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Article from Foster's Daily Democrat


Article published Dec 1, 2005
New grants strengthen UNH-Elizabeth City State University partnership

DURHAM — Two new federal grants to help recruit students into earth, natural and environmental sciences are strengthening the partnership between the University of New Hampshire and Elizabeth City State University.

According to one study, earth science is the least popular scientific field pursued by African Americans and Hispanics. But with shared grants totaling nearly $1.6 million over five years, the UNH and ECSU aim to change that. The two universities are using the money to develop inquiry-based programs that can be modeled nationally. UNH is the lead institution for a $1-million National Science Foundation grant to establish Watershed Watch. ECSU of Elizabeth City, N.C.—a historically black university—is the lead on a $580,000 NASA grant to establish Remote Sensing Explorers.

Watershed Watch will be a project of UNH's Joan and James Leitzel Center for Mathematics, Science and Engineering Education, building on the success of similar programs at UNH called Forest Watch and Lake Watch.

Watershed Watch aims to increase recruitment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at UNH and ECSU, particularly among under-represented groups.

"The underlying premise is that much of the best learning is derived from doing" said Leitzel Center Director Karen Graham. "Science, like art, is most inspiring when experienced."

Students at both schools will receive instruction in hands-on use of geospatial technologies to study two very different watersheds: the Merrimack in New Hampshire and the Pasquotank in North Carolina. Each school brings complementary strengths to the project. ECSU's Center of Excellence in Remote Sensing Research has expertise in working with entry-level undergraduates, while the Leitzel Center has expertise in curriculum development and assessment.

"Beyond expanding scientific knowledge about these two watersheds, the grants will provide enhanced educational opportunities for undergraduates at both schools," said Graham, "and down the road, that will lead to a more diverse workforce."

Remote Sensing Explorers will target minority students and faculty at ECSU and the 52 other members of Goddard's Minority University Space Interdisciplinary Network. Working with UNH and Goddard, ECSU will organize summer workshops to train faculty to implement advanced, research-based earth system science courses.

The workshops will be facilitated by three professors from UNH's Institute for the Study of Earth Oceans and Space, George Hurtt, Barry Rock, and Cameron Wake. "This award will enable us build on a previous grant funded initiative to design and deliver a state-of-the art course in Earth System Science at UNH, and to distribute the educational materials and teaching approaches used here to literally dozens of institutions and hundreds of students," said Hurtt. "The goal of this award is to help train the next generation of scientists."