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Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-6:00 PM


HORODYSKYJ, Ulyana N., Geological Sciences, University of Colorado - Boulder, UCB 399, 2200 Colorado Ave, Boulder, CO 80309 and COCHRAN, Ford, Mission Programs Online, National Geographic, 1145 17th Street, NW, Washington, D.C, 20036,

The National Geographic Society is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Since 1888, the Society has been involved in expeditions that span the globe, advancing the natural sciences and promoting conservation and environmental stewardship. In 2008, the Society launched a program called National Geographic Student Expeditions. A solid application including teacher recommendations and an essay explaining how a student can contribute to an expedition are required from participants. Students elect to participate in “on assignment” teams with a focus such as photography, filmmaking, writing, or sciences such as climate and geology.

For the past two years, we have been the geology and climate change instructor and regional expert for the Geographic’s program in Iceland. Instruction varies from classroom-based in the form of lectures to interaction with an NG expert with scientific and storytelling expertise and local scientists in the field. Students research and create their “On Assignment” projects in the field over the duration of the program (typically 10 days to 3 weeks).

This program is an excellent opportunity to train young students in field geology and environmental science. In Iceland, science-track students start by forming a hypothesis about a topic of interest. They gather information from experts, books, and maps and then learn hands-on skills. They can experiment with scientific instruments and test their hypotheses in the field. Finally, they end with a presentation in which they share what they have learned with their peers.

In past years, student "On Assignment" project topics have ranged from documenting the volcanic terrain of Iceland through photos and video, even using certain parts of the island as a Martian analog, to carrying out actual experiments using wind and temperature meters to assess the constantly changing weather and pH/nutrient meters to measure the fertility of soils. An ongoing project involves taking GPS same-site photos of outlet glaciers from Vatnajokull to understand how much change occurs on short time scales (from one summer to the next). Comparisons have also been made to aerial and satellite images over the decades, showing that, indeed, the environment is changing dramatically in this climate-sensitive region.

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