95th ESA Annual Meeting (August 1 -- 6, 2010)

OOS 36-6 - How ecological professional certification, interdisciplinary curriculum collaborations and educational outreach programs can influence environmental public policy

Wednesday, August 4, 2010: 3:20 PM
401-402, David L Lawrence Convention Center
Carmen Cid, Office of the President, Quinebaug Valley Community College, Danielson, CT
Background/Question/Methods Although for twenty years ecologists have been conducting research that can direct strategic planning towards a sustainable biosphere, they have been much less involved in defining the relationship between ecological research and the development of environmental public policy. Currently, 44% of the U.S. population has environmental protection as a top national priority, and only 28% considers global warming an issue of utmost concern. The average U.S. citizen is not cognizant of available ecological research that can inform environmental policy development. Global warming is affected by the interactions of social and ecological systems, and ecologists need to develop curriculum that facilitates collaboration and communication between ecologists and their local community officials and schools, so that teacher preparation and educational outreach is well informed and enhances development of the pipeline of ecologists to undergraduate programs. I will discuss curriculum and collaboration strategies that have enhanced ecologists’ research opportunities and helped provide pathways for ecologists to influence solutions to large scale environmental problems. The role of ESA Professional Certification in facilitating how ecologists collaborate with other disciplines and the general public to influence local and large scale environmental problem solving will also be discussed.
Results/Conclusions More interdisciplinary collaboration is required to develop curricula that prepares ecologists for research on the impact of global warming at various levels of ecological organization. Such curricular change has to start at the undergraduate level and be connected to graduate programs that are supported by federal funding, as recommended by recent advisory reports to the National Science Foundation. Because the impact of global warming requires studying ecology across large scales and involves dialogue with diverse audiences, curriculum needs to include enhanced training in communicating science to diverse audiences, with multimedia collaborations, locally and globally. The GK-12 educational outreach programs, in connection with the National Ecological Observatory Network databases are good examples of interdisciplinary venues that can help raise the level of ecoliteracy and promote opportunity for positive impacts in local and national environmental public policy. Ecologists need to teach about environmental issues in the context of human-dominated ecosystems to help influence decision making of humans in local and global, academic as well as policy-making systems. To help our developing ecologists understand the impact of human-caused perturbations on global warming, ecology curriculum can benefit from a human-centered approach to ecology, to highlight the feedbacks between the human and biophysical domains.