Earth Institute Research Projects

Collaborative Proposal: GP-IMPACT: Ambassadors for STEM Training to Enhance Participation (A-STEP)

Lead PI: Sharon Katz Cooper

Unit Affiliation: Office of Marine Operations, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

July 2018 - June 2021
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: Geoscientists work on the front lines of issues affecting human communities worldwide, requiring an educated public positioned to help decision-makers understand Earth's complex workings and ensure the safety of its billions of inhabitants. Expanding diversity and inclusivity in the geosciences is critical as decision-making informed by geosciences is a matter of both social justice and critical national need. Recent research on social vulnerability, particularly the vulnerability of communities to extreme natural events based on social factors such as income, race, ethnicity, and housing, finds that communities of color are often among those most vulnerable to these natural events. To address this challenge head-on, the Ambassadors for STEM Training to Enhance Participation (A-STEP) program will provide a transformative seagoing experience to cohorts of students from underrepresented communities who will be equipped with both solid science background and science communication skills. This experience will broaden perspectives on the role of the oceans as a driver of global and environmental change and is expected to empower ambassadors to communicate that change within their own diverse communities. The project will leverage transits of U.S.-operated marine research vessels to train diverse STEM and non-STEM students in science communication. Under the guidance of instructors and science mentors, these students will become effective ambassadors to disseminate exciting and relevant geoscience information across broad audiences. The goals of the A-STEP project are to: (1) Raise the profile of geosciences and geoscience-related careers among under-represented groups nationwide; (2) Produce a series of engaging multimedia products to contribute towards this goal; (3) Draw from scientific ocean drilling and related research to develop educational storyboard modules aimed at K-12 audiences showing the impacts of global change on marine and terrestrial systems; and (4) Contribute to increased diversity of knowledge across geoscience-related fields and career choices by drawing greater attention to the relevance of climate and environmental change for all citizens. To achieve these goals, cohorts of 16 students annually from talented pools of STEM and non-STEM majors will join scientists and science education/communication professionals on short transit cruises on the JOIDES Resolution and UNOLS vessels. Students will learn first-hand in the scientifically-rich environment of an oceanographic cruise the significance of data gleaned from marine sediments, marine organisms, marine pollution, water chemistry, weather and climate patterns, and seafloor dynamics. Subsequently, these newly-minted ambassadors will be deployed across their communities and the nation to transmit the importance and relevance of geoscience information and careers, create innovative products and presentations about their experiences, and make linkages between climate and environmental change and people's daily lives. A-STEP cohorts will become a rich nationwide resource for inspiring the next generation of geoscientists. As ambassadors tasked with promoting STEM knowledge and careers, program participants will bring meaning and value to information, demonstrating how climate and environmental change is affecting all citizens, urban and rural. Citizens with few direct connections to science and scientists, who unfortunately are disproportionately African American, Latino, and Native American communities, are often more vulnerable to misinformation and will especially benefit from interactions with A-STEP students.