Contact: Bonnie Strawser - 252-473-1131
November 18, 2011
Experiencing Climate Change Outside the Classroom Door
Climate change is something that is impacting all of us in one way or another. Many refuges are seeing the results of accelerated global warming and sea level rise. To assist educators with the process of helping others to learn about climate change and stewardship, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) started the Climate Stewards Education Program a few years ago. The program has a limited number of openings each year. Last year, Visitor Services Specialist Cindy Heffley was selected to participate in the program and has since completed the first nine months of responsibilities.
In addition to professional development activities and monthly webinars with other stewards, participants must create an action plan which will put into motion a stewardship activity. Working with many national and local partners, Heffley decided to create a plan which utilizes the science of phenology. Project Budburst is one of the programs that will be started at Alligator River refuge. Just a handful of refuges in the nation have become Project Budburst Refuges. The idea is to observe the changes in plant cycles over time, as an indication of global warming.
Another component that will be used is Nature’s Notebook, which is a project of the USA National Phenology Network. This project looks at current and historical data to uncover changes in migration and plant activities. By looking at nature’s calendar, professional and “citizen” scientists can uncover some of the ways climate change is affecting plant and animal life. The group of citizen scientists to be part of the four-year action plan will be high school students in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program at First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills, NC. The AVID program typically involves average first-generation college-bound students who are capable of succeeding at more challenging coursework. These students have one hour each day devoted to AVID electives. The students will spend the initial time learning about climate and climate change. They will then begin documenting selected plants at the Creef Cut Trail at Alligator River refuge. These same plants are present at the Outer Banks Arboretum and Teaching Garden located within walking distance from their school. Students will also be part of a mitigation project by participating in a tree planting at the Point Peter Climate Adaptation Site at the refuge. By giving the students an opportunity to participate in fun activities while using learning various scientific methods, Heffley hopes to encourage them to continue with stewardship activities for years to come.