Tuesday, October 2, 2018

New Partnership with Gallaudet University Brings Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students to Laramie

Along with warm temperatures and long days, summer 2018 brought a new program to Wyoming EPSCoR; an eight-week internship in the Stable Isotope Facility, SIF, for deaf and hard of hearing students. In partnership with Gallaudet University professor Dr. Caroline Solomon’s biology lab, undergraduates Arianne Levenson and Patrick Pocztarsk from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology learned about environmental science and water quality in the high plains and rolling hills of Wyoming.  Wyoming EPSCoR has highlighted scientists with disabilities since 2012, first bringing scientists to campus to discuss their work and now with a more significant commitment to expanding the definition of a scientist at the University and beyond. The motivation for the new internship program is to grow the deaf and hard of hearing student community at the University of Wyoming and for students working on the Micro project to collaborate with scientists of different abilities and backgrounds. Chandelle Macdonald of the Stable Isotope Facility likened her experience this summer with the interns to work with students from a different culture. She was surprised to “learn how deaf culture works, not just the language but the entire culture.” 
Faculty, staff, and students from the EPSCoR, the Microbial Ecology Collective, and the SIF participated in an introduction to American Sign Language or ASL workshop at the University before Arianne and Patrick’s arrival. This was a chance to learn about deaf culture and pick up a few signs. Participants practiced finger spelling their names and different welcome signs. The experience was both humbling and engaging. The workshop helped the UW community begin a broader conversation on inclusivity.

Interns settled into the UW dorms, which tower over campus, and ate with other summer programs at the dining hall. Each day, they walked across campus to the Berry Center where the SIF is housed and worked with faculty Dr. David Williams, research scientists, and graduate students. Over time, they experienced Wyoming culture, riding horses and hiking in the nearby mountains. One student brought his skateboard and quickly made friends with locals skating around campus and at the park.
Throughout the duration, Arianne and Pat learned about taking samples, different techniques for analysis, and the story told by data. The culminating activity was a poster presentation, which was open to the public. Students, faculty, and staff from EPSCoR’s Micro project watched Arianne sign while listening to an interpreter. Pat spoke about his research.  The question and answer period were filled with graduate students asking Arianne and Pat about their desires for the future, what they were interested in studying, and how this experience influenced their thinking. Each expressed an interest in marine biology and noted the ties between what they learned in the internship and their desired career trajectory.  “this program had activities that could be applied - isotopes and chemicals which will require instruments like isotope ratio mass spectrometer to analyze on” said Arianne. Dr. Williams had a more enthusiastic reflection on the experience, “I was tickled by the whole thing and look forward to supporting future interns in my lab and others across the project.”  

Sparked by an NPR story in its “50 Great Teachers” series called “Biology Professor’s Calling: Teach Deaf Students They Can Do Anything” about Dr. Solomon, Wyoming EPSCoR initiated a dialogue several years ago. Dr. Solomon’s research parallels work Wyoming EPSCoR does on conservation biology and nutrient dynamics in water systems. These similar interests allow for an exciting synergy around aquatic environmental science and the hard of hearing and deaf communities. Over the next four years of EPSCoR’s Track 1 project, Micro, deaf and hard of hearing students will continue to spend their summers in Wyoming doing hands-on research. We hope some decide to return to Laramie for future study.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Students Ride the Divide in the name of Research!

Central Wyoming College students are in the throws of a grueling adventure in the name of research. The ultra distance riding and research BioPEAK team began their southern traverse along the spine of the continental divide on June 8th in Banff, Alberta. BioPEAK will research hyponatremia, a condition common in ultradistance riders and runners as they turn the pedals along mountain passes towards Antelope Wells NM. Jacki Klancher, CWC professor and cheerleader is along for the ride and shared an article she wrote in preparation. It is below along with photos from Jacki's last Ride the Divide adventure in 2017.

Preparing for the Long Haul: Across the Great Divide 
by Associate Professor of Environmental Health, Jacki Klancher

Whether it's planning out your degree, or preparing for a long distance bike ride - the premise is the same: take bites you can chew; don't choke; find reward in small accomplishments and keep your eye on the prize, the end of the semester, or the finish line, but focus your energy on what is in front of you each day.

On June 8, 2018 five CWC students will embark on a very, big, bike ride. If the ride is examined as one large mouthful, the primary emotion is terror. The ride needs to be looked at in hours, then days, and finally weeks on the bike. The ride is the Great Divide Mountain Bike Ride - 2700 miles of remote bicycling along the spine of continental US. Tackling this event has taken eight months of preparation.

Like getting a college degree, even starting this ride is daunting. It requires commitment and time. The finish is so far out on the horizon, it is almost unimaginable. These five students have been thinking, talking, meeting, dreaming, shopping - oh yeah and spending hours on their bikes - in preparation for this event since October 2017. They have investigated various fundraising opportunities (finally settling on raffling off a bike from Gannet Peak Sports), have talked in detail about how to get the most out of their knees, their quads, and their bottoms, and have visualized what it will be like to finally launch on the ride. Most have not yet begun to even think about the END. The first step is starting.

From the first hour out of the gates, there is little about this ride that can be noted with any great certainty.  Of the just under 200 riders starting at the YWCA in Banff, AB, only 25% will finish. During the first week, close to 100 riders will need to withdraw their participation due to injury, mechanical problems, or the unfortunate discovery that this was not nearly as much fun as it sounded on television.

The ride, suffice to say is difficult. It taxes tendons, and temperament, spirit, and stamina.