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CRPA: Into the Rift: A Multimedia Experience for Advancing Ecosystem-based Science Education

This Connecting Researchers to Public Audiences project plans to create a multimedia website, Into the Rift, a virtual journey to Lake Tanganyika in East Africa, along with teaching resources and a dissemination campaign. The content will focus on the high freshwater diversity of the 2nd largest lake in the world; the diverse array of cichlid fish in the lake; and the effects of overharvesting and global warming on the lake's ecosystem. The project's intended learning outcomes are that viewers will have enhanced awareness and understanding of: 1) the ecosystem-scale processes that support life in lakes; 2) the importance of intact natural ecosystems for the well-being of human societies; 3) the techniques that scientists use to learn more about the ecosystem-scale movement of matter and energy; and 4) potential career paths in STEM fields. These learning outcomes correlate to the current and proposed science standards, which provide a structure for content development and outcomes assessment. The project will be designed by the collaboration of an ecologist (the PI Dr. Yvonne Vadeboncoeur), education specialist (co-PI Dr. Lisa Kenyon), communication specialist (co-PI Dr. Elliot Gaines) all from Wright State University, and a media lab (Habitat Seven), and informed by formative evaluation conducted by Edu, Inc. The website, hosted by a guide from East Africa along with the PI, will be presented in three languages (Spanish, French, and Swahili) in addition to English. Edu, Inc. will also conduct a summative evaluation of all the components of the project with respect to the four intended learning outcomes and their related concepts as well as analyze the outcomes of the dissemination strategies. This CRPA uses internet technologies to make abstract scientific concepts and a largely inaccessible research location available to a wide audience. The project intends to inform and engage the audience with an aggressive use of social media in addition to the website. Into the Rift will provide material for both the lay audience and classrooms, including access to authentic scientific data to compare the Lake Tanganyika data to environmental data collected from the U.S. Great Lakes. Additional collaborations with established organizations, including Crossing Boundaries, Conservation Bridge and Community Bridges, will expand the reach and impact of the project to diverse audiences. The multi-lingual approach extends the reach to potentially an even greater audience both within and outside the U.S.

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