RECITE-ing Science, Across Cultures

December 05, 2017

Sehoya Cotner joins effort to expand climate change research and science communication for students across international boundaries.

Sehoya Cotner in Svalbard

Sehoya Cotner poses with a polar bear crossing sign in Svalbard, Norway.

Scientific discovery is a language that crosses all boundaries. But what happens when a CBS student communicates climate change insights with someone in Bergen, Norway? A group of researchers wants to find out.

To that end, Sehoya Cotner, a faculty member in the College’s Department of Biology Teaching and Learning, and colleagues from the University of Arizona, the Chinese Academy of Science, Bjerkness Climate Center in Bergen and the University Centre in Svalbard, recently launched the Research and Educational Partnership in Climate Change Impacts on Terrestrial Ecosystems (RECITE).

“The overarching goal of the program is to support the partner institutions in becoming leaders in internationally collaborative climate change research and education by coordinating research efforts and offering students international experience in climate-related research, training and exchange,” says Cotner.

RECITE will expand on current climate change research, but also build students’ ability to communicate scientific insights with audiences that do not necessarily speak the same language or have the same cultural context. One way the researchers plan to do that is by measuring the impact of international internship experiences on student motivation and learning.

For students in RECITE, these experiences will include creating communication pieces — articles for local media, lesson plans for schools, displays for parks or museums — demonstrating a key insight into climate change with the underlying objective of communicating information across cultures.

“We think students will benefit from this focus on critical science-communication skills,” says Cotner. “It will sharpen their ability to present their work beyond academia, interact with a global audience, and tailor their message to fit the interests of the local population.”  -Lance Janssen