Plant BLOOME Grant- Award Recipients and Project Descriptions
Plant BLOOME—Managed by the ASPB Education Committee, the Plant Biology Learning Objectives, Outreach Materials & Education (BLOOME) Grant funds projects to advance youth, student, and general public knowledge and appreciation of plant biology. This sponsorship supports travel for a BLOOME awardee to the Plant Biology annual meeting.
Bringing Plants to Life Through Theatre Arts
PI: Carol Goodwillie, East Carolina University
The most satisfying part of my career so far has been to watch students get “turned on” to plants. In a new collaboration with Patricia “Patch” Clark, a professor of theatre education, we hope to make that process happen for undergraduates, children, and citizens in our community by bringing theatre to plant biology education. At the centerpiece of the project, undergraduate students in a plant biology course will work with theatre education students to develop a play for children about trees, their biology, and the important ecosystem services they provide. To reach a diverse audience, our play will be performed in local public schools, at a community center, and at a science education center. How many children have played a silent tree as an extra in a school play? Now trees will play the starring role.
Undergraduate biology students will solidify their understanding of plant biology as they teach theatre students about the scientific content of the play. Knowledge of plants gained by theatre education students will serve them in future K-12 careers. In working together, we anticipate that both groups of students will gain new perspectives, ways of thinking and communicating.
We propose that theatre can be an effective way to convey some of the more complex topics in plant biology. Even abstract concepts such as carbon cycling and water potential might be conveyed through drama and movement. In addition to developing theatre for children, we will use students in the playwriting class as an “incubator” to develop improvisational drama exercises that can be integrated into undergraduate courses in plant biology to teach difficult concepts. We’re looking forward to all that we’ll learn in this collaboration and greatly appreciate the support of the Plant BLOOME program!
Alleviating the Outreach Drought with Scientists in the Classroom
PI: Loralee Larios, University of California Riverside
The formidable years of middle school are often defined by the social challenges that students face, but a less-known fact is that these years are also critical for the STEM trajectory of a student. A key element to encourage scientific literacy at this pivotal age is promoting educational experiences that enhance a student’s self-efficacy, that is their self-confidence in their ability to successfully conduct STEM activities. Complementary to these efforts is the need to bridge the gap between those people who do science as a living and students who are learning science.
Therefore, our outreach program has three main goals: 1) improve science literacy and plant science awareness with plant science lab activities, 2) increase middle school students’ self efficacy and identity in STEM, and 3) increase interactions between plant scientists and students. We aim to achieve these goals by developing a sustained partnership among teams of undergraduate and graduate students/postdocs, a teacher, and middle school students over the course of the school year. As part of this partnership, our teams will visit a class on average once a month throughout the school year and present a series of exercises that help them explore plant biology within the context of the pressing challenge of drought facing southern California.
As plant scientists, we earnestly try to understand the impacts of drought from the cellular level to the ecosystem level to provide more insights into how drought stress can impact a range of services – from crops to biodiversity in both urban and natural settings. As citizens, we are asked to conserve water and be ‘water-wise’, but too often the science motivating ‘water-wise’ decisions is omitted in these discussions. Drought, therefore, provides a unique backdrop to our classroom activities that promote student scientific literacy within plant biology, where students will be directed to explore how plants cope with stress from the cellular to ecosystem level, contextualizing these experiences within a genuine challenge they face in their day-to-day lives. We are excited about implementing this plant-biology focused outreach program to improve middle school students’ scientific literacy in plant sciences and self-efficacy in STEM as well as help bridge the gap between people doing science and learning science.
Increasing minority student recruitment to plant sciences by enhancing high school curriculum through teacher training workshop
PI: Rupesh Kariyat, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Recent statistics show that there is a huge demand for skilled workforce in plant and agricultural sciences. Most studies and opinions in this regard have focused on recruitment efforts at undergraduate, graduate and post graduate levels, often ignoring a fast-growing majority – the high school students. Steering these fresh graduates into plant, agricultural and food sciences will be a massive boost to addressing the current shortage of workforce in this area. To compound these issues, the teachers responsible for guiding and educating this young workforce have received little attention. And, we are also aware that research and education in these fields lack students from minorities and underrepresented groups.
Through the Plant BLOOME award, I plan to address these concerns by recruiting plant science teachers (Agriculture and Plant Biology) from the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD) in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas to participate in a boot camp style intense workshop at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). UTRGV and the Rio Grande Valley are on the border of USA-Mexico and have a very high Hispanic population. In fact, UTRGV has >90% Hispanic student enrollment. PSJA ISD is a state and national leader in creating more academic opportunities for all students, and the school district offers pre-kindergarten through twelfth-grade curriculum with around 32,000 students. The main objective of the project is to train high school teachers in plant sciences from PSJA ISD and assist them in updating their curriculum using active learning methodologies and hands-on work experience. The basic outline of the workshop includes classroom-based lecture style teaching during mornings (8:30 am to 12:00 pm), followed by a hands-on experiential learning exercise (lab/field). Each day will be led by a faculty with expertise in one of the major areas of Agriculture, Food, and Plant Sciences. After six days, the faculty and the teachers will sit together and revise the current curriculum to include a hands-on activity. The eight teachers will receive a certificate of completion, and distance learning credits applicable towards their annual review and promotion at PSJA ISD. The long-term impact of the project will be evaluated based on the student interest in agriculture and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related career fields (for example, using statistics from PSJA ISD, UTRGV, and other post-secondary enrollments). In addition, the size/student numbers taught will be tracked to gauge the number of students introduced to plant science-agriculture related topics.
The project is unique since this is the first ever attempt by UTRGV and PSJA ISD to coordinate a workshop that focuses on teacher education in plant sciences focused curriculum, the high school teachers get an opportunity to work and learn from faculty members that conduct cutting edge research in various aspects of plant sciences (insect-plant interactions, plant physiology, weed ecology, soil biology, food microbiology, and agroecology), and the workshop will generate critical data on student and teacher learning outcomes to be used for further improvement of curriculum.
Widely Accessible Virtual Reality Exhibits and Workshops for Plant Biology Education
PI: Larry Blanton, PhD, North Carolina State University
The NC State BLOOME team is very excited about our project, “Widely Accessible Virtual Reality Exhibits and Workshops for Plant Biology Education.” Our team consists of Larry Blanton, Professor of Plant Biology and PI, who will be responsible for project oversight, content, reporting, and assessment; Colin Keenan, a recent graduate from our Master’s program, who conceived of the project and will be responsible for coding, training, and site development; and Adam Rogers, Head of the NC State Library’s Making and Innovation Studio, who will provide expert technology support and be our liaison to the broader resources of the NC State libraries. The project benefits greatly from the extensive technology available to us through the library’s virtual reality studio.
The BLOOME project arose from Colin’s non-thesis masters project, which involved 3-D scanning of bulky herbarium specimens (seeds and fruits). As Colin thought about disseminating those scans to a broader world through virtual reality (VR), he realized that broader scope VR experiences as now proposed would be even more stimulating. Our goal is to create two experiences, one smaller-scale focused on the chloroplast and the other a larger-scale “park” of a variety of exhibits. These will be freely available for on-line access on any web-browsing device, but also support the VR experience provide by HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
In addition to creating these experiences, the team will conduct “Basics of Virtual Reality for Plant Biologists” workshops, two on the NC State campus, one at the Southern Section ASPB meeting, and one at the national ASPB meeting. These will provide an introduction to digital specimen representation and display and strategies for incorporating VR as a means to present data or develop curriculum elements. We hope to learn valuable lessons not only about the application of VR technology itself, but also concerning valid means of assessing the effectiveness of the experiences.
Closing the Gap: Engaging the Public with Citizen Science Phenology Data
PI: Jessica Savage, Ph.D., University of Minnesota in Duluth
For many people, including myself, fascination with plants began in our backyards because plants serve an important role in our understanding where we are and how the world is changing. It is for this reason that there is a growing population of the public engaged in monitoring phenology in their “backyards” and an increasing number of citizen science programs focused on compiling phenology data in online databases. Despite the importance of these connections between plant biologists and the public, many citizen science programs rely on unidirectional communication, such as collecting data for a researcher or educating about phenology.
The goal of our BLOOME project is to take the next step in this relationship and create a program where the public is involved in the scientific process from beginning to end. We want to empower citizen scientists to explore their own questions. We plan to facilitate two-way interactions in which researchers and educators provide training in plant biology and plant phenology, and citizens participate in experimental design, data collection, and exploration of their own data. Along with creating public displays and running two workshops for educators, we will design openly available curriculum for educators and the general public that will guide learners in visualizing and understanding phenology data from their local community. This is a collaborative project between Erin O’Connell, a graduate student, Ryan Hueffmeier, the Program Director at Boulder Lake Environmental Center, and Jessica Savage, an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota in Duluth.
We are excited about this project because it addresses a growing need to take citizen science to the next level, not only involving the public in data collection, but also allowing them to become the researcher. We hope this program can serve as a model for place-based learning about plant biology in other regions.
Employing the green micro-alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (“green yeast”) for K16 Biology Education
PI: Rupesh Kariyat, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is a unicellular micro-green alga that retains many of the features of green plants and of the common ancestor of plants and animals, although its lineage diverged from land plants over one billion years ago. It is a model for studying photosynthesis and elucidating eukaryotic flagella and basal body structure and functions. More recently, Chlamydomonas research has been developed for bioremediation purposes, generation of biofuels and has led to breakthroughs in Optogenetics. Currently, there are few teaching tools available via the Chlamydomonas Resource Center which barely scratch the surface of what could be taught using Chlamydomonas to K16 Biology students. My BLOOME project aims to develop Chlamydomonas, an under-utilized teaching tool, into a powerful popular teaching tool which will complement existing plant science teaching strategies.
The ASPB Plant BLOOME award and the support that I have received from the CRC will help me to design ten Chlamydomonas– based new, inexpensive, hands-on activities for K16 Biology education. These activities will be incorporated in Biology classes in nine schools and in two local universities in Georgia and, to teach a new upper level “green” molecular lab course at the University of West Georgia (UWG). The project will target approximately 1,250 students. Designed lab activities will be disseminated via ASPB, Plantae, CRC and my UWG research laboratory websites and at the ASPB and NABT meetings. We will share with the west Georgia community how “pond scum” is used by plant biologists, neuroscientists, medical and renewable energy researchers via the free Wolf Science Cafe events in Carrollton, GA. 90% of Biology students want to pursue careers in health-allied field and, seldom appreciate plant biology in their curriculum as they are not shown the intra- and inter-disciplinary nature of the 21st century Biological science. I am greatly appreciative of the ASPB Plant BLOOME award as it will help to make students appreciate plants and, demonstrate to them the intra- and interdisciplinary nature of Plant Biology. Above all, I am super-excited about the Plant BLOOME award as it will help to make Chlamydomonas (“green yeast”), a “rock star” to plant biology educators.
Lead PI: Anna Elisabeth Backhaus University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom
Coinvestigator: Isotta Reichenbach University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom
The goal of the Plantocomics project is the creation of a comic book series that communicates plant biology research to children ages 9 to 12. The fundamental idea is simple: to find cutting edge plant biology research projects and transform their process, concepts, or outcomes into a visually and mentally stimulating format that engages young readers. The fascinating content, beautiful illustrations, and appropriate level of complexity of the comics will stimulate children’s interest in plants at a young age.
The investigators want to explain plant research projects to children because they believe that young minds are capable of and will be inspired by learning about the intricacies of what plants can do. Anna and Isotta also want to expose children to the concept of using primary research to become informed citizens. More specifically, the comics will explain topics that would never be part of a standard school curriculum. They will provide a glimpse into real biology so children (and adults) can see that although photosynthesis may be a familiar beginning, plant biology research goes much further than that.
The comics are intended to make children aware of the overwhelming importance of plants for nearly every aspect of human life and to increase their plant biology literacy. Children reading the comics should feel encouraged to use their natural inquisitiveness in biology to discover that further study of plant biology could be very desirable and fun and can lead to a future career. To ensure that the comics are suitable for specific learning levels and interesting for the targeted audience, the investigators will develop an evaluation plan with classroom teachers.
To enhance successful dissemination of the comic book series, each book will be translated into multiple languages and distributed online via ASPB and other channels. Anna and Isotta also will present them at the upcoming Frankfurt Book Fair (one of the world’s largest) and at Plant Biology 2017 as well as at other ASPB outreach venues. The comics could become a viable part of biology school lessons anywhere in the world but may also be found as a favorite title on a bookshelf in a child’s room.
An additional benefit of this project is its unique cross-curricular integration of knowledge. Anna is a student in the School of Biological Sciences and Isotta studies in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia
Plant Solutions for Global Problems: Bringing Plant Science to Life Through Interactive Videoconferencing
Lead PI: Erich Grotewold The Ohio State University
Plants play a critical role in our daily lives. From serving as the foundation of our food system to contributing to biotechnology solutions for global challenges, the importance of plants is undeniable. Yet, plants are often taken for granted by the general public and take a back seat to the allure of studying animals in K–12 education. To raise awareness about the importance of plants and bring them into the limelight in science education, it is important that teachers are provided with high-quality, engaging activities that complement their curriculum and align with state and national standards.
This project will bring together plant researchers and education experts in the development of resources designed to engage students and the public in learning about how plant research impacts our lives. The project will be accomplished through a partnership among PhD fellows, faculty, and staff at the Center for Applied Plant Sciences (CAPS; http://caps.osu.edu/) at The Ohio State University and educators from the Center of Science and Industry (COSI; http://www.cosi. org/) in Columbus, Ohio.
The resources developed through this proposal will reinforce plant science concepts for both the general public and students in grades 6–12. Concepts such as plant-based biotechnology, food systems, agriculture, and climate change will be highlighted.
Funds from this grant will allow the development of two sets of resources:
- Four 3- to 5-minute educational videos that will be available to educators and the general public Education Forum
- An interactive videoconferencing (IVC) program offered through COSI, which will remotely connect plant researchers, educators, and students for a live hour-long program. The IVC program will be developed for middle and high school classrooms and piloted in central Ohio.
These resources will reinforce important science concepts while exploring global challenges and current research related to plant science. The IVC program and extension activities will engage students in hands-on investigations, discussions, and demonstrations that promote critical thinking. The educational videos will condense the core messages presented in the IVC program into fun, fast-paced mini-lessons that will be made available as a free online resource for students, teachers, and the general public via the CAPS website. These new resources will complement, expand on, and provide an opportunity to promote existing education materials currently offered by other plant science organizations such as the Wisconsin Fast Plants Program, Indiana University, and Science Forward.
Evaluation results from the pilot phase will be used to refine program materials before making them available to schools throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Use of the resources developed through this project will lead to an increase in plant science knowledge, positive attitudes toward learning science, and awareness of plant science career options.
Plant STEM for K–12 Education
Lead PI: Mark Eastburn Riverside School, Princeton, NJ
Mark first developed a passion for plant science while serving as an agroforestry volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps, where he started a reforestation program that brought iguana ranching and sustainable land management practices to his site in rural Panama. In more recent years, Mark has been involved in an ongoing study of population genetics with box turtles, in collaboration with scientists at Princeton University, and has worked with the Princeton Neuroscience Institute to guide his students through the process of peer review for the online neuroscience journal Frontiers for Young Minds. Mark looks forward to sharing his experiences with the Plant BLOOME grant through his website at http://www.plantsandstudents.com.
This project, Plant STEM for K–12 Education, will incorporate STEM into activities that encourage children at eight public schools to learn more about plants’ roles in ecosystems and their uses for medicine, materials, and fuels. The activities also will help students gain basic literacy in the promises and potential perils of cloning and genetic modification.
The team will plant native gardens at six schools in Princeton and Trenton, New Jersey, with species that students Mark Eastburn will research and describe, connected via Bluetooth beacons, and integrate into a customized mobile app that will allow community members to learn more about each plant. Next they will establish three outdoor carnivorous plant habitats and three mobile carnivorous plant nurseries that will allow children in eight schools to discover ways that research into these species has informed discoveries in neuroscience, liquid-repellent surface materials, and medical adhesives. When winter comes and outdoor plants go dormant, students will investigate biodiversity in the world’s tropical regions, simulate how animal species depend on rainforest plants for survival, and make clones from common houseplants. In the spring, students at two area high schools will lead an investigation into genetic modification that will be shared with elementary and middle schools.
In total, this project will reach 4,294 students in grades K–12, will serve as a model to be implemented anywhere in the world, and will make available online for teachers and students lesson plans, instructional videos, blog posts, and real-world data aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (www.nextgenscience. org/) and the 12 Principles of Plant Biology (http://bit.ly/ 29FlUpH). Assessments will demonstrate what students have learned, and through ongoing (and sustainable) implementation, future scientists will understand the importance of plant biology in our modern world, advocate for plant research, build skills with new technologies, and facilitate communication between diverse groups of students.
Science In Real Life (Science IRL): A YouTube Series That Cultivates Enthusiasm for Science Through Plant Biology
Coinvestigators: Elena M. Kramer and Molly Edwards, Harvard University
Science IRL is a YouTube series that provides the missing link between textbook science concepts and scientific research in real life, using plant biology as the exemplar. Science IRL aims to impact viewer attitudes toward science in the following ways:
- Increase their enthusiasm for science
- Favorably change their perception of scientists
- Increase their familiarity with a variety of science careers, especially in plant biology.
Under the guidance of Professor Elena Kramer, first year graduate student Molly Edwards writes, produces, hosts, and releases monthly Science IRL episodes with the help of a creative team. Science IRL has already released a six-episode first season and is currently in production of a second season at Harvard.
During the Plant BLOOME grant year, Science IRL will create 10 new episodes that feature guest plant scientists at Harvard and other leading plant biology institutions across the country. The episodes will correspond to ASPB’s 12 Principles of Plant Biology and are written with a high school audience in mind but are available to all on YouTube. The episodes will be disseminated to New England high school classrooms with the help of Harvard’s Life Sciences Outreach (LSO) program; on the website of the Amgen Biotech Experience, a curriculum that is implemented by more than 70,000 students nationally and internationally; and by leveraging the considerable public relations power of Harvard and the other institutions the team visits. Evaluation of the learning objectives will consist of a pre–post observational study in New England high school classrooms implemented with the assistance of LSO and Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. With the production equipment purchased and the collaborator network built with ASPB funding, Science IRL will be able to continue its mission long after the grant year is over.
Anyone can check out the existing Science IRL videos already produced and posted on the YouTube channel (http:// bit.ly/1UcauJv). The team will be releasing a few more episodes this summer, and then the Plant BLOOME episodes will begin in September. In addition to posting updates on Plantae.org, Science IRL shares announcements and behind-the-scenes photos on its Facebook page (http://bit. ly/1U5OleB).
Connecting with Plant Science: Backyard Phenology Project
Lead PI: Oriana Chafe, Sierra Streams Institute
Coinvestigator: Joanne Hild, Sierra Streams Institute
Sierra Streams Institute (SSI) proposes to provide high school students with a curriculum that demonstrates the concept of global climate change through its observable impacts on the plant communities found in their schoolyard. The overall goal is to use plant phenology as a means to transform the issue of climate change from an abstraction to an observable reality for young people in order to produce a generation that is equipped to manage this global challenge.
With many years of experience in hands-on, standards-based science education and curriculum development, SSI will create a curriculum that illuminates coupled systems between plants and climate; develops students’ observation skills, particularly of local plants; and introduces them to the role of the citizen scientist in expanding global data collection efforts to shed light on longterm and worldwide trends. The curriculum will include lectures, fieldwork, data entry and analysis, nature journaling, and the creation of field guides to local plants, providing peer-to-peer learning opportunities as students share their discoveries.
The primary evaluation will follow a pilot implementation of the curriculum in two local high school classes located 20 miles apart at contrasting elevations and ecosystems. Students in the pilot program will respond to pre- and postproject surveys designed using best available practices in environmental education. Participating teachers will be surveyed regarding project implementation, and the curriculum will be modified as necessary in response to the outcome of the evaluation.
The project will result in a curriculum guide, nature journals, and a field guide that will be disseminated through established communication networks of the applicant and partners, as well as through presentations and articles submitted to recognized environmental education conferences and publications and through outreach to local media. Copies of the field guide will be made available to hikers along a local trail.
On learning that she had received the award, Oriana stated, “We are excited to create a platform for teaching accessible plant biology and climate change curriculum by bringing phenology into the classroom. Through the botanical lens, students will have the opportunity to study and share their observations of shifting ecological interactions. We thank ASPB for their support of our project and advancement of plant science education.”
Plant Biology Exhibit Development in a Service Learning Plant Physiology Course
Lead PI: Marcia Harrison Pitaniello, Marshall University
The primary educational goal of this program is to broaden access to plant biology information through museum-type exhibits developed by students in a service learning plant physiology course. Quality plant science exhibits are not generally accessible to the Huntington community and southern West Virginia.
The Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences is 50 miles from Huntington, and other science museums are over 100 miles away in Kentucky and Ohio. In addition, these museums offer little plant biology content. The proposed exhibit will be developed for a general public audience but also will include educational materials (e.g., videos, activities, games) that can be disseminated online. The proposed exhibit development through a service learning course will provide unique professional development training for Marshall University biology students. The project objectives are to
- develop interactive exhibits to educate and stimulate public interest in plant biology
- offer a service learning plant physiology course that will develop the materials for each exhibit in collaboration with a local organization
- display each exhibit at local venues annually and establish other venues in West Virginia
- broaden dissemination of exhibit content using Internet resources, presentations, and publications.
The PI’s range of experience in fulfilling these objectives includes
- developing educational resources for a plant physiology course
- presenting materials at community events, on YouTube, for the PlantED Digital Library (http://planted.botany. org/), and at conferences
- working as part of the West Virginia State Leadership Team for the Development of Next Generation of Science Standards
- piloting preliminary project components at a community event for the May 18, 2015, Fascination of Plants Day.
A new website (http://bit. ly/1eLjEeM) with video to accompany the display is available already. New material will be added to this site as it becomes available.
Marcia shared this about her Plant BLOOME experience: “I found that the process of applying for the BLOOME grant helped me rethink my outreach approach for plant biology. I focused on connecting more with the local community while still working on Internet resources for dissemination. Physically making a prototype plant biology display and participating in a local event allowed me to think through what needs to be done to make high quality displays that plant physiology students can routinely use for outreach projects.”
Purple Tomatoes, Genetically Modified Organisms, and Food in a Changing Climate
Lead PI: Gloria Muday, Wake Forest University Coinvestigators: Carole Gibson and Hanya E. Chrispeels
Tomatoes are an excellent model system for teaching concepts of genetics because of their vast diversity in traits such as color, size, shape, and flavor; their familiarity as a food; and their importance as an agricultural species. For the past five years, the Muday team has successfully implemented a service learning program (SLP) that teaches genetics using heirloom tomatoes in an active-learning curriculum. This SLP trains undergraduate students enrolled in a non–science major introductory biology course in the SLP curriculum and takes them to middle and high school classrooms to lead younger students through the curriculum.
Although this curriculum has been effective in teaching undergraduates genetics and biotechnology, which has been documented through publications, the assessments have demonstrated that this curriculum is not leading the students to make connections to real-world issues that build on plant genetics. So the team will retain this effective model of undergraduates teaching more than 1,300 local students each year but plans to update the curriculum to help students better see how plant genetics is pertinent to their world. Specifically, the project will
- connect the curriculum to the increasing need for droughttolerant crop plants
- tie the curriculum to current research in the Muday lab by using mutants altered in anthocyanin content and root architecture, which include those that overproduce these healthy antioxidants and appear a striking shade of purple
- explain the technology of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and traditional plant breeding so students can make informed decisions about this technology
- use the 5E instructional model (engage, explore, explain, elaborate [or extend], evaluate) as a pedagogical basis for the curriculum.
With these changes, the team predicts that students will realize the same learning gains seen with the previous curriculum but will have an increased understanding of the relevance of plant genetics to solving real-world problems, an important goal for educating students to be scientifically literate and to appreciate the importance of plant biology.
Gloria explained, “With prior support from ASPB, we developed an exercise that teaches plant genetics to Wake Forest University students, who learn through teaching local middle and high school students. The middle and high school students benefit from participation in this case study exercise, in which they learn genetic principles through mutant and heirloom tomatoes that are memorable examples. The support of a Plant BLOOME grant will allow us to expand this curriculum from Mendelian genetics to molecular genetics as we teach students about how changes in climate affect plant growth and development and about the potential of plant biotechnology to improve plants to deal with the resulting environmental stress. In today’s society, GMO crops receive much criticism, and it is important to teach both secondary and university students how these crops are made and their potential to positively impact agriculture so that the students can make informed decisions about this technology.”
Creating a Field Guide for Grasses and Grasslike Plants of Idaho
Lead PI: Eva Strand, University of Idaho
Coinvestigators: Karen Launchbaugh and graduate student Justin J. Trujillo
This project will create a user friendly field guide, with accompanying K–12 lesson plans, for identifying Idaho grasses and grasslike plants, intended for K–16 educators and students, ranchers, landowners, recreationists, and nature enthusiasts in Idaho and adjacent states. In the form of both a printed book and an offline app for iPhones and Androids, the guide will include colorful images showing detailed characteristics and vegetative features of each grass, an easy-to-use dichotomous key, and information on each plant’s history, forage value, fire resistance, and other details.
The team will select, locate, and photograph 60 individual grasses, compile information about each plant, design a user friendly identification key for people with a limited background in botany, and develop K–12 lesson plans. Working with an app developer, they will create an offline app identical in content to the field guide. This dual resource will meet the needs of land managers making economic decisions regarding livestock production and field treatments; university students in wildlife and range sciences conducting class exercises and field research; K–12 educators conducting field botany excursions, teaching the use of dichotomous keys, and teaching ecosystem studies; and recreationists engaged in nature study.
Both book and app will be distributed via the University of Idaho Rangeland Center and the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission. The guide will be promoted in each center’s website and newsletters, as well as to extension offices, 4-H groups, local media, and school districts.
To evaluate the guide’s functionality, guidebooks will include addressed, postage-paid survey postcards, and the app will provide a link to a Qualtrics online survey. Selected individuals from each intended user group will be interviewed before, during, and after using the field guide to gather feedback for use in improving subsequent editions. Lesson plans will be tested and evaluated by teaching staff at the McCall Outdoor Science School.
Eva stated, “Our group of plant enthusiasts at the University of Idaho Rangeland Center thrilled to discover the funding opportunity provided by ASPB and Plant BLOOME to promote public awareness of the role of plants. We had been looking for a while to find a way to spread the word about the importance of grasses and grasslike plants for rangeland ecosystems in Idaho and across the globe. Funding from ASPB and Plant BLOOME catalyzes a project that integrates and leverages efforts by the University of Idaho Rangeland Center, the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission, and the McCall Outdoor Science School focusing on K–12 education, teacher training, and graduate work at the University of Idaho. Long term, the field guide and app will be distributed by the University of Idaho Rangeland Center, a group of scientists, educators, and practitioners working to advance the ecology and economy of western rangelands.” Eva’s team will create and maintain a web page directly related to the development of the Field Guide to Grasses and Grasslike Plants of Idaho. This project page will reside on the University of Idaho Rangeland Center website (http://bit.ly/1LWSmN3)