A bunch of WISE-GISE, or rather, wise gals
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
The U-M Women in Science and Engineering – Girls in Science and Engineering (WISE-GISE) runs a weeklong summer camp for 7th and 8th grade girls to encourage the participation of women in these fields. For the second year, Professor Annette Ostling and recent doctoral graduate, Susanna Messinger, worked with a small group of students from June 18 – 22 as part of an ecology focus group.
The girls explored and took part in hands-on field, lab, and computer activities in the Ostling lab, at the Museum of Zoology, on the Diag, and at the Nichols Arboretum.
“The focus group emphasized not only the power of ecological science to provide insight into the fascinating intricacies of nature, but also its importance for solving environmental problems, and the key role mathematics and computers increasingly play in ecology,” said Ostling, whose funding from the National Science Foundation's Advancing Theory in Biology program helped support the focus group.
"The camp seemed to be a success again,” Ostling said. “When we played the Darwin's Finch game, they didn't want to stop. They wanted to see who could pick up the most seeds with their tool and prove they were the best-adapted finch. When we did the ‘Niche Wars’ computer simulation (provided by Simbio) to learn about competition, they had a blast at the end trying to invent a 'super-species' rabbit. When we were at the Arb, they very excitedly found all kinds of things for us to identify. One of the highlights was a wolf spider. They loved the museum and lab tours. They asked tons of questions about our insect collection, and were amazed to find out that a snail could kill a person! They clearly left the camp excited about ecology and gave us all hugs and said thanks for a fun week.
“One of our key goals was to instill an appreciation of mathematics and computer simulations of mathematical models as incredibly useful tools in ecology and all sciences,” said Ostling. “Although women are increasingly better represented in ecology, they remain underrepresented in mathematical ecology. Studies show girls lose interest in mathematics around middle school. Our hope was to reverse this trend for these girls by explaining how mathematics has been instrumental in understanding ecological phenomena.”
Ostling lab graduate students Gyuri Barabas and Rafael D'Andrea helped run the camp. Mark O'Brien, collections manager of the Insect Division, Raymond Barbehenn, research scientist, and EEB graduate student Dan Chang provided tours of labs and museum collections. Recent doctoral graduate, Michael Sheehan, and EEB graduate students Brian Dorsey, Rachel Cable, and John Marino provided insights in the field. Former postdoctoral fellow, Jeff Lake, who is an assistant professor at Adrian College, discussed plant adaptations and led students on a guided "tree walk" on the Diag. Other WISE-GISE focus groups included chemistry, gaming for girls, engineering, human genetics and physics.
See the students jumping for the joy of science below!
Captions: from top: “Tree walk" on the Diag where a highlight was looking for the differences between sun and shade leaves on a Maple tree.
Preparing an experiment in the Ostling lab to see what temperature and pH baker's yeast is adapted to.
Trying to catch a butterfly for a closer look at the Nichols Arboretum.
Pictured from left to right: Maya Bieszki (Homeschool and Little Lake Learning Community, Ann Arbor), Droma Xiang Qiu Zhima (Whitmore Lake Middle School, Whitmore Lake), Rachel Bakewell (West Middle School, Plymouth-Canton), Grace Norris (Farms Intermediate School, Hartland), Kristen Hayden (Clague Middle School, Ann Arbor), Isra Elshafei (Central Academy, Ann Arbor).
Photo credits: Susanna Messinger
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