Saving Species One Survey at a Time

Over the fall, I engaged in an independent study project while enrolled in the Advanced Inquiry Program through San Diego Zoo Global and Miami University. I believe this semester was one of the most transformative for me as a graduate student, even though at times it felt like I was going nowhere and wanted to pull my hair out! 

The idea for my project tied into both my master plan and a passion of mine: to see informal science institutions and formal teachers working in unison to help youth connect more with the natural world and increase their environmental awareness. My master plan focuses around empowering local youth to take on conservation autonomously and one effective way to do this is through partnership with their classroom teachers, who spend way more time with students than any informal science educator ever would.

The first step of this project was to interview local teachers to help guide a survey that I would create in order to understand their priorities, attitudes and perceived barriers when selecting environmental education resources.

While I would have loved to have conducted even more in-person interviews during the summer, the information gathered was still very insightful! The information gathered during interviews formed the responses teachers could select when answering my survey - looking at their motivations, priorities, and perceived barriers when selecting outside-sourced environmental education curriculum and field trips.

At the same time, I was creating the survey I began researching relevant articles and publications to utilize in the development of my paper introduction and discussion.

Throughout the semester, more and more of my project began to materialize, and by December I had a solid draft to work with during the Spring semester, where I will be getting my paper ready to submit for publication.

Throughout the fall semester I also was pondering to which journal I should submit my paper. After reaching out to other informal educators, I found that most of them utilize open-sourced journals to find articles, so that became the main criterion I looked for in a journal. After researching a bit, I settled on the Journal of Interpretation Research as the publication venue I will pursue during Spring semester! 

While I accomplished a lot during my independent study, I cannot say it all was easy.

This process has been very informative for me and I am happy that I have gone through the, sometimes difficult, moments. It has provided me with knowledge I only could have gained through experience!

One of my two greatest takeaways from this experience is learning how to be flexible and adapt as things come my way during this process, skills that I think will go with me beyond the confines of this independent study.

My second takeaway is that even though some seasons of our life will be draining, it is important in those times to pull on inner strength and look at the greater cause of the work we do, saving species!

Haylie Canfield, AIP Student, Miami University and San Diego Zoo Global.