Museum as Field Station — Making Environmental Science Public

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 2:15 PM
125AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Mary Miller, Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA; and S. Schwartzenberg, S. Tung, R. Hipschman, and C. Raleigh

The Exploratorium, a museum of science, art and human perception in San Francisco is building new capacity for participatory science education by situating weather, atmosphere and ocean research science in a public setting. In 2013 the Exploratorium moved to piers 15 and 17 on the San Francisco waterfront. Placed at the urban/aquatic edge of San Francisco Bay, the Bay Observatory is a new glass-walled environmental learning and research facility with panoramic views of the city and the Bay. The Observatory features exhibits, programs, and research findings from a network of more than a dozen research-grade sensors and scientific instruments located on the museum's roof and in the water. We consider Piers 15 and 17 a “wired pier,” a node in a scientific observation network that is contributing long-term data on weather, atmosphere, ocean, air and water quality to academic and science agency partners. By utilizing this new opportunity for collecting, visualizing, interpreting and sharing data, the Observatory/Wired Pier programmatic plan is an experiment in the transformation of traditional museum pedagogy into a field investigation site.

This education session will focus on the rationale for engaging the public in monitoring current and time-series environmental field data, as well as the research and planning we undertook for transforming the traditional museum into a research setting for the public. The work was done in partnership with local science institutions, such as San Francisco State University, UC Davis and Berkeley, and regional and national observing networks, including NOAA, USGS, and Scripps/Earth Networks. This new capacity is creating future program evolution in the form of reseach collaborations, data archiving and environmental visualization, and new tools for landscape observation, exhibits, artist residencies, teacher professional development, and an outdoor collection and learning lab--all designed to foster new opportunities for informed public engagement on the critical environmental issues of our times.