Wednesday, May 14, 2014

IdahoWatch: Research in the Sagebrush Steppe, a Teacher-Researcher Partnership

Dr. Jennifer Forbey trialed a new STEM Service-Learning model this spring, called IdahoWatch: Research in the Sagebrush Steppe Teacher-Researcher Partnership. IdahoWatch is a unique Service-Learning model to Boise State University. The IdahoWatch: Teacher-Researcher Partnership provided six 5th  - 12th grade teachers the opportunity to experience an authentic field research experience focused on a local issue of concern, and provided Boise State University undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to help develop, and guide, the Teacher-Researcher experience.
2014 IdahoWatch: Research in the Sagebrush Steppe
One teacher participant explained, “It was non-stop learning!  There were in depth conversations in the vehicles traveling to our site, through amazing sagebrush country, until we reached our destination at Castle Rock State Park.  We learned how to identify different species of sagebrush by visual, chemical, and physical characteristics and how herbivores, like sage grouse and pygmy rabbits, can differentiate the quality of nutrition and cover.  Instructors demonstrated how to assess and manage for quality habitats of pygmy rabbits, a species of concern. We were trained by Marcella Femgren (grad student researching sagebrush and sagegrouse) on vegetation surveys using line transects and Daubenmire plots…I can now design and implement my own research from the activities learned from the workshop into my classroom.”

Collecting pygmy rabbit data.
The experience has helped 5th – 12th grade teachers gain the confidence needed to take the next step in implementing field research with their own students, while forging professional relationships between university STEM research faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and K-12 teachers.

In a blind at the sage grouse lek site.
Participant teachers received a field tool kit for participation in IdahoWatch, and will receive continued access to STEM resources and support. The teachers left the experience excited to implement what they had learned in their classrooms. One teacher explained, “Next Monday, students are going to do a sagebrush chemistry lab using samples I collected during the field experience and samples I have collected since.  The following week, they are going to do a concealment activity using hands-on tools and concealments photos from the thumb drive that we were given.”
Using telemetry.
The joint work of Dr. Forbey, Boise State University, University of California – Davis, University of Idaho, and Washington State University is contributing to conservation efforts for several sagebrush steppe species of concern, including the pygmy rabbit and greater sage-grouse. Dr. Forbey has received several NSF grants to help fund her research and outreach programs.
Running line transects.
In the Fall, Dr. Ken Cornell will launch another IdahoWatch: Teacher-Researcher Partnership, focused on the issue of antibiotic resistances. To find out more about implementing the IdahoWatch model, contact Kara Brascia, Director Service-Learning, .

 - Jill K. Hettinger, Boise State University Service-Learning

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