SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 propagated rapidly from a local outbreak to global scales with associated multi-trillion $ impact on the international economy and social, economic, and ecological systems. The Pandemic is currently ongoing and key questions have arisen as to what key factors determine its incidence, propagation, and mortality rates. Here, we try to distinguish between concurrent and collocated influences on COVID-19 due to environmental factors (e.g., T, humidity..) compared to policy actions (e.g., lock downs, slowdowns, open/closed businesses, transportation), and social practice (e.g., wearing masks, social distancing). Publicly available data and information from selected countries/regions around the world are used in this initial analysis. Preliminary results suggest that policy actions and social practice have a dominating influence on the propagation and containment (or not) of COVID-19, possibly enabled by or associated with concomitant environmental factors.
The Adler Planetarium’s Teen Programs engages hundreds of young people in authentic STEM experiences each year. Several of our programs focus on artificial light at night (ALAN), a critical environmental, health, ecological and astronomical issue. Our work in ALAN Community Advocacy and Education began in 2015 through Youth Organization for Lights Out (YOLO), a bilingual program in English and Spanish based in Chicago’s predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American Little Village neighborhood. YOLO program participants use tools to collect and analyze light pollution data, attend field trips to local and state dark sky sites, facilitate telescope viewing at the Adler and in their community, and develop prototype solutions and action plans to increase awareness of light pollution’s local effects in Chicago. Programs focused on Instrumentation and Research grew out of the Adler’s educational high-altitude ballooning program, Far Horizons. In 2018, Far Horizons astronomers and engineers began developing Mission NITELite (Night Imaging of Terrestrial Environments), a high altitude balloon-based light pollution mapping mission along with undergraduate interns. To complement NITELite, Far Horizons designed GONet (Ground Observing Network), a low-cost all-sky imaging system to measure sky quality at night as part of its Stratonauts teen program. In 2019, high school students helped design, test, and build 50 GONet units as a potential new standard for worldwide ALAN monitoring. In 2020, Adler teen interns are working with the Cook County Forest Preserves to quantify regional sky quality with GONets in support of an application for an Urban Night Sky Place designation from the International Dark-Sky Association. Reflecting the collaborative nature of science, teens in the Instrumentation and Research programs partner closely with peers in the Community Advocacy and Education programs, learning from one another’s perspective while undertaking joint projects.
Being at the interface of the geosphere, the biosphere, and the atmosphere makes the soil a particularly challenging object. Nevertheless, its importance in ecological and environmental domains should encourage researchers to make use of new technologies, like 3D printing, to improve their comprehension of soils. With 3D printing we can build up objects by adding materials layer-by-layer based on a three-dimensional model, producing almost any geometrically complex shape or feature in a wide range of materials. Here we present the major challenges and opportunities of 3D printing for its application into soil science. We show that despite the remarkable achievements in 3D printing development during the past few years, it is still under-used in the field of soil science. Besides the 3D printing technology uses considering the soil as a source of mineral raw materials, or as the basis for the development of technical infrastructure, new researches highlight the functioning of the soil itself as an ecological compartment. Indeed, one of the most important challenges for the application of 3D printing in this area is the accurate modeling and replication of the soil structure and composition. This would require 3D-printed objects to be made of biocompatible yet chemically and mechanically stable materials manufactured under controlled conditions, which can mimic the many interactions occurring at this scale. Having 3D-printed objects with strict and controlled composition and structure could help academics and researchers to conduct reproducible experiments and gain a better understanding of the parameters controlling soil ecology and functioning. This opens a new way to broader utilization of 3D printing in soil science in the near future.
The Dragonfly Mercury Project (DMP) is a dynamic national scale program coupling scientific efforts to understand mercury pollution risks to protected areas with citizen engagement and education. We conducted a national-scale assessment of mercury (Hg) bioaccumulation in aquatic ecosystems using dragonfly larvae as biosentinels and implemented a carefully designed sampling methodology for citizen scientists to facilitate biological sampling. We assessed variation in dragonfly Hg concentrations across >450 sites spanning 100 US national parks and other protected places and examined intrinsic and extrinsic factors associated with variation in Hg concentrations. Mercury concentrations ranged between 10.4-1,411 ng/g across sites and varied among habitat types. Dragonfly Hg concentrations were up to 1.8-fold higher in lotic habitats than in lentic habitats, and 37% higher in waterbodies with abundant wetlands along their margins than those without wetlands. Mercury concentrations in dragonflies differed among families, but were correlated with each other, enabling adjustment to a consistent family to facilitate spatial comparisons among sampling units. Dragonfly THg concentrations were positively correlated with THg in both fish and amphibians from the same locations, indicating that dragonfly larvae are effective indicators of Hg bioavailability in aquatic food webs. Using the relationships between dragonfly and fish Hg concentrations we developed a series of integrated impairment indices that inform potential risk of Hg exposure to fish, wildlife, and human health. Most sample sites were in the moderate to low risk category, but 12% of sites were at high or severe risk for mercury, potentially causing harm to fish, wildlife, and people who eat those fish and wildlife. The scope and depth of this work stand it up as a potential landmark study on mercury in NPS lands and across the landscape, particularly in light of the citizen science framework under which it was implemented. More information on the Dragonfly Mercury Project can be found at https://wim.usgs.gov/geonarrative/dmp/ and https://www.nps.gov/articles/dragonfly-mercury-project.htm.
Rural, Indigenous, and Latinx communities in the Southwest region of the U.S. share present and future concerns about drought and water availability as these communities face low and inconsistent precipitation. Using a collaborative process, We are Water has designed informal STEM programs and a traveling exhibit for tribal and rural libraries to create opportunities for individuals and families to engage in conversations about their personal and community connections to water. The decision to use a collaborative design process sought to respect and honor the diversity of voices in these communities by enabling them to express their experiences with water in their own words and see their perspectives incorporated in the ensuing programs and exhibit. As an important Drst step, the project conducted a needs assessment, which invited communities to share their perspectives and stories through surveys and interviews. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded our project team adjusted its approach to ensure the voices of those hardest hit by the pandemic, Indigenous and Latinx communities, were heard. Instead of in-person relationship building as initially planned, the project team pivoted toward a snowball approach to collect one-on-one phone interviews. Findings from surveys and community interviews showed water conservation, water access, water availability, and water quality were common priorities. This project shows how a collaborative process paired with evaluation can be used as tools for community participation for informed decision making in the design of informal educational experiences.
Rural communities in Colorado face different challenges than urban areas when responding to the impacts of climate change. While these communities may not have access to the financial resources and planning infrastructure that large cities do, close community ties and an entrepreneurial can-do attitude give these communities an advantage to create opportunities for meaningful classroom community engagement. HEART Force is a unique program for secondary students in rural Colorado formal learning settings that educates and empowers students to respond to climate change impacts in the face of increasing likelihood and severity of environmental hazards such as wildfires, floods and drought. The program supports youth partnership with community leaders and experts to build resilience through a three-pronged approach using a curriculum designed to support NGSS. Students begin the unit by learning about the science of environmental hazards and how these hazards will be affected by climate change through analysis of local data. Next, students learn how to manage and respond to hazards in their community in a scenario-based role-play game. The unit culminates in a community resilience expo, giving students the opportunity to address impacts from environmental hazards by developing, presenting, and implementing strategies to increase community resilience. We will share the program design, lessons learned from teacher professional development and support, and preliminary research findings on the program impacts on students and teachers.
Environmental hazards such as wildfire, flood, and drought impact communities throughout Colorado. As climate change ramps up, these environmental hazards are increasing in frequency and severity. These hazards and their impacts provide an excellent access point for students to explore earth science concepts and community well being. The Hazard Education Awareness and Resilience Task Force (HEART Force) is a program for secondary classrooms in rural Colorado designed to help teachers and students move beyond classroom instruction and empower them to lead local efforts to increase resilience to environmental hazards. Colorado has recently adapted and adopted NGSS which provide opportunities for students to engage in real world learning through exploring locally relevant phenomena, yet many classroom teachers are challenged to transition to a new style of teaching driven by student inquiry. With this transition, teachers are being asked to give up some control of the learning process and become facilitators rather than directors of learning. In order to successfully facilitate authentic student engagement, a network of community partners is essential to support students, as well as a supportive school administration and a high level of teacher comfort with risk and uncertainty. The HEART Force program is in the third year of implementation; here we share lessons learned and challenges in supporting teachers in this transition to student-led and community-based learning using resilience education.
This study reports on the development and implementation of the HydroLearn online platform that supports active learning in the field of hydrology and water resources engineering. The platform is designed to serve the following two main purposes: to enable instructors to collaboratively develop and share active-learning resources, and to enhance student learning in fundamental and emerging topics in the field (e.g., rainfall-runoff processes, design of flood protection measures, flood forecasting, water-energy-food nexus). Using open-source technology, the HydroLearn platform supports customization of pre-developed learning modules and allows instructors to share components of their learning resources with other interested users. HydroLearn is inspired by the need to address challenges in adoption, scalability, and sustainability identified by research on educational innovations. HydroLearn utilizes research-based active learning methods (e.g., Problem-based Learning; Collaborative and Cooperative Learning) to create authentic online learning modules. The modules engage students in real-world hydrologic problems and provide unique opportunities to expose undergraduate students to modern hydrologic analysis tools that are at the forefront of hydrologic research and engineering practice. The platform includes tools that scaffold instructors’ implementation of sound pedagogical practices. The platform includes wizards and pre-populated templates on how to develop student-centered learning outcomes that ensure constructive alignment with the learning content. The platform also includes guidance for instructors on how to develop assessment rubrics to enhance student achievement through communicating the expected performance levels. The study will also share results on the implementation of a pilot learning module on flood protection. Thirty-six undergraduate students were surveyed before and after the implementation to determine their level of learning engagement. The survey measured their skills engagement, emotional engagement, participation, and performance engagement. The presentation will also report on efforts to engage the community through a fellowship program that aims to develop a network of educators who aspire to adopt active learning approaches and enhance hydrology education.
Like most NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs, the REU on Sustainable Land and Water Resources (REU SLAWR) had to choose between a virtual experience in summer 2020, or cancellation of the program due to the Covid19 pandemic. The REU SLAWR was restructured into a modular online program designed to meet the same program goals that have shaped the REU SLAWR over the past 11 years. Using program evaluations from 2011-2019, the authors will compare the results from 2020 to build knowledge on how the REU experience in 2020 was differently structured to meet the need for a virtual program, the impact this had on participant and mentor outcomes, and what can be learned for future REU programs. This provides valuable information for creating accessibility to the REU experience. The REU usually takes place at three locations (Salish Kootenai College, MT; at the Univ. of Minnesota in Mpls. and Duluth, MN). The program is centered on tribally-focused Community-based Participatory Research (CBPR), and is a place-based REU. The REU SLAWR has always incorporated a virtual experience designed to create cross-team socialization, community-building, and widen participants’ interest and knowledge about projects incorporating tribal CBPR. Summer 2020 immersed students, mentors, and tribal partners in a virtual learning environment. The PIs explored new methods for running an REU with virtual technology that will be incorporated in future programs for richer cross-team collaboration. A focus of the REU SLAWR has been to increase participants’ abilities to work on diverse teams. Collaborating virtually across distances is a skill all researchers need. Training in this can benefit next-generation researchers and STEM workers. One aspect of concern and interest is the impact of redesigning the research projects to make them possible to conduct in a virtual space. The projects were fundamentally different than previous years, with many focusing on using pre-existing data. While there were negative impacts in some aspects of building research skills (i.e., little exposure to field or lab work), other aspects (i.e., computational modeling, communicating science) showed gains. The authors explore both the limits and possibilities inherent in virtual collaboration in research for undergraduate students.
The objective of the study is to assess the familiarity and the use of preprint servers by researchers to share their work. Data collection was conducted by Wiley through an online survey in May and June 2020. 44% of survey respondents (out of a total of 1,905) indicated they are not at all familiar with preprint servers. Most of the researchers surveyed indicated multiple reasons to upload their research on a preprint server. The most popular reasons were to get feedback on their work (46%) and for faster dissemination of their research (45%). 55% of respondents indicated that they have never uploaded any research outputs on preprint servers. This study and our key findings show that there is a need to share the benefits of preprints and to explain to researchers how servers work.
A globally interactive geo-socioeconomic revolution will be necessary in order to sustainably resource our continued our ways of life and be able to expand beyond to the next giant leap of human progression and evolution. Applied comprehensive integrated changes coupled with a global collaboration invested in over-reaching environmental goals incorporating both the public and private sectors are at the crux of properly upgrading infrastructures and societies. Positive non-biased re-engineering of our societies and their governing laws, policies and economies must include two underlying principles- transparency and environmental transformation. These two founding principles are the Great Green Reset’s scaffolding meant to address a lexicon of constantly revolving and evolving socioeconomic, political, and environmental issues. By integrating environmental sustainability and reclamation in conjunction with promoting biodiversity, We, being a socially accepting, fair, safe and healthy Peoples, can progress confidently into the Fourth Industrial Revolution knowing that at this juncture in human history and time, “We actively took a global stance choosing to make the correct decisions for the successful continuation and advancement of our species and its way of life so our future generations may experience the same lush biodiversity on Earth that we so heavily rely on for our existence”. To gain the public trust, transparency and environmental transformation are the core underlying principles that create a scaffolding of sound, logical, common-sense science policies that legislative decisions are built around. Along with developing national and international science policy frameworks centered around a healthier, greener, smarter future, legislators should reap the deep benefits of having a highly qualified transdisciplinary science team dedicated to consulting with indigenous peoples, local communities, and key experts to provide unbiased opportunity to re-imagine and re-engineer science policy promoting fair socioeconomic equitable equality at all levels of interaction on local, national, and international framework scales. All this must be envisioned within a circular economy.
Mentorship experience can be transformational for college and graduate students as they learn how to talk about their science field, articulate their work, learn how to listen, and step away from the focus on their own work. The Lens on Climate Change (LOCC) program engaged secondary students in place-based, environmental science in an informal learning environment. Small groups of students worked together, with the guidance of graduate student science and community college film mentors, to produce a film about climate change, as they perceived it to be relevant to their local communities. The majority of student participants came from historically underserved communities, and the program aimed to provide students with opportunities to engage with science and technology in ways that differ from opportunities available in traditional schooling. The graduate student science mentors and community college film mentors played a critical role in supporting students in their exploration of the topic and learning about local climate change. This presentation explores the impacts on mentors and how the LOCC program influenced their experiences and interests in science education and outreach. Using a qualitative case study approach we examine mentor responses to questions about their mentorship experiences. These responses were collected before and after their experiences in the program, as well as through follow up interviews after the program had ended. Mentors fell into several categories based on how the LOCC program influenced them. Some mentors experienced a transformational impact, where the LOCC program played an influential role in their future career goals. Others felt the program helped them cement their career interests and plans. Several mentors did not experience as much impact on their career trajectory. We examine these relationships in the context of the project to consider how their experiences prior to and through LOCC may have influenced these outcomes.
The GEOSS Water Strategy–From Observations to Decisions (Lawford et al., 2014) identifies several key water variables as Essential Water Variables (EWVs). This was based on broad meta-surveys (Unninayar et al., 2010) of water-related observational needs for GEO Societal Benefit Aeas (SBAs) that included energy and agriculture among others. This paper summarizes currently defined EWVs required by key research and applications sectors involved in decision support within the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus. There is a notable overlap between the EWVs and a preliminary assessment of Essential WEF Variables. We also highlight EWVs that are relevant to the indicator monitoring objectives of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and GEOGLOWS priority thematic communities—especially those that overlap with the WEF Nexus. Besides primary EWVs such as precipitation, soil moisture, evapotranspiration and water levels/storage, supplemental EWVs are identified that support the integrated multi-sectoral information needed by WEF decision support applications. Examples of supplemental EWVs include surface meteorology and winds, solar radiation, land use/land cover and vegetation. Both Remote Sensing (RS) platforms and In-Situ observing networks are required to address the broad range of space/time resolutions, accuracies, and data latencies that end-users need. The AGU-2021 is invited to comment on, endorse and/or recommend additional EWVs that should be considered for adoption by GEOGLOWS and the GEO (Group on Earth Observations).
Several racial and ethnic identities are widely understood to be under-represented within academia, however, actual quantification of this under-representation is surprisingly limited. Challenges include data availability, demographic inertia and identifying comparison points. We use de-aggregated data from the U.S. National Science Foundation to construct a null model of ethnic and racial representation in one of the world’s largest academic communities. Making comparisons between our model and actual representation in academia allows us to measure the effects of retention (while controlling for recruitment) at different academic stages. We find that, regardless of recruitment, failed retention contributes to mis-representation across academia and that the stages responsible for the largest disparities differ by race and ethnicity: for Black and Hispanic scholars this occurs at the transition from graduate student to postdoctoral researcher whereas for Native American/Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander scholars this occurs at transitions to and within faculty stages. Even for Asian and Asian-Americans, often perceived as well represented, circumstances are complex and depend on choice of baseline. Our findings demonstrate that while recruitment continues to be important, retention is also a pervasive barrier to proportional representation.
Hepatitis-A is a waterborne infectious disease transmitted by the eponymous hepatitis-A virus (HAV). Due to the disease’s sociodemographic and environmental characteristics, this study applied public census and remote sensing data to assess risk factors for hepatitis-A transmission. Municipality-level data were obtained for the state of Pará, Brazil. Generalized linear and non-linear models were evaluated as alternative predictors for hepatitis-A transmission in Pará. The Histogram Gradient Boost (HGB) regression model was deemed the best choice (RMSE= 2.36, and higher R^2 = 0.95) among the tested models. Partial dependence analysis (PDA) and permutation feature importance analysis (PFI) were used to investigate the partial dependences and the relative importance values of the independent variables in the disease transmission prediction model. Results indicated a complex relationship between the disease transmission and the sociodemographic and environmental characteristics of the study area. Population size, lack of sanitation, urban clustering, year of notification, insufficient public vaccination programs, household proximity to open-air dumpsites and storm-drains, and lack of access to healthcare facilities and hospitals are sociodemographic parameters related to HAV transmission. Turbidity and precipitation are the environmental parameters closest related to disease transmission. This study reinforces the need to incorporate remote sensing data in epidemiological modelling and surveillance plans for the development of early prevention strategies for hepatitis-A.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still active, the Boulder Solar Alliance Research Experience for Undergraduates (BSA REU) decided to keep the program remote for a second consecutive year. Our coordination team took lessons learned from the 2020 virtual BSA REU program and adapted the research experience to suit a virtual environment, especially with respect to increased technological support. The primary changes, as well as the reasons for implementing them, are outlined below. Due to the virtual nature of the program, all of the projects relied more heavily on coding. In response, the BSA REU team invested more time and resources in programming tutorials and weekly programming help sessions in Python, IDL, and MATLAB. The participants also faced unequal access to high-quality hardware resources in a remote environment. As a result, students received a technology stipend to help them upgrade their computer and internet resources. Additionally, with an increase in the focus on programming, a higher number of projects in 2021 involved machine learning and data science techniques compared to previous years. However, many of the students were unfamiliar with machine learning (ML) concepts. The coordination team provided an introductory ML lecture and tutorial during boot camp and hosted a weekly ML sub-group meeting to provide support and resources for students involved in ML projects. Finally, without being able to present results in person, it was important to provide an interactive online experience for the poster presentation session. To make the final poster presentation more engaging in a virtual environment, we used Gather Town, an online service where participants create avatars that can interact with the virtual environment. In this presentation, we will discuss how the adjustments to the BSA REU program in a virtual environment, including those listed above, and how we think REU programs can adapt to future remote and hybrid options. We will also discuss what elements of a remote program can be carried forward into an on-site program to enhance the on-site experience.
Coastal environment pollution is one of major challenge facing coastal area development. A large number of Sicilian population lives in low laying area where, among other economy activities, tourist and intensive agriculture are two of most important sources of revenue. However, its beaches are threatened by natural and anthropic phenomena ranging from sea level rise, coastal erosion to marine pollution. In efforts to manage the influx of harmful substances reaching Sicily’s south-east coast, we present methodological approach integrating land use\land cover and normalized difference suspended sediment index mapping techniques to identify the origin of dissolved sediments observed in coastal water especial during rainy season. In this paper we used 12 freely-available Copernicus sentinel-2 images acquired during 2018. Water color analysis on satellite images shows that the contaminants reach the sea through river runoff and when arrived in relatively calm water in particularly in pocket beaches they stay in near shoreline for a while however they can also be exported further offshore when they reach the sea in high dynamic water where currents and waves play a role in their distribution. These sediments are sometimes erosion products from agricultural fields or contaminated soils containing organic or chemical fertilizers used for crop protection or for vegetation growth. The monitoring of sediments can help characterize and determine the fate of these products for a better management of this coastal area.
Stories are an essential part of our everyday life, vehicles to understand how the world around us works, both physically and emotionally. They allow us to organise otherwise random facts and events into a cohesive and logical structure, making them easier to understand and remember. Science itself is also full of facts and processes, often seemingly disconnected but that, when put in context, pave the road for scientific discoveries. We propose that classical story-telling strategies can also be used to communicate science to a variety of audiences, specialist and non-specialist alike, and present a few practical examples of how this can be achieved. We focus on what we call the “story circle” narrative structure (see Fig. 1), a distillation of the “Hero’s Journey”(Campbell, 1949; Harmon, 2009). In this storytelling framework, the circle begins with a hero who, posed with a question, chooses to venture beyond their familiar space in a quest for answers. When the hero returns to familiar territory, they have been forever changed by their journey. Firstly, we discuss how this story circle can be directly mapped onto the structure of a research paper, enabling researchers to write up their work in a way that makes it easier to follow for the reader. Then we apply the story circle strategy to a real research example aimed at explaining large-scale mantle convection, in a story where silica is the “hero” who descends into the deep in a subducting slab to then rise back up to the surface in an upwelling plume. This approach to communicating science by exploiting its story-like qualities is key when explaining complex deep Earth processes to the non-academic public who, understandably, can struggle to grasp these concepts due to their abstract nature and detachment from everyday life. Ultimately, the scientific process is an expression of the most fundamental story of humanity – researchers look at the world as it is, see questions that need answering and go on a voyage of discovery to find the answers. When they return, the world has changed because of what was found on that journey. And so the cycle repeats, the circle keeps turning, and the ideas keep changing after every iteration. In science, however, we will never truly write “The End”.