Humboldt: Connecting Science and Society
Dr. Matthew Johnson teaches Upland Habitat Ecology at Humboldt State University in which students engage in wildlife research projects in collaboration with a local land management agency or organization. The dual purpose of the projects is to not only teach students about the process of research, but also to legitimize it by connecting with real-world applications in collaboration with community and government agencies. For example, one class project involved examining a complex plan to restore a salt marsh in McDaniel Slough by breeching levees that would allow the area to be inundated with salt water. The intent was to restore salt marsh habitat to the area, and ultimately allow both salt marsh and grassland plants and animals to cohabitate.
Students gathered data to predict which approach to the restoration project would produce the best possible outcome for the wildlife. They reviewed aerial photography, elevation maps, and topography survey data provided by Arcata city officials to predict how vegetation would respond to various levee breaching prospects. They considered multiple scenarios provided by the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), but also developed their own proposal to change the arrangement of one levee to retain a strip of existing habitat, which was believed to have the greatest positive long-term effect on wildlife and vegetation. Though factors beyond wildlife and plants prompted the city to pursue a different restoration scenario, students walked away with invaluable experience.
With the success of courses like Upland Habitat Ecology, Humboldt's Department of Wildlife now offers a senior service project as a capstone alternative to the conventional senior research thesis. Example projects include modeling wildlife habitat in nearby coastal dune habitats for a local environmental non-governmental organization, predicting responses by wildlife to proposed timber harvests for a local timber company, and monitoring wildlife's recolonization of coastal streams restored by local city planners.
One year after the devastation that came from the massive earthquake off the coast of Sendai, 15 CSU Channel Islands students enrolled in Science and Technology in Japan traveled to Japan to volunteer in the rebuilding efforts during their spring break.
Some of the first words of greeting that Earth Sciences Professor Judy King receives from Biogeography students are: "Have you seen the garden today?"; "Did you notice how much the Sycamore has grown?"; "Those Monkey Flowers are blooming like crazy!" With funding from an ECO LED grant made possible by Edison International, 26 students joined forces to plan a garden, learn the scientific and common names of their plants, dig, add amendment, dig some more, learn to plant carefully, spread wood chips, build a path, and water diligently.
Students in Dr. Steve Blumenshine's aquatic ecology course work with a variety of community partners on issues of water quality and habitat restoration, including fish sampling, water testing, river restoration efforts and teaching aquatic ecology modules in local classrooms.
In Dr. Matthew Johnson's Upland Habitat Ecology course, students learn about the process of research by being exposed to real issues impacting their community and sharing their findings and recommendations with local planners and city officials.
Volunteer work aboard historic vessels in the San Francisco Bay is a tradition at California State University Maritime Academy. Robbie Jackson, instructor of Marine Engineering Technology, saw a need to spread the word among campus cadets to get involved by offering a Historic Ship Preservation service-learning course.
The students of Engineers Without Borders USA-Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo (EWB-Cal Poly) are creating change domestically and abroad. In the summer of 2011, students worked with villagers in Sainji, India to create an economical and user-friendly corn de-kerneler to help ease the physical stress of their manual method.