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Applying a Watershed Scale - Ecosystem Services Framework to Improve Stakeholder Engagement and Increase Participation of African Americans in Ecological and Environmental Sciences
Proceedings of the 2020 Mississippi Water Resources Conference

Year: 2020 Authors: Dugo M.A.

We introduce an exploratory science education research and watershed monitoring program, funded by the National Science Foundation, to improve stakeholder engagement and increase the participation of African Americans in ecological and environmental sciences. The curriculum will combine a citizen science engagement strategy with applied skills in environmental STEM disciplines, using both field and laboratory based research activities. Our place-based framework is designed to characterize watersheds at the basin level and is inclusive of socioeconomic integration. The ecosystem services framework will be utilized to highlight socio-environment interrelations, while concurrently emphasizing the importance of biodiversity and reinforcing cultural connections to the environment. A compliment of activities are proposed including, an undergraduate summer enrichment program, year round environmental monitoring for undergraduate and graduate students, and community outreach. Our curriculum will utilize publically available data sources including, Google Earth Pro, EnviroAtlas, 303d listed streams, TMDL reports, and census data, to identify relevant environmental, social and economic factors necessary for the holistic management of natural resources. Water quality will be correlated to biodiversity metrics obtained through field collections, the use of biological collection databases, and information for species of conservation concern. This project emphasizes the relationship between values, identity, and interest, to foster a deeper connection to the environment. In addition to impacting the STEM environmental workforce, the citizen science component of this project is predicted to empower student participants and proximal communities toward greater social justice and equity, as related to natural resources.

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