IGERT Outreach in Fiji
MotoIGERT trainee Charlene McCord spend two and a half weeks in Suva, Fiji on an international education project connecting about 40 Chicago and Fijian high schoolers. Diverse academics, community educators, and conservation NGO workers also were involved in this project (called FijiReef, a subset of the WhyReef and WhyVille online forums). The goal was to engage the international students in a collaborative exchange of ideas surrounding marine conservation through a series of interactive and hands-on activities. Charlene's main contribution was developing and facilitating a trip to a traditional Fijian village, Navakavu, where the Fijian high schoolers interviewed the local fisherman about how their reefs have changed over time. The students used this information to develop a conservation plan they think will benefit the local village fishermen and were able to blog and vlog about their experiences to inform the Chicago students on their findings. This conservation plan will soon be put into action. Charlene also prepared and presented a brief ecomorphology lecture and an in-depth fish dissection that focused on comparing the internal and external morphology of carnivorous and herbivorous fishes. After this experience, the students were able to identify how morphology informs us of an animal's ecological role, which is an important topic in conservation biology. Teaching to and interacting with scientists, NGOs, villagers and high school students about my research and marine conservation was not only good communication practice, it also allowed Charlene experience with and connections to the international not for profit sector, a career path she very well may be pursuing in the future.