In 2011, the Research Ambassador Program (RAP) recruited ten Fellows to come to the Evergreen State College campus for intensive training in communication of their research to non-traditional audiences. This allowed the Fellows to gain personalized guidance on disseminating their own research to established groups and create springboards for outreach in their home communities, and for the RAP staff to evaluate the efficacy of their activities.
Rebecca is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Concordia University Chicago (CUC), a small liberal arts college near Chicago, IL. She teaches courses for science major, e.g., , “General Ecology” and “Regulation of Plant and Animal Systems”. She is also stimulated by teaching non-majors courses such as “Human Impact on the Environment”, “Biology in the World today” and “Sustainability”. The core of her research is to understand interactions between the biosphere and atmosphere under current and future conditions. Much of her research involves chemical and/or isotopic analysis of various ecosystem components. She is interested in using stable isotopes to understand human impact on Earth’s environments. Dr. Trueman has examined these elemental and iso-cycles at elevated [CO2] experiments in the Chihuahuan desert, Biosphere 2 Laboratory, soyFACE and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Her research now examines pollutants in rivers, streams, wetlands and flood plains.
Dr. Trueman spends her summers with her family of an opera singer husband and two daughters (aged 2 and 4) in Canada where she has a research site.
Components of her Fellowship
RAP staff walked through Rebecca’s draft PowerPoint presentations, offering pointers and clarifications, and adjustments to make the presentations appropriate for specific audiences that Rebecca spoke to or wrote for, based on established contacts and experiences. RAP staff also helped Rebecca distill a statement of her primary research interests, which was then videotaped for use on her website.
Stafford Creek Corrections Center
In partnership with the Sustainable Prisons Project, Rebecca spoke to 40 offenders and staff at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Rebecca explained carbon flux dynamics in different terrestrial ecosystems, and the potential to understand the fluxes of individual tree species. She related her studies to climate change mitigation strategies, and the individual actions people can take to address their own carbon emissions.
The inmates showed a high level of understanding of the ecology discussed as they asked in-depth conversations about climate change and probed an area of climate change research they hadn’t considered before – that different species may have different mitigation potentials.
The Next Generation: The Evergreen State College Campus Children’s Center
Although science curricula and standards are common for K-12 education, there is little attention given to introducing young 3 – 5 year olds to science or scientific concepts.
Rebecca prepared a short (15-20 minute) PowerPoint and story exploring Biosphere 2, where she completed some of her early research. Through this story, the twelve 4-5 year olds at The Evergreen State College Campus Children’s Center explored different ecosystems, and the diversity of things that scientists study.
Rebecca also presented her work to a group of faculty, students and staff at The Evergreen State College.
Reflections and Lessons Learned
As a mid-career scientist, Rebecca is poised to use the skills gained as she shapes her professional portfolio and develops additional coursework.
Rebecca is also very connected with her local community, and quickly developed ideas for integrating Research Ambassador activities into her research, professional duties, and academic teaching.
As the second researcher to present climate change related material to offenders at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, we also realized the potential to develop a series of related talks that could build upon each other.
Communication after Rebecca’s return to her home institution included the following:
- RAP staff arranged to have the Provost at Evergreen send a formal letter of acknowledgment to her dean so that she has an appropriate academic reward;
- RAP staff invited her to participate in an upcoming workshop on the RAP at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America
- Rebecca has begun planning a citizen science project that will measure and track environmental pollutants (endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs)) in the Des Plaines River. Citizen scientists will collect water samples and be invited to perform offline extractions and learn to use the Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometer (GC/MS).
- Rebecca is also organizing a community seminar series that will engage her scientist peers with the local community.