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UC Riverside Scientists Lead NASA-funded Climate Change Education Initiative


UC Riverside Scientists Lead NASA-funded Climate Change Education Initiative for Southern California

Many students today graduate without a clear and full understanding of climate change issues, says grant recipient Mary Droser

(November 16, 2010)

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Earth scientists David Mrofka (left), Richard Minnich (middle) and Mary Droser, seen here in the lab, will communicate climate change science to undergraduates and high school students in Southern California thanks to a NASA grant they have received.  Photo credit: L. Joel, UC Riverside.Enlarge

Earth scientists David Mrofka (left), Richard Minnich (middle) and Mary Droser, seen here in the lab, will communicate climate change science to undergraduates and high school students in Southern California thanks to a NASA grant they have received. Photo credit: L. Joel, UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – University of California, Riverside geoscientists have been awarded a three-year grant by NASA to develop innovative approaches for communicating climate change science to undergraduates and high school students in Southern California.

The “Down to Earth Climate Science Project: Engaging tomorrow’s leaders today” will use real-world NASA data sources to help both UC Riverside undergraduates and local high school students understand, and communicate, the science integral to climate change research.

The $350,000 grant is part of a NASA initiative to help students and scientists utilize the many types of NASA Earth and climate data and to also create interest in science and technology careers.

Mary Droser, the chair of the Department of Earth Sciences and the project’s principal investigator, emphasized that “climate change is the biggest issue facing society today.”

“Currently, we aren’t always effective as scientists and educators when it comes to informing the public about the science of climate change,” she said. “This project is a grassroots attempt to teach non-science students the essentials of a topic that impacts us all.”

The proposal notes that an understanding of the science behind climate change is an essential piece of any college graduate’s toolkit; in a media-saturated world that often paints climate change as an ideology that one either believes in or not, an ability to articulate the factual findings of climate scientists to others is crucial.

“Today, students are graduating without the ability to articulate the science behind climate change to their peers,” Droser said. “Many leave college without the specific tools to evaluate the claims of climate change skeptics or to understand the importance of climate change science for themselves.”

As part of the project, Droser will escort local high school students periodically to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., to allow them to investigate firsthand how climate change data is collected by NASA scientists. Moreover, JPL scientists will visit the UCR campus from time to time to share innovative technologies with a broader audience of local and UCR students and their families.

Richard Minnich, a professor of geography, and David Mrofka, the interim director of the Graduate Program in Global Climate and Environmental Change, are the grant’s co-principal investigators.

Droser, Minnich and Mrofka will be joined in the project by up to 20 graduate students and 3,000 undergraduate students at UCR each year. The start date of the grant is Jan. 1, 2011.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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