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DIY Service Learning Projects

Environmental Stewardship Goes Virtual for FALL 2020


Before conservation comes caring.  Caring comes with familiarity.


It is known: experiencing nature reduces stress.  So how to provide a nature-rich experience under the current pandemic conditions?  

Given that social distancing is still in full force, the Center has opted to take service learning "virtual" this fall - but virtual in an immersive really-experiencing-nature sort of way. 

CEES is coordinating two DIY service projects that have as their primary objective the goal of introducing students to public participation in scientific research (PPSR) - also known as community science or citizen science.  This fall's DIY projects include:


Tiny Trash Clean-ups


The Great Big Mini BioBlitz


Data collected by students for these projects will be shared to local, regional, and global platforms, as well as with any IUPUI faculty who want to incorporate the data in their course(s).   

Familiarizing students with PPSR now will hopefully encourage them to make the endeavor a regular part of their lives after graduation, thereby advancing the progress of Science!  


How the DIY Projects Work 


Trash and debris accumulation at the ARBOR after a flood event. 


Tiny Trash Clean-ups. Students choose a site and collect as much trash as possible during a set period of time, after which, the trash is counted and sorted into a series of ever more refined categories.  Major categories are as you might expect: plastic, paper, glass, metal, and "other." Following assignation to a major category, each piece of trash is subcategorized as completely as possible by use, type, size, and brand (example: plastic, beverage bottle, 2L, Coca-Cola).

After categorizing and counting, students photograph their trash, and send the completed data sheet and photo to CEES.  At the Center, we'll compile the data and make the complete data set available to faculty. 

We may even have some fun with an "atypical trash" category where students submit special photos of the most unusual pieces of trash they find. 

Finally, students will dispose of their trash in an environmentally friendly manner, directing the material to the appropriate waste stream (recyclable or non-recyclable).

There are many ways the trash collection can be done. Students can work independently or in small groups (with appropriate social distancing!), selecting collecting sites based on convenience.  Entire classes can participate, with faculty assigning students to particular locations.  Collection could be done in any type of environment, or faculty might want their students to focus on a particular habitat type, such as riparian habitats (but please stay OUT of the water!!).

Because we'll have information about the collection sites, including GPS coordinates, the Center can begin monitoring trends in trash occurrence and address questions such as: What kinds of trash show up where?  and Does the occurrence and distribution of trash categories change over time?   


Quadrat vegetation sampling.  


The Great Big Mini BioBlitz. Students will estimate plant species richness in one or more small plots (each a mere one square meter in size).  Choice of sampling locality and habitat type (forest, field, prairie, vacant lot, crop field margin, hedgerow, etc.) is up to the students - unless faculty have preferences.   

For this project, we will use Seek, an app that employs a smart phone's camera to scan and identify organisms. Seek is an off-shoot of iNaturalist, a global biodiversity research platform developed by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.  Students will photograph their plants and upload the data to iNaturalist.  Our goal is to provide photographs that will become research grade data available to anyone on the iNaturalist platform. 


If students are looking for a project site that is close to campus - either to collect trash or sample plant diversity - the Lily ARBOR (a forest restoration project initiated by CEES in 2000) and the UWT Monarch Sanctuary are conveniently located along the White River on the west side of campus.  Frequent flooding regularly deposits new loads of trash at the site, and the area provides several different types of habitats (riparian forest, marsh, riparian meadow, and river levee).

Both DIY projects accomplish multiple goals: students get outside and are introduced to PPSR, data is collected that can be used locally, data becomes part of a global research platform (BB), and trash is removed from the environment (TT - but BB students could pick up trash near their plots if they were so inclined . . . .). 


Faculty and students interested in DIY service learning can learn more from our Service Learning Information Guides.  The Guides page contains links to videos and other media that provide detailed information about service learning, the registration process, how to prepare for a service project, step-by-step instructions for the DIY service projects, and also information concerning the local and regional impacts of our service projects. 






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