Biotechnology Workshop June 8 or 15

Dates:June 8 or June 15

Time: 9 AM to 4 PM

Location: SCI 113 on JCCC campus

Johnson County Community College would like to invite you to a Biotechnology workshop. The college is located in Overland Park , Kansas. A stipend will be provided to all teachers, counselors and administrators that attend. AM session: Is a hands-on workshop that introduces biotechnology laboratory skills using DNA and Forensic Science experiments. PM session: a presentation and discussion about the JCCC Biotechnology program that will include information about courses offered (on-campus and online) and current Biotechnology programs in area schools.

Please RSVP to lwolfgra@jccc.edu by May 31st with the names of the people from your school that will attend and your preferred date for the workshop


Global Warming: An Introduction to the Research and the Nature of Science

Since November, 2006, I have been enjoying a series in Natural History Magazine entitled “Samplings: The Warming Earth”. (scroll down the page to find the “Samplings” specific to “The Warming Earth.”) The articles are actually very concise summaries of research published in professional journals. The samplings are representative of a wide range of research. For example, there are summaries of research that predict possible effects of climate change (as “Pipefish Baby Boom”) to identification of contributing factors (“Don’t Blame the Sun”), to how climate change may be tracked (“Reading the Leaves”). Here’s a sample from one of this month’s (May 2007) “Samplings:”

Oysters on the half shell are considered a delicacy, but what about mussels on the three-quarter shell? A new study shows that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) could reduce bivalves’ ability to build their shells by as much as 25 percent.
In addition to warming the Earth, excessive CO2 is making the oceans more acidic, which decreases the concentration of dissolved carbonate in seawater. Without carbonate for building their shells, numerous minute organisms—including corals and species of phytoplankton and zooplankton—are showing alarming signs of distress. Now Frédéric Gazeau, a marine biologist at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology in Yerseke, and several colleagues have shown that the phenomenon propagates up the food chain.
In the laboratory, Gazeau exposed mussels and oysters to water with various levels of CO2 for periods of two hours, measuring the water’s average pH and the change in its alkalinity, which is proportional to its concentration of carbonate. From alkalinity levels he calculated the mollusks’ rate of shell construction, or calcification. Sure enough, the higher the water’s CO2 concentration and the lower its pH, the slower the mollusks’ calcification.
If atmospheric CO2 reaches the levels expected by 2100, Gazeau predicts the calcification of oyster shells could decline by 10 percent and that of mussel shells by a quarter. As the declines in calcification affect the development of juvenile shellfish, and as adults become more vulnerable to predation, both aquaculture and marine ecosystems are likely to change. Gazeau stresses that his findings are preliminary; he measured only short-term responses to high CO2 and low pH. But his next experiment will test their responses over several months. (Gazeau, F., C. Quiblier, J. M. Jansen, J. Gattuso, J. J. Middelburg, and C. H. R. Heip [2007], “Impact of elevated CO2 on shellfish calcification,” Geophysical Research Letters 34, L07603, doi:10.1029/2006GL028554)

Links: Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO)
Laboratoire d’Océographie de Villefranche (LOV)

—Rebecca Kessler

Recently in class a student commented that he didn’t “believe” in global warming. When asked why, he responded that he didn’t see how scientists could study such a phenomenon. This student comment followed upon the heels of a conversation with a colleague in which we lamented the difficulty of providing students with insights into the nature of science. It occurred to me that perhaps the Natural History “Samplings” might be a way in which I could simultaneously introduce my students to some of the research on global warming and provide insights into “how scientists know what they know”.

This turned out to be a very simple, but effective assignment. My students were asked to read a specific number of summaries (depending on the grade they wanted to earn). For each article they selected to read they needed to identify three components: the research question or problem; the kind of data collected and/or an explanation of how the data was collected (through field experiment, computer modeling, etc); and the conclusion of the research. After reading as many summaries as they committed themselves to, they were asked to write a reflective summary in which they explained what they learned about global warming or about how scientists work.

Based on what my students wrote (9th grade biology) and on a follow-up class discussion, I found this simple assignment to be successful. In addition, it had the benefit of piquing their interest in global warming!

Sandy Collins
Biology (9th grade)
West Junior High School
Lawrence, KS 66044
scollins@usd497.org

Communicating Science

I thought that you might like to know that at 4:00 p.m. on May 10, Chris
Mooney and Matthew Nisbet will be speaking on “Framing Science: The Road
to 2008 and Beyond” in the auditorium at the Stowers Institute for Medical
Research, 1000 E. 50th St. in Kansas City, Missouri.

Mooney is a science writer for Seed and American Prospect magazines, and
the author of The Republican War on Science (Basic Books, 2005); Nisbet is
a professor of communications at American University. Both have written
extensively on communication strategies for science policy.

For further details, visit:
http://www.stowers-institute.org/BioLog/BioLog.asp

Speaking Science 2.0

“We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.”
— Talmud scripture

“It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.”
–Republican strategist Frank Luntz

Over the past several years, the seemingly never-ending fights over evolution, embryonic stem cell research, global climate change, and many other topics have led to a troubling revelation. Scientific knowledge, alone, does not always suffice when it comes to winning political arguments, changing government policies, or influencing public opinion. Put simply, the media, policymakers, and the public consume scientific information in a vastly different way than do the scientists who generate it. As a result, scientists and their organizations repeatedly face difficult challenges in explaining their knowledge to diverse groups of citizens.

As issues at the intersection of science and politics gain more and more attention, something beyond pure science–beyond “getting the facts out there”–will be necessary to break through to the public. But what are the new directions? It’s time to question some central assumptions and focus on fresh ideas.

A conversation about new directions in science communication.

In this joint presentation, journalist Chris Mooney and communication professor Matthew Nisbet explain how scientists and their allies can “reframe” old debates in new ways, while taking advantage of a fragmented media environment to connect with a broader American public. Drawing on case studies from the battles over stem cell research, evolution, global warming, hurricanes, and other subjects, a key point of emphasis will be that scientists must adopt a language that emphasizes shared values and has broad appeal, avoiding the pitfall of seeming to belittle fellow citizens or attacking their religious beliefs.

Innovative strategies for public engagement could not be more urgent: Science will figure, as never before, in the 2008 presidential campaign and beyond. Scientific “facts” will increasingly be pulled into fraught political contexts, and bent and twisted in myriad ways. This political environment can seem perplexing to scientists, or worse. But it’s one to which they must adapt if they want their hard-won knowledge to play its necessary role in shaping the future of our nation.