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Columbia River Estuary Science Education and Outreach (CRESCENDO)

Principal Investigators: Gretchen Rollwagen-Bollens, Stephen Bollens, Tamara Holmlund
Student: Kristin Connelly
Funded by: Washington Sea Grant
Award period: 2016-2018

Project Summary:

CRESCENDO takes a novel approach to investigating estuarine processes within an ecosystem highly impacted by human activity and land development.  We integrate traditional scientific research in the CRE with investigation of how high school students who participate in all aspects of the research respond to their experience, both in knowledge gain and changes in perception and attitude toward science and their environment.  This approach allows us to explore the potential feedback links between estuarine ecosystem function and human activity, with the high school students as models of how citizens may modify their activities in sensitive aquatic watersheds as a result of authentic engagement in research about their local environment.

Our overarching research questions are:

  • What are the links between upstream watershed processes, land use and human activity in the CRE and downstream estuarine health, as indicated by nutrients, phytoplankton and zooplankton?
  • What are the links between high school students’ understanding of CRE ecology, their abilities in scientific practices, and their perceptions of and attitudes toward the CRE landscape and participation in authentic, collaborative scientific research?

We explore these questions using both scientific and educational research methodologies, in collaboration with science teachers and their students at five high schools in districts located along the upstream-downstream gradient of the CRE, from Washougal to Ilwaco, WA.

Publications/Presentations resulting from this project:

Rollwagen-Bollens G, Holmlund T, Bollens S, Zimmerman J, Wait J. Engaging large numbers of high school students as full participants in university-level estuarine ecology research: Lessons from “Columbia River Estuary Science Education and Outreach” (CRESCENDO).  ASLO/AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting, Portland, OR. February 2018.