Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Oregon State post-doctoral scholar sees UAF forest research firsthand

Lissy Goralnik (front row left) visited with several OneTree collaborators in Fairbanks.
During Lissy Goralnik’s visit to Fairbanks the first few days of August, the post-doctoral scholar from Oregon State University did not sit around in meeting rooms; SNRAS researchers made sure she got out to the fields and forests for personal observations.

“Glenn (Juday) and I had a most wonderful day in the woods together,” she said. “He is wise, energetic, passionate and full of interesting facts about nearly everything we saw, which was so fun. It was a treat to see the forest and learn about Bonanza Creek forest research through his eyes.”

She also spent an evening with One Tree’s Janice Dawe and colleagues. Goralnik’s research centers on the Long Term Ecological Research Network. The nation has 26 LTER sites, one of them at UAF. Goralnik studies the arts and humanities across LTER. “It’s really flourishing here and in Oregon,” she said.

Goralnik studies how different lenses that come together with science can help people understand the natural world. “Education plays an important role in that but if we widen the story we are able to develop more empathy for the natural world,” she said.

After visiting with OneTree collaborators, Goralnik said, “The program feels thoughtful, thorough, and also fun, which is so very important when working with learners of all ages. In my mind, the best education happens in relationship: teacher-student, student-student, student-content, teacher-ideas, learning community-wider community (inclusive of the natural world). The community building aspects of the program foster this kind of learning environment. As well, the passion of the educators involved nurtures this environment and also serves to inspire wonder. When teachers model curiosity and care for the content students get to feed off this energy and approach their own learning with openness and curiosity, too.

“The project does tie into my research on place-based outdoor and environmental learning and mirrors some programs I saw emerging in Michigan, where I recently moved from, in which schools are using urban gardens to fuel an interconnected and interdisciplinary curriculum, and also some programs I've read about in Oregon, which use watersheds and community engagement projects in a similar fashion. It's great to see these emerging in different landscapes using the resources and relevant environmental issues of place to drive the learning.”

She has worked with many age groups but tends to focus on undergraduates. “I want to tell them that wonder is an OK thing,” said. “They’re used to shutting that off.”

While in Fairbanks, Goralnik attended the opening of the Trophic Cascades art show at the Bear Gallery in Pioneer Park. The Bonanza Creek LTER-sponsored show will be on display the rest of the month.

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