Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Community College Students dig into Applied Research on a Glacier

A bridge building exercise is designed to take one from where they are, to where they want to go. As Wyoming EPSCoR transitions between two large projects, there is an activity spanning both that serves as a bridge and lovely example of applied student learning at the community college level. The Interdisciplinary Climate Change Expedition, or ICCE, is a course taught at Central Wyoming College, which is one of seven community colleges in the state. It culminates in a two-week trek into the Dinwoody Glacier in Wyoming’s Wind River Range on which students engage in active learning and applied research. The glacier, which is one of more than 100 in the range, becomes their classroom and nature their guide. Groups use ground penetrating radar, or GPR, to get a sense of what lies below the snow, they study the microbial ecology of scree fields and emerging landscapes that arrive due to the glacier’s receding. There is an archaeology team and one studying black carbon, as well as a geographical information systems, or GIS, group. Scientific American recently published a science brief on the project, the article can be found here.

During the semester students have the opportunity to learn mountaineering skills, ways to interact with scientific equipment, experiment design, and outdoor leadership through a partnership with the National Outdoor Leadership School.

As we cross the bridge into Microbial Ecology research across the state, ICCE will continue to offer community college students an opportunity to actively research and apply their learning to real world issues. These hands on experiences may create another bridge, the transition from a 2-year school to the University of Wyoming.