Monday, January 20, 2014

Why and how do we share our research (space) with our neighbors?

-contributed by: Charlotte Riggs, Graduate Student Researcher, Cedar Creek LTER

Every year Cedar Creek LTER opens its gates and invites its neighbors to tour the research sites during an open house/field day.  The theme and approach varies: last year, Cedar Creek partnered with the University-affiliated natural history museum to co-host a 24-hour BioBlitz, while this year the event coincided with the local town’s annual Booster days celebration. The day started with a Cedar Creek float in the town’s morning parade and continued with an afternoon event featuring dragonfly catching, GeoCaching walks, and casual conversation about Cedar Creek’s organisms (including the scientists). Importantly, we tell our neighbors about a piece of Cedar Creek property that is co-managed by the city and open year-round to visitors for walks and cross-country skiing.

Cedar Creek researchers, staff, and volunteers pose in front of their float. The morning of this year’s Open House began with the East Bethel Booster day parade.  Photo credit: Ami Thompson

Some visitors have a connection with the place already -- they know a neighbor or relative who worked at Cedar Creek. Or have a connection with ecology; one recent participant is also an aquatic invasive species monitor. And sometimes they are leading (or, more likely, following) a curious, insect-spotting youngster.

Cedar Creek Open House visitors and volunteers ponder over their next move while GeoCaching.  After the parade, neighbors were invited to tour the experiments at Cedar Creek, go on GeoCaching walks, and sweep for insects, among other activities. Photo credit: Mary Spivey

Participants comment: “I always wondered what was happening here.” or “I remember when this land was owned locally” or, my favorite, “So, what do you do as a graduate student?”

No matter the shape our open house takes, the mission remains the same year after year: can we share our research findings and inspiration with the neighbors we share fences with?

Across the LTER, our research intersects, relies upon, and is dependent upon our neighbors to varying degrees. In fact, your research might be about your neighbors and their (and your) land management practices and perspectives. How do other sites share their research (space) with the neighbors?