REU Site: Beyond Basic Science – Connecting Climate to Communities

Lead PI: Joshua D. Fisher , Laurel Zaima-Sheehy , , Cassie Xu
April 2021 - March 2024
North America ; New York, NY
Project Type: Research Education


This 10-week research experience for undergraduates (REU) with 6 students and 2 educators will introduce participants to transdisciplinary science being done at the Earth Institute (EI). Participants will work through the scientific process to better understand the latest climate change research, gather and analyze data, and communicate findings for relevant stakeholders. Undergraduate students and teachers will work alongside professional scientists in a rigorous research setting supplemented by professional development opportunities. Our theme of participatory action and practice oriented climate change research will be emphasized across all projects. Participants will work with mentors to apply basic science methods to inform social, economic, and environmental decisions and policies around how to adapt to or mitigate the impact of changing climate on these systems from local to global scales. All projects will reflect the strategies, practices, and tools that scientists across the EI employ and how they leverage their science to co-create and translate climate research into accessible knowledge and solutions for stakeholders through a community-based approach. Ultimately, the experience will encourage participants to better understand the context, connections, and perspectives of climate change in a way that directly connects the science and the field to people and communities. INTELLECTUAL MERIT: Faculty-mentored undergraduate research experiences are foundational to encourage the participation of students, particularly those from underrepresented groups (i.e. Latino or Hispanic, African-Americans, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives), in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. The Beyond Basic Science REU will provide participants with transdisciplinary research experiences alongside mentors focused on leading-edge climate science and policy, with an emphasis on participatory action research. The overall project is grounded in high impact educational practices that will generate knowledge and practices that promote enculturation into research and create meaningful experiences for undergraduate students and educators, which will increase their engagement with research as well as their persistence to learning and working in this area. BROADER IMPACTS: The Beyond Basic Science REU site will provide opportunities for undergraduate students and educators in transdisciplinary research rooted in climate science and participatory action. The activities proposed in this project are strategically aligned with NSF’s goals of broader impacts and supports a diverse group of participants in immersive research experiences. The project framework supports participants to engage in team learning around a meaningful project, participate in professional development activities beyond direct research, and build learning and professional relationships through layered mentoring in a world-renowned research environment. The pool of students targeted by this program (i.e. community colleges and state schools) are substantially more likely to be first generation college students and to identify as underrepresented minorities in STEM. The project will likewise produce a cohort of scientists and educators trained in participatory research approaches to science that integrate basic research methods with meaningful stakeholder participation. Our REU site has an opportunity to demonstrate that research programs grounded in evidence-based practices that provide strong educational and professional infrastructures for learners have an important role to play in bringing diversity into our research communities and promoting inclusive excellence.