3.3 Supporting Undergraduate Research Interns in Community-based Field Work -A Collaboration between local Communities, University Partners and Research Internships

Tuesday, 8 January 2013: 9:00 AM
Room 13AB (Austin Convention Center)
Rebecca Haacker-Santos, UCAR, Boulder, CO; and R. Pandya, K. Peterson, S. Laska, J. Foret, V. Sloan, and A. S. Denning

Being a scientist in the geosciences often involves field work and handling oneself in unfamiliar situations. To respond to the current call for science to better respond to community priorities, preparing the next generation of scientists should include early exposure to field work and practice working with diverse communities and cultures. UNAVCO and NCAR have a long tradition of physical science-based field campaigns, and many have included summer interns. This summer, three summer interns from SOARS and RESESS—the internships associated with NCAR and UNAVCO—had the unique opportunity not only to do field work, but to be embedded in local communities in coastal southern Louisiana to do community-based research. RESESS and SOARS worked with the Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology (CHART) at the University of New Orleans to include interns in projects that support community viability and explore current and historical ecosystem change by integrating physical science, geospatial technology and traditional ecological knowledge. For nine weeks, three interns lived and worked in Louisiana coastal communities and learned how projects can be defined by, guided by and assessed against community priorities. CHART introduced our interns to participatory action research (PAR) and helped them apply PAR to their research. The interns developed and implemented community-based research projects around land-loss, ecology of culturally important plants, and water quality. The experience has earned positive informal feedback from the students and the communities they worked with and we have already learned valuable lessons about supporting students in such off-site work. After the completion of the summer program, student and mentor experiences will be assessed formally through surveys and interviews. This presentation will describe what we learned about setting up such an experience—from pre-deployment preparations and partnerships with local experts, to helping interns learn new research methods to sustaining connections with the local community. We will also discuss how to support the interns in staying connected to the cohort back home and preparing them, at the end of the summer, to re-integrate into their regular school life without leaving the communities behind.
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