Belhaven University Students Conducting Interdisciplinary Sustainability Research at Jackson Zoo

Register for Our August Webinar — “When Partnerships Work: Creating Community and Civic Engagement through Interdisciplinary Research at an Historic Urban Zoo”

This webinar will highlight best practices and lessons learned from an ongoing partnership between formal and informal science educators. The overarching goal of the partnership between Belhaven University and the Jackson Zoological Park is to foster science education and practices by connecting hundreds of undergraduates annually to the conservation work of the zoo. These connections provide the Jackson Zoo with high-quality operational data that will help influence the upcoming zoo master plan.

Both Belhaven and the Jackson Zoo are important community anchors that reside in separate historic neighborhoods in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. Belhaven provides scientific expertise, student workers, and state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation. In return, Belhaven faculty and staff utilize the grounds, educational facilities, and professional expertise of the Jackson Zoo to engage undergraduate science majors and nonmajors alike in civically focused research projects. Labor for these projects is provided by Belhaven University student volunteers who are taking courses in Ecology, Analytical Chemistry, General Chemistry, Mathematics Research, Computer Science, and general education sections of Science & Culture.

The faculty and students of the Division of Natural Sciences at Belhaven University, in conjunction with student groups including the Mathematics Club, Biology Club, and Student Chapter of the American Chemical Society, have designed and carried out a series of prioritized preliminary research projects that establish the base-line environmental quality and functionality of the zoo and surrounding grounds.

The work has helped the zoo optimize its layout to best benefit animals and patrons, and to identify significant ground-penetrating leaks in aging infrastructure. Students of the arts and humanities have also become active in further volunteerism, which is resulting in a series of public literary and dance performances based on observations of animal movement and behavior. These and other results, benefits, and challenges will be presented, along with videos of student projects and findings.

The webinar will be held on Wednesday, August 24 from 1-2:15 pm (Eastern).

Attendees of the webinar will learn to:

  1. Forge workable agreements between formal and informal science educators that address limitations.
  2. Identify workable projects with defined outcomes and endpoints.
  3. Address logistical issues of engaging undergraduate students at off-campus locations.
  4. Engage faculty and students across campus to contribute to an interdisciplinary project.
  5. Promote the work through traditional and social media.
  6. Work with consumer-based smart phone technologies to crowd source data collection.
  7. Identify donors and other funding sources.

It will be hosted by:

  1. G. Reid Bishop, PhD; Professor and Chair, Department of Chemistry; Chair, Division of Science and Mathematics, Belhaven University
  2. Beth Poff; Executive Director, Jackson Zoological Park
  3. Undergraduate Student Project Leaders
Register for the Webinar
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