STEM education and outreach: putting invisible wonders into the spotlight of science education
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- Fresh Water Studies; Life Sciences; Marine Biology; Natural Resources and Conservation; Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology
The Salish Sea Research Center (SSRC), located at Northwest Indian College, in Bellingham, WA, helps students and faculty combine cultural knowledge and traditional and non-traditional scientific methods to question, observe, and understand the natural environment. Research at the SSRC focuses on environmental concerns in the Salish Sea including topics on harmful algal blooms and their impacts on surrounding ecosystems, including local shellfish and fish populations. We focus on projects which are important both culturally and economically to Lummi Nation and Whatcom County residents. Over the past year, the SSRC has helped develop and implement a harmful algal bloom (HAB) monitoring system in Bellingham Bay. This includes the NANOOS Bellingham Bay Buoy (Se’lhaem) data tracking system, student-built passive biotoxin samplers, weekly water-quality monitoring, and targeted microscopy identification. During this time, the SSRC has worked diligently to build a bridge with science research and student communities. Here we describe STEM education and outreach conducted by the SSRC; specifically, we present our research on HABs through content geared towards elementary and middle school tribal students. DIY plankton nets, ocean acidification content, water filters, and DIY aquatic rovers are just a few of the activities we facilitate. A Marine Food Web Card Game which helps students identify local species (including common phytoplankton and harmful algae) teaches trophic levels, food webs, energy conservation, and includes cultural artwork and indigenous language. The SSRC is committed to conducting environmental research and STEM outreach that incorporates traditional and cultural perspectives in emergence with multiple ways of knowing.