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November 2, 2011

SUNY Empire State College Receives $95,000 USDA Grant for Citizen Science Program Tracking the Effects of Climate Change on Japanese Beetles

Project is Designed to Interest Students in the Sciences

Empire State College

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Nov. 1, 2011) – State University of New York Empire State College President Alan R. Davis has announced that the college has received a $95,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pursue a citizen science project in which students collect backyard data to monitor Japanese beetle populations across New York state.

 “Receiving the grant means that our students will have an opportunity to engage in authentic fieldwork and also to add to the body of research on climate change,” said Nikki Shrimpton, the lead director on the project, and dean of SUNY Empire State College’s Central New York Center in Syracuse.

Students will make observations and record data in a geographical information system which will map the insect life cycle and population size as well as record data about the local vegetation, soil properties and types, and atmospheric conditions. Analyzing data from across the state will allow students to compare beetle growth and numbers in response to changes in environmental conditions. An accompanying curriculum will enable students to better understand the ways climate change alters local ecosystem biodiversity and particularly the responses of a non-native species.

Japanese beetles were selected because of their sheer numbers. “It is an abundant and easily identifiable species and will serve as a model of how non-native species might respond to climate change,” added Shrimpton. 

 “The project was developed as a way to get more students interested in science and environmental sustainability and was developed as a response to the alarmingly low numbers of students interested in science,” said Linda Jones, faculty at the Northeast Center and a co-director of the project.

With an innovative curriculum, the use of technology, and the incorporation of place-based, community science, this project is designed to capture the interest of a wide diversity of students and increase interest and enrollment in STEM studies, programs, and majors.

 The co-directors of the program are Linda Jones, professor of environmental science; Sadie Ross, director of environmental sustainability and Kent Stanton, instructional technologist. Lorrie Anthony, director of grants and contracts, worked with the staff to complete the grant proposal.  “This is very exciting for the college, because we don’t have that many faculty in the sciences, nor do we have traditional science laboratories,” Anthony said. “This is a project that students can do in their own backyards.”

Shrimpton, who earned her Ph.D. in forest management, sums up what this means for the college, its students and New York state as a whole. “SUNY Empire State College is uniquely qualified to do this type of citizen science project, given our geographic presence throughout the state, adult student population and expertise in online instructional delivery.”

 About SUNY Empire State College
SUNY Empire State College, celebrating its 40th year throughout 2011, was established in 1971 to offer adult learners the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SUNY. Students learn through independent studies, online courses, seminars and residencies or a blended learning model. Learners also may earn credit for prior college-level learning from work and life experience.

The college serves 20, 200 students worldwide at more than 35 locations in New York state and online. Its 63,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, not-for-profit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, and more.

For additional information, visit www.esc.edu. More information about the college’s 40th anniversary is available on the college’s 40th anniversary web page.