Session: Vital Connections in Ecology: Mentoring, Education, and Training
YEAH! Youth Environmental Alliance in Higher Education: A model for integrating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) towards climate action
Wednesday, August 4, 2021
Link To Share This Presentation: https://cdmcd.co/5mqz8W
Emma Conrad-Rooney, Biology, Boston University, Melissa Morales, Biology, Moravian College, Allyson Murphy Pauletto, Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University, Sarah Whipple, Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Fort Collins, CO, Madeline Allen, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN and Gillian Bowser, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
Background/Question/Methods Youth action in the climate change debate has dramatically increased over the past decade. From the recent call-to-action by the Secretary General of the UN to School Climate Strikes, today's students have been part of the forefront of climate action. Yet, how are academic institutions helping prepare students with research tools, team-building and leadership skills to address on-the-ground actions needed to protect and support the wellbeing of humans and ecosystems? YEAH (Youth Environmental Alliance in Higher Education) is an international network featuring a joint mixed-delivery course-based research experience taught by nine institutions. YEAH members are committed to tackling the challenge of teaching interdisciplinary and transcontinental coursework by providing students with unique experiences. YEAH institutions work together through virtual classrooms and workspaces, empowering students to design and implement their own research questions associated with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within multi-institutional and international peer teams. Results/Conclusions In its pilot year, YEAH reached over 100 students from multiple disciplines and stages of their academic career. The research models explored by the student teams included original data collection among team members, case study reviews, or campus-based project reviews. The outcomes of the YEAH project and student surveys demonstrate a viable model for collaborative and course-based undergraduate and graduate research experience on climate change. Students in the YEAH network also obtained a stronger academic community with like-minded peers equally committed to climate action and sustainability. Lastly, students expressed a change in optimism on the state of our planet after the United States rejoined the Paris Agreement in 2021, indicating that political actions towards climate change do make a difference in student climate action perceptions. Outcomes also emphasize that project-based learning provides goal-oriented research for students interested in international science and policy. This presentation will include reflections from students and educators on the value of this experience for fostering rich educational experiences in interdisciplinary, international collaboration within the science-policy interface, which we hope will open the conversation up to other ecologists on the importance of combining science and policy within higher education curriculum and research efforts.