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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Student researchers boost Biosphere 2 attendance

Lisa Beth Earle / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Biosphere
Lisa Beth Earle
Lisa Beth Earle / Arizona Daily Wildcat Biosphere

Attendance at the Biosphere 2 is up 30 percent, in part because of student researchers.

By focusing on visitor interaction last year, the Biosphere staff discovered that the public enjoys interactions with UA students during their visits.

“”We know that when they (the public) see students on campus up there that’s a real positive thing —that they tend to take more from the whole experience— they can actually articulate what’s going on in the research projects better,”” said Travis Huxman, director of Biosphere 2.

Ten undergraduate students conduct research internships under the guidance of Biosphere staff and five graduate students display their research at the Biosphere 2.

“”We are training our future scientists and future generations and providing them with the tools and the resources to find solutions to climate change challenges facing our planet,”” said Hassan Hijazi director of external affairs at the UA Biosphere 2.

Huxman says students tend to have fewer barriers when interacting with the public.

“”The best way to describe it is something like this: if you put what the public imagines as the typical scientist in the facility —you know white coat, sort of older, professional they don’t have the same kind of interactions with that kind of a person as they have with a 20 something year old undergraduate who’s working sort of in a very non traditional way,”” Huxman said. “”Because of that they tend to have very, very different interactions. They have more sustained interactions, they ask deeper questions, they spend more time with those students and they are more likely to talk about sort of controversial issues of the day.””

The Biosphere 2 assesses the effectiveness of its tours by taking interviews and collecting data. The UA College of Education helps collect and analyze the data.

“”One of our goals is not only doing good science … we have this big goal of science communication and science education. We’ve been trying very hard to try and get our researchers to have a social science component to what they do,”” Huxman said.

Matt Adamson, senior programs coordinator for education and outreach at the Biosphere 2, said students overcame the original shyness and uncertainty about interacting with the public and now see it as their time to shine.

“”You need to be able to elaborate to broad audiences about what it is you are working on,”” Adamson said.

Adamson thinks the program is a unique experience for both the student and the public because it allows the public to talk to active scientists while giving the next generation of scientists an opportunity to learn how to communicate their work.

 ””Instead of doing research in the lab, it is done right out in the open,”” Hijazi said. “”The feedback from the public has been really amazing.””

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