Headwaters Research Experience Students Explore Climate Change

Headwaters Research Experience Students Explore Climate Change

Climate change is an extraordinarily important topic as it impacts all life on the planet in various ways. Weather patterns and regional climates changing over time isn’t a new phenomenon, but the rapid pace of change caused by human activity since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the severity of the consequences is what alarms scientists.

There are a few unknowns, namely how severe consequences will end up being. We could see ecosystem collapses due to biodiversity loss because of a failure of organisms to adapt to the new bioclimatic conditions they face. We are already seeing higher frequency and more severity from extreme weather events and also every day sea level rise, both threatening Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and areas around the world.

Satellite image of Hurricane Katrina

There is no doubt that our world today has been shaped by our past and that this is a very complex issue, with controversy surrounding the topic from every angle. Many Headwaters Research Experience students are passionate about climate change and choose to explore it and its impacts for their projects. Charlie and Kian participated in our Spring Research Experience and had different approaches to studying climate change.

Charlie was primarily interested in how land temperatures are related to the incidence and strength of hurricanes. Charlie aggregated temperature and hurricane data over the past 20 years, and he found a significant relationship between temperature and hurricane frequency, but not between temperature and hurricane strength. This finding went against his initial hypothesis, and he concluded that while the increase in temperature has caused a higher incidence of hurricanes, it has not necessarily influenced the strength. It was an eye opening experience for Charlie and like many times in scientific research, he ended with more questions than he started with!

Kian wanted to approach the impacts of climate change in a different way. He did this by investigating how the predicted ecological niches of spider monkey species change through 2070. He used the Community Climate System Model, which uses previous climate data to simulate climate conditions in the future and Ecological Niche Models to predict species’ ranges. Given current climate projections into 2070, Kian found all spider monkey species within his study will experience a reduction in size of their suitable bioclimatic niche but to varying degrees. While all species are impacted by climate change, variability exists and some benefit while some could face tough futures.

We have many students considering the damage humans are doing to Earth’s climate and they’ve looked at climate change from many different angles! We always encourage students’ curiosity about these, and all, topics and hope that their research increases their understanding of the nuances of the issues. 

This week for Headwaters’ Back to School Fundraiser, we’re highlighting climate change science! Donating to Headwaters helps us plan and run the Research Experience and students like Charlie and Kian pursue projects that spark their curiosity and contribute to science. Your support also helps us provide Lunch with a Scientist talks to students around the country. Thank you!

Students Explore the Importance of Water

Students Explore the Importance of Water

The importance of water should never be understated! It is a vital component of all life-sustaining processes and integral to chemical reactions. The human body is made of up nearly 60-70% water by body weight, with a decrease of 4% causing dehydration and losses of 15% becoming life-threatening or fatal. Drilling down further, water is considered a universal solvent, it plays an important structural role in our cells as it regulates their shape based on water concentration in various environments and facilitates biochemical reactions by being directly involved in dehydration synthesis and hydrolysis reactions. And this is only at the cellular level. As water crises and droughts highlight the lack of consistent water access around the globe, we know that water is essential for life.  

Our Headwaters Research Experience students recognize the importance of water quality to aquatic systems, and we help students create projects centered around the analysis of water quality in their neighborhoods and watersheds. These types of water quality studies are simple to conduct, but can yield impactful results  and raise awareness among local community members. 

Ethan Liu was curious about water in NYC and focused on comparing water quality between the neighborhoods of Chinatown and Bayside, which have a sizable difference in average household income. Ultimately, Ethan found that there was no significant difference in pH or total dissolved solids (TDS, like inorganic salts and some organic matter) for water sampled from restaurants in these regions. Ethan, and the community members who allowed him to sample their water, were reassured by his findings.

Ethan’s presentation is the first of our student presentations featured here if you’d like to learn more:

Katie Chen wanted to research the effects of fertilizer on the water quality of Saratoga Creek. Many land managers use fertilizers to increase crop yields, but nitrogen runoff can cause significant damage to the watershed and harm water quality in the area. Through her experimental research design, Katie found that the fertilizer significantly reduced the pH and increased the TDS of Saratoga Creek water. Katie did a great job designing, conducting, and analyzing her research and the Journal of Emerging Investigators accepted her write up for publication!

Read Katie’s paper here!

This week for Headwaters’ Back to School Fundraiser, we’re highlighting water! Donating to Headwaters helps us plan and run the Research Experience and students like Ethan and Katie pursue projects that impact their communities and contribute to science. Your support also helps us provide Lunch with a Scientist talks, like Dr. Tonya Shearer’s on coral reef health, to students around the country. Thank you!

Creating Opportunities for Science Education Outside of the Classroom

Creating Opportunities for Science Education Outside of the Classroom

Science isn’t simply the memorization of information out of a textbook but is an entire process of how we expand our understanding of the world around us. We challenge each other’s ideas, gather data, statistically analyze data to ensure the assertions we are making are valid, and ultimately disseminate that information. What students read in a textbook is the current consensus of that ongoing debate. But in classrooms across the country, there’s a lack of hands-on research opportunities for students to get involved, develop critical thinking, and foster an overall understanding and interest in the scientific process.

We developed the Headwaters Research Experience to supplement what students learn in school and to enrich science education, inspire curiosity through student-led research, address the wealth inequality of education, and prepare students for the future. Our program offers an affordable hands-on research experience where students are able to explore what they are curious about and design a project around that topic. We supply participants with an in-depth understanding of the scientific method and take them through all stages, starting with the question-asking process and ending with the dissemination of their results via live oral presentations and peer-reviewed manuscripts. No matter what the topic is that they wish to research, we help them design a project around the question and pair them with a professional science mentor who has experience conducting research. Students experience the ups and downs, pressures, and other difficulties that exist with conducting their own novel research but emerge with a more robust understanding of science and a satisfying sense of accomplishment. In the end, students join a growing network of alumni and mentors which will aid in their professional growth and can potentially lead to career opportunities in the future. Everyone needs help navigating the path of pursuing a science-related career, and our network helps connect students.

Headwaters Science Institute is proud to offer our student-driven research experience regardless of location. This spring we had the opportunity to work with Angelina, a student in South Korea, over 5800 miles away from the California coast. Angelina looked at differences between compost and synthetic fertilizer and her research is a prime example of using interests to drive science. Like all of our research experience students, Angelina was able to work with a professional mentor and she will be published in our journal. One of the benefits of having a professional mentor is that the students are supported in their efforts and not experiencing the ups and downs of conducting a research project alone.

Check out Angelina’s presentation:

Angelina felt a sense of relief and accomplishment after conducting an intensive project that truly embodied the scientific process. She also researched a topic close to her and her father’s interests which made the process of science more impactful in her life.

The Headwaters Research Experience is not meant to replace current science education but instead supplements students’ education by connecting the dots between the scientific process and the published results. Students like Angelina are able to design and direct their own research, and are rewarded with the accomplishment of conducting a feat the majority of students today wouldn’t complete until the end of their Bachelor’s degree.

Registration for our Fall Research Experience is still open until September 18th. Please find more information on our website and contact dan@headwatersscienceinstitute.org with any questions.

Back to School Fundraiser

With your support, Headwaters can fund more scholarships, provide more Lunch with a Scientist talks free of charge, and supplement the costs of bringing programs to schools, which all means more science for more students! If you are able, please support our Back to School Fundraiser:

Dan Dudek

Dan Dudek

Instructor

Spots still open for Headwaters’ 2022 summer camps and programs

Spots still open for Headwaters’ 2022 summer camps and programs

Your one-stop shop for your student’s summer plans are right here. Registration for Headwaters Science Institute’s summer camps and programs are open, and spots are still available. But they are filling up fast, so act now. Below you can find all of our offerings for Summer 2022.

Truckee Young Scientist Exploration Camp

Give your child the opportunity to explore nature this summer. This hands-on science camp is designed for children to have fun while exploring the unique ecology of the area.

Campers will explore the Truckee Donner Land Trust’s new Truckee Springs park in Downtown Truckee. From this site, hiking, splashing in the river, and other fun activities are all easily accessible. Science is fun and engaging when children get to ask the questions that they are curious about. This program will show your child that science is all around them, while forging a unique connection to the flora and fauna of the Sierra Nevada region.

Overview

Ages: 5-12

Dates:
Session 1 – July 5-8
Session 2 – Aug. 8-12

Times: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. daily

Location: Truckee Donner Land Trust’s “Truckee Springs” parcel (drop off at the end of South River Street)

Price:

Session 1 – $315 (includes Headwaters T-shirt), CIT $150
Session 2 – $385 (includes Headwaters T-shirt), CIT $175

For more details or sign up, visit the camp page here.

 

Kirkwood Scientist Exploration Camp

Over the week, Headwaters instructors will guide participants through exploring the natural systems around them and developing curiosity about the natural world.

Campers will explore the native diversity in the Kirkwood area. We will take hikes and investigate the local ecosystem. We’ll ask questions about what we’re seeing, collect data, and find answers. There will be time for games, scavenger hunts, play, and time to cool off.

Overview

General registration: Ages 5-13
Counselor-in-training program: Ages 13-15

Dates:

9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday-Friday

Session 1 – Water Week, June 27- July 1
Session 2 – Plants and Wildflowers, July 5- 8 (Tuesday-Friday)
Session 3 – Rocks and Geology July, 11-15
Session 4 – Animals, July 25-29
Session 5 – Insects, Aug. 1-5

Price: $450/session (includes Headwaters T-shirt) ($375 for Session 2); $225 for CIT Program (Ages 13-15)

For more information or to sign up, visit the camp page here.

 

Serene Lakes Young Scientist Exploration Camp

Give your child the opportunity to explore Serene Lakes this summer. This hands-on science camp is designed for children of Serene Lakes families to explore the unique ecology of the area.

Day campers will explore the natural spaces around Serene Lakes, ask scientific questions, and design and conduct experiments to answer their own questions. Science is fun and engaging when children get to ask the questions that they are curious about. This program will show your child science is fun and all around them while forging a unique connection to the Serene Lakes area.

Overview

General registration: Ages 5-12
Counselor-in-training program:
Ages 13-15

Dates:

9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday-Thursday

Session 1 – July 18-21
Session 2 – July 25-28
Session 3 – Aug. 1-4

Price: $275 per Session, CIT $140

For more information or to sign up, visit the camp page here.

 

Girls Science Program

We will have a week of GIRLS ONLY science and camping at the Truckee Donner Land Trust’s Webber Lake Campground. In addition, girls can sign up for the Headwaters’ Summer Research Experience, for a full summer of science.

Foundations of the program:

1. Scientific  Research

Students work with an all female cohort of peers at Webber Lake and with professional female scientist mentors to create questions around their environmental topics of interest and develop these questions into a research project.

2. Mentorship

The students will be mentored by female scientists for guidance through their project. These career-scientists can help with recommendations for how to turn an idea into an executable project.

3. Female Empowerment

A female-specific cohort provides support for participants to explore the science field in ways that are unique.

4. Professional caliber scientific exploration 

Participants are given the chance to practice science just like a professional would, analyzing data and finally creating a research talk. If they would like to create a paper they should also join our Summer Research Experience and at the end, they submit their paper for publication. They can get all of their data collected for the summer-long program during this week at Webber Lake.

Overview

Camping: Participants will camp at our Webber Lake study site from July 10-15. Parents will drop off campers on Sunday, July 10th after dinner and pick up on Friday, July 15 by noon.

Location: The campground is located at Webber Lake in Truckee, California at the Truckee Donner Land Trust campground.

Price: $800

For more information or to sign up, visit the program page here.

 

Environmental Science Research Camp

An environmental science camp at the Truckee Donner Land Trust’s Webber Lake Campground for students going into 7th grade and older.

Foundations of the program:

1. Scientific Research

Students work with a cohort of peers at Webber Lake and with professional scientist mentors to create questions around their environmental topics of interest and develop these questions into a research project.

2. Mentorship

The students will be mentored by scientists for guidance through their project. These career-scientists can help with recommendations for how to turn an idea into an executable project.

3. Professional caliber scientific exploration

Participants are given the chance to practice science just like a professional would, analyzing data and finally creating a research talk. If they would like to create a paper they should also join our Summer Research Experience and at the end, they submit their paper for publication. They can get all of their data collected for the summer-long program during this week at Webber Lake.

Overview

Camping: Participants will camp at our Webber Lake study site from July 10-15. Parents will drop off campers on Sunday, July 10th after dinner and pick up on Friday, July 15 by noon.

Location: The campground is located at Webber Lake in Truckee, California at the Truckee Donner Land Trust campground.

Price: $800

For more information or to sign up, visit the program page here.

Research Experience

In the program, students will design and create an original research project mentored by a professional scientist, see through the project by conducting field research, (or compiling pre-existing available datasets), and learn how to analyze their findings. Students complete the program with a finalized research presentation and a formal research paper that will be submitted for publication.

Mentors:
Our professional scientist mentors are experienced in research and in mentoring students with a variety of research interests. They guide students to utilize a diverse array of research skills that can be used to study almost any topic imaginable.

Benefits:
Students emerge from the program with an experience they can add to a college resume, and life skills that will better prepare them for any career.

Overview

Location: Online meetings, independent research in the location of student’s choosing

Summer 2022 Program dates: Week of June 14 through the week of August 9th

Session Times: (students can select one of these based on their availability)

Tuesday – 2-3 p.m. PST

Tuesday – 5-6 p.m. PST

Cost: $1,350

Registration Process: Fill out either the financial assistance application (if you need financial help) or register directly. Registration opens February 1, 2022.
Regular registration until the program is filled. Financial assistance applications are open through March 1, 2022. Students will be notified by April 1, 2022.

For more information or sign up, visit the program page here.

 

‘It’s incredibly exciting to see’: Spring Research Experience students present their projects

‘It’s incredibly exciting to see’: Spring Research Experience students present their projects

Headwaters Science Institute celebrated the completion of the Spring Research Experience on Monday as four students presented their original research projects in a live broadcast (watch above). 

It was the culmination of the students’ hard work over this past semester, illuminating what is possible when you allow Headwaters to take a passion for science and research to the next level.

From hurricanes to social media, our students formulated their own research questions and then collected original data or researched existing data to answer those questions. Each of these students will be published in the Headwaters Research Journal, as well as having the opportunity to publish their findings in other scientific journals. 

“Every year it’s completely different; the topics are often off the wall,” research mentor Daniel Dudek said. “… We help them collect the data, analyze the data and draw conclusions to whatever question they may have. 

“It’s incredibly exciting every year to see what comes out of the program.” 

Research projects studied diverse topics

Charlie Benson researched the effect of surface temperatures on the intensity and frequency of tropical storms and hurricanes in Florida, drawing on airport weather databases over four decades. 

Kian Schaefer examined how future climate models, in 2050 and then in 2070, will affect spider monkey habitat and populations. He used mapping tools and climate models to predict the future of spider monkeys, a key species in rainforest reforestation.

Shuchi Shivangi studied social media’s effects on eating habits in female teens, asking the key question of how idealized body proportions, weight and eating habits influence her generation. 

Carolyn Pyun created her own survey distributed in her Saratoga, Fla., high school to also study social media’s effects on youths. She studied its effect on self esteem. 

Projects a testament to power of student-driven research

On behalf of everyone at Headwaters Science Institute, we would like to congratulate all of the Spring Research Experience students on a job well done with all of their projects this semester. It’s a great example of bringing science to life in a hands-on fashion, and we hope the tools learned throughout this experience will benefit them for years to come. 

For high school students interested in the Research Experience, we still have spots available for the summer program that starts June 14. We’ll also soon begin accepting students for the fall semester, as well. Email program director Jennifer Cotton at jenn@headwatersscienceinstitute.org or visit the Research Experience page for more information.