Citizen science camera trapping as a gateway to mammal ecology and STEM careers

Saturday, 14 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Stephanie Schuttler, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, NC
Traditionally, K-12 science classrooms have largely used cookbook-type lesson plans where students conduct experiments with an expected outcome. Our goal as scientists and educators was to develop lesson plans that incorporate real research on local mammal communities as part of the Students Discover program. Students collect data with camera traps, archiving raw results with eMammal, a citizen science camera trapping research project. By working with citizen scientists, eMammal has collected a large range of data, providing a rich set of comparisons with school groups.  Camera traps are ideal for student science classrooms because the species recorded by these cameras can be verified by eMammal experts.  Through the Students Discover program, the citizen science process is taken even further, by allowing students to ask original and authentic scientific research questions. Three teachers from North Carolina public schools participated in a three-week externship with scientists to learn the scientific research process of eMammal and developed four lesson plans integrating the latest national and state science standards. The implementation of these lessons will result in peer-review quality scientific research, while also providing structure for teachers to allow for scaling across the state and soon nation. Finally, we are extending two of the lesson plans for use in cross-cultural classroom learning between schools in North Carolina, Mexico, and India. All lesson plans will be available for other schools, and accompanied by instructional videos. The data collected by students, and research questions addressed in lesson plans ,will be used by scientific publications extending to our knowledge of mammal ecology. We hope that the excitement of studying charismatic animals through camera trapping will not only motivate students to expand our knowledge of mammal ecology, but also engage them in the scientific process and encourage more to pursue a STEM career.