Making ripples in the STEM field–Muddy Waters STEMinist Camp
STEMinist (stεm-ɪn-ɪst): A person who supports women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and advocates for their equal representation in these fields.
I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to have led ten young women in investigating water science during our Muddy Waters STEMinist Camp. Aaron, Raven, and I could not have done this camp without the logistic support from Susan, Will, and Derrick at Hendricks CareerTek and the financial support of the National Science Foundation and UW-Madison Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research.
STEMinist campers investigated sources of pollution in a watershed using the EnviroScape (left) and collected data from Goose Creek to measure effects of pollution (right).
[pullquote class=”right”]In addition to field trips to local wetlands…[/pullquote]Over the course of the week, we visited four river locations within the Rock River watershed, measuring water quality parameters like temperature, cloudiness, presence of fertilizers (e.g., nitrates and phosphates), dissolved oxygen, and fecal coliform bacteria (EWW!). Our ultimate question was How is water being affected by external factors, and are the macroinvertebrate communities reflecting those effects? From lab investigations to field applications, these STEMinists did it all! If you’re interested in perusing their data, click here!
In addition to field trips and games surrounding the importance of wetlands and what it means to be a wetland, we had some amazing guest speakers join us from around the region (check out the links to learn more about them and their works):
- Tawnya Cary from Beloit College discussed her work with copepods and frogs and how both groups of animals are affected by compounds like insecticides
- Stephanie Schmidt from the International Crane Foundation introduced campers to what it means to be a field biologist and identifying Wisconsin’s two native crane species
- Lizzie Emch from UW-Madison’s Center for Limnology explained how salt and other chlorides affect lakes and other waterways
- Julie Uram from Nature at the Confluence shared how Native American history is important when it comes to water management
- Elisabeth Harrahy from UW-Whitewater opened our eyes to the global problem we are facing with water quality and security (she assured us that it isn’t all doom and gloom – there are stories with a happy ending, and policy is helping to reduce amounts of contaminants in the water!)
[pullquote class=”left”]…we had some amazing regional guest speakers![/pullquote]Based on pre- and post-camp survey data, these campers came in with some knowledge of water science, but many of them did not see themselves as scientists. By the end of the week, they had better knowledge of the watershed in which they live (most campers were from either Roscoe, Rockford, or Beloit, so Rock River is their primary watershed) and understood the importance of STEM fields. Some of them even changed their minds by the end of the week and said they wanted to pursue a STEM field. I consider that a win!
Environmental Educator, WEC