The overarching goal of the Authentic Research Experience for Teachers at NSF’s Long Term Ecological Research sites (ARET@LTER) is to engage a group of teachers from underserved/underrepresented populations in the practice, process, and community of today's networked and data-intensive science. Our conceptual scientific theme is the intersection of climate change and biodiversity. Namely, how do emerging environmental stressors such as drought, heat waves, global warming, and marine heatwaves impact communities and local biodiversity across diverse ecosystems? We propose to link three LTER sites that span diverse critical habitat types on Earth - the arctic (Arctic LTER), temperate montane forests (Andrews LTER), and marine coastal ecosystems (Santa Barbara Coastal LTER). Each site is uniquely positioned to support RET authentic research experiences and are already knit together in the LTER Network with shared practices and experience with teacher training and public outreach.
Climate change will have drastic impacts on ecosystems in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and the science generated in these teacher-driven research projects will contribute to and advance our understanding of climate change impacts on plants and animal biodiversity. The LTER network has a record of collaboration across the 28 sites, located in diverse ecosystems, which will expose participants to a much wider variety of research than would be possible with an individual laboratory, department, or research site. Each participant’s research project will directly contribute to the understanding of global change ecology at LTER sites, while, together, the cohort will build a broader base of experience from which to teach and develop examples.
The goals of the project are to train teachers in the techniques involved in global change ecology, how scientists study and describe the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, and further how they might communicate this experience and these data to their students. This project will be a collaboration between scientists and the RET teachers, with both science and education being enriched in the exchange. The proposed project has the potential for broad reach and impact on teacher practice and student engagement and learning in multiple communities across the U.S. that serve students traditionally underrepresented in STEM. The project will have broader impacts in five categories: (1) change in teacher practice; 2) engagement and achievement of students historically excluded in STEM; 3) improved understanding of classroom context for scientists; 4) development of long-term partnerships between teachers and scientists; and 5) development and dissemination of data products at local, regional, and national levels.