One student even saw a porcupine once! I'm jealous. I'm a mammalogist and I've never seen a porcupine!

I presented a short presentation that included photos of urban wildlife scences I've captured right here in St. Louis. The kids were really fascinated by by my hands....not really. But I had 2 classrooms of all boys who were impressed that I was holding a frog, a bird and stood close enough to various types of bugs to photograph them. I capped things off by encouraging them to explore and discover nature in urban areas.

I think shooting local scenes was important. A couple of kids knew this spot exactly.

I love outreach. I really do. It was a blast. I'll be traveling this semester - searching for jobs, attending meetings, connecting with fellow bloggers (science/nature/blogging while brown) and outdoor enthusiasts. I've booked one date already to give a formal talk (the dissertation presentation talk). I'm willing to do travel and do some two-fer presentations - the official science talk and the science outreach presentation.

Also, check out my KETC Science Matters video and let me know what you think.

Thanks everyone for the support and encouragement.

Demystifying nature, letting everyone experience

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Chickory, the wild urban herb

Chickory is an edible plant. In fact, it has been used as a coffee substitute for decades. I think the flower is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. Before moving to St. Louis, I can't recall ever seeing such a plant before down south. Chickory can grow anywhere. It is a hardy plant and very tolerant of poor soils. In fact, this patch of Chickory flowers were growing out of asphalt from an old parking lot of a closed down factory in North St. Louis.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I should have been a Girl Scout

In kindergarten, I remember sitting in an assembly hall and learning about scouting. I left that assembly and couldn’t stop talking about wanting to be a Girl Scout. I wanted to wear that cute little outfit. I wanted that sash with all of the embroidered and earth tone patches. I saw myself cutely walking around school with my head tilted up, pig-tails flapping (with coordinated colored barrettes, of course), wearing that brown uniform. I wanted to go camping and cook stuff outside and grow something and learn first aid. I wanted the whole experience, outfit and all.

I attended a couple of introductory meetings in elementary school, but never had the chance to join a troop. However, I still learned lessons about citizenship, preparedness, safety, and even outdoor skills. Some I learned from my mother and her colleagues. (She was a Parks & Recreation worker who did youth and young adult activities, such as games, arts & crafts, swimming, hiking etc. in the summer and after-school). Other skills like orienteering, marksmanship, first aid, field dressing small game and making knots, I learned in ROTC in high school and college. (Yes, I was in ROTC and was this close to joining the Army). However, all these years later I still have this nagging longing to participate in the Scouts. Oh, I know I can join as an adult member and volunteer; but I really want to do the activities, learn the lessons, and earn the badges. I still want that snazzy sash!

Yet, on a more mature note, I really appreciate what scouting is all about and Girl Scouts in particular. Their mission and programs foster leadership, character, and independent thinking in girls and young women. Their traditional programs in nature and outdoor education appeal to me as both a nature lover and environmental educator. Plus, they also promote math, science, and technology education and career pursuits in young women from all walks of life. Girl Scouts has a strong and long history of both community service and community outreach. These are all values that I share and support in real life, in my career, and on this blog.

I don’t know of any obvious job opportunities with the Girl Scouts, but I do know that I could definitely see myself working with/for this organization. Specifically, my expertise in science/urban ecology could be a resource to enhance the already awesome leadership programs and contribute to the STEM (science, technology, engineering, & math) science careers, and environmental awareness guides and activities. I have found that informal experiences can really provide the perfect setting for hesitant students to grow academically and personally. Students from diverse and under-represented groups may not have the amply support and opportunities to cultivate their interest in science. Outdoor experiences and community service experiences are perfect ways to foster science interest. Compared to science outreach programs for elementary and middle school age children, there are fewer programs specifically for teens. This is regrettable because such programs are woefully needed to fill in the very large curriculum gap from high school to college education. Finally, I have a strong background in mentoring and outreach to teens and urban audiences. I could be a mentor and a resource to young women (and their families) who may want to further explore their interests in science. Today, it is easier than ever to reach out to all girls all over the world. With live interactive workshops as well as interactive media such as blogs, video interviews, and live chats, Girls Scouts from every region could call on Dr. DNLee to help her shape her future.

This is all so exciting for me to ponder because Girl Scouts have the existing programs, infrastructure and community resources to support my personal career goals related to outreach.

Now, all I have to do is find out who I need to pitch this idea to…Any ideas or recommendations?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Setting My New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year!

I know I have been posting less than regularly, but I assure that it is a good sign of my progress on my dissertation. The only thing that remains to be written is the Discussion section of my last chapter. All others have been written and handed in to my advisor to read. I feel very confident and excited about how my advisor will receive the last chapter. With each round of critiques from my lab mates and advisor on previous chapters, my remaining chapters are better written.

My work space at the University library. I have my papers sprawled all over and act like it's my personal desk.

So now that a very important chapter of my life/career preparation is coming to a close, I need to think about my next steps. It seems timely that this is happening at the beginning of a new year. I’m already primed to make resolutions and lists of things I need to do.

1. Defend the dissertation. Get all of the appropriate signatures and approvals from the top to bottom and all of the right people on the North American continent, in town, and in the same room no later than February 2010.

2. Apply for various post-doc and teaching positions that seem absolutely perfect for me. Visit places and give a talk (my dissertation) if appropriate. Start immediately after the defense party, February 2010.

3. Clean up the dissertation for graduation school. This mostly mean I need to add a table of contents, an acknowledge section, and thoroughly verify the margins. Plus, they expect a whopping check from me to publish this fine piece of science literature to sit on the shelves of the university library. No later than March 2010

4. Prepare manuscripts for publications. Three, maybe four depending on if I should split ‘em or lump ‘em. Send them off and get them in an editor’s hand by graduation, May 2010.
5. Walk across the stage and party with my friends and family. May 2010.

6. Hopefully, I’ll have a real prospect lined up by June. I’m even willing to relocate and get started as June/July. But I know I’ve got to have something by August. The new semester starts and I’ve got to have myself planted in new soil by then.

I’ll keep you all posted on how things are progressing and feel free to drop some links if you know of some great opportunities in your area. I am willing to relocate.

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