Fostering understanding, awareness, and appreciation of the Polar Regions through outreach, education, and research. Penn State University.

Arctic Plant Phenology Learning through Engaged Science Workshop

Posted on


Arctic Plant Phenology Learning through Engaged Science

July 25-29, 2016, University Park Campus
Applications Due: April 1, 2016
Apply Now We are now closed for applications.
Admission decision and notification will be sent to all applicants on Monday May 2, 2016
One of the most widely documented ecological consequences of climate change is the earlier occurrence of springtime events.  Earlier flowering by plants, earlier arrival by migratory birds, and earlier emergence of invertebrates have been documented across all regions of the Earth, but such changes have been most pronounced in the Arctic, where warming has been greatest.
The discipline of “phenology” is the study of the timing of such events and how they advance in response to climatic warming.  But how do we know that spring events, such as the blooming of flowers, are occurring earlier?  How do scientists study phenology in the field?  Teachers will have the opportunity to participate and collaborate with leading polar research scientists, CSATS science educators and PolarTREC Teacher Nell Herrmann, and schools from across the country.
Since 1993, Dr. Post has been studying the effects of climate change on arctic plant phenology using three approaches:  direct human observation of plants, time-lapse photography of plants, and mini-greenhouse warming experiments.  These methods, the way they are used in the study of phenology, and what they can tell us about ecological responses to climate change will be a major focus of this workshop. Dr. Post’s long-term data from his study of plant phenology at an arctic field site in Greenland will be used in exercises focusing on the use of such data in detecting trends toward earlier onset of springtime events.
Middle and high school teachers will spend a week at Penn State learning about how scientists identify key phenological stages of plant growth, and how to monitor plant phenological responses to climatic warming using time-lapse cameras and mini-greenhouses.  Teachers will participate in science inquiry activities which replicate the practices of scientists and the systems nature of research.  With support from the APPLES team, teachers will develop a research project to implement with students in the 2016-2017 academic year, integrating research practices into the research design.  The classroom research project will incorporate learnings from the workshop, including arctic data collected by Dr. Eric Post and his research team, and utilizing equipment and procedures used by the researchers.   This workshop is limited to 15 participants, so register early!
Teacher Benefits:
  • Lodging and meals are provided during the week
  • Travel support included for partner schools, additional travel support to other teachers based upon funds
  • Equipment needed to carry out classroom research projects (experimental warming chamber and plant phenology camera)
  • $500 stipend for implementing classroom research project during the 2016-2017 academic year
  • Up to three teachers from the workshop will be considered for participation in fieldwork in Greenland with the research team during summer 2017
  • $500 stipend for presenting at the Arctic Research Symposium at Penn State in spring 2018
For more information, contact
Pernille Sporon Boving
Director for Engagement & Programing for The Polar Center
Leah Bug
Assistant Director
Center for Science in the Schools

Partner Schools: While all teachers may apply, these partner schools are given travel funding priority.
  • Bald Eagle Area School District in Bellefonte, PA
  • Blue Hill Consolidated School in Blue Hill, ME
  • Durango Middle and High School in Durango, CO
  • Pribilof Island School District in St. Paul Island, AK
This workshop is a partnership between The Polar Center and Center for Science and the Schools at Pennsylvania State University funded by the National Science Foundation Grant # 1525636
Our Educators:
Leah Bug, Assistant Director Center for Science in the Schools, Penn State
Leah brings over twenty years of education experience to the CSATS team. After receiving a B.S. in Elementary Education from Montana State University, she taught in Idaho for fourteen years. During this time, she taught every grade level from third through eighth grade, in addition to creating and implementing a multi-age classroom program and a technology education lab. During this time, she also achieved National Board Certification in Young Adolescence Social Studies, and earned a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Idaho State University. She left the classroom to work as an Aerospace Education Specialist, representing NASA in K-16 classrooms. She was also involved with the Educator Astronaut Program and was the NASA Headquarters Coordinator for the NASA Explorer School Program.
Dr. Russell Graham, Department of Geosciences, Director for the Earth and Mineral Science Museum, Penn State
Russ’ research focuses on the evolution, biogeography, and extinction of mammals.  He has extensive experience in the excavation and analysis of Quaternary mammal faunas and the taphonomy of fossil deposits. Graham has also worked with latest Eocene-Pliocene faunas of the north-central Great Plains.  Russ is co-founder and co-director of the FAUNMAP and NEOTOMA databases which are hosted at PSU.
Nell Herrmann, PolarTREC and Classroom Teacher
Nell is a middle school science teacher at the Blue Hill Consolidated School in Blue Hill, Maine. She has been teaching science for 15 years.  She traveled to Palmer Station Antarctica, as part of the PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating) program, where she participated in research about ocean acidification. She also completed a Research Experience for Teachers (RET) with the Palmer Station Antarctica Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Education and Outreach Program. Nell serves on the Executive Council of Polar Educators International and as a member of the steering committee for the Polar Center at Penn State University.
Dr. Eric Post, Department of Biology, Director for the Polar Center, Penn State
Eric is interested in the factors that shape population and community dynamics, especially in the Arctic, where climatic and ecological responses to global change are expected to be most pronounced. His research involves many approaches aimed at divulging and understanding ecological consequences of climate change. The techniques he uses include observational fieldwork, large-scale field experimentation, and quantitative analytical modeling of long-term data.
Dr. Heidi Steltzer, Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado
Heidi’s interests include the effects of climate change on Arctic and alpine ecosystems, especially the function of these ecosystems as plant life histories and species composition change.  Areas of interest include ecosystem ecology, global change biology and global environmental health.