The Research Ambassador Program is exploring new partnerships and new types of events.  Early this fall, we began looking for an active and accessible organization to work with to enable us to reach senior audiences.  We identified Senior Services for South Sound, a local non-profit that serves a broad spectrum of local seniors through meal programs, day services, and activities.

We hosted our first Research Ambassador event, a lecture and workshop about moss by Dr. Lalita Calabria, on November 10, 2010.  Dr. Calabria spoke about the unique characteristics and biology of mosses for about 45 minutes, which was followed by engaging questions from the audience.  Dr. Calabria set up a dissecting microscope so the seniors could examine the tiny features of moss that are almost invisible to the naked eye.

Seniors were also invited to construct their own moss terrarium, which they could take home.  Over the coming months, they can observe the mosses grow and thrive in their homes, learning about water and nutrient needs of these plants. Perhaps visiting grandchildren may ask about their small moss gardens– and the seniors will be able to share some of the knowledge they’ve gained. 

Seniors represent an audience that is accessible to nearly every academic scientist. There are analogues to the Senior Services for South Sound in nearly every community in the country. This part of our society – through not as mobile or vocal as youth and young adults, are receptive, interested in nature and learning, and can themselves become conduits of scientific information to others.