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Partnerships with Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and Carnegie Mellon University Expands MGT:21 Program

Taiji Nelson and Jake Francis in Frick Park, Pittsburgh along Nine Mile Run

Jake Francis, director of education at the Schrader Environmental Education Center, and Taiji Nelson, education program coordinator for Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, are exploring sites within Pittsburgh’s Nine Mile Run Watershed for the installation of a WaterBot that will be used in the expansion and update to Mission Ground Truth:21.

The WaterBot is just one new instrument that MGT:21 scientists and students will be using to measure the health of western Pennsylvania and West Virginia watersheds. Developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab, the WaterBot is a relatively inexpensive, yet accurate, in-stream water-sensing bot that measures temperature and conductivity at frequent intervals and uploads that information wirelessly to allow students to examine longitudinal data and compare their one-time stream samples with a much larger set of statistics.

Francis and Nelson are also researching sites for Pittsburgh students to conduct research in Frick Park as part of MGT:21. The dynamic partnership between Oglebay Institute, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and Carnegie Mellon University will bring the Mission Ground Truth:21 program to thousands of new students, expand to new public lands (including parks and schools), and link these students together using the latest technology and scientific tools.

MGT:21 was developed in 2000 by a team of regional educators and scientists and funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and Richard King Mellon Foundation to actively engage middle school students in the scientific process. The curriculum consists of an integrated, interdisciplinary and inquiry-based 7th or 8th grade ecosystem assessment program that uses the “living laboratory” and state-of-the-art technologies to determine the ecological health of deciduous forest and freshwater stream ecosystems, as well as the decision-making process to weigh trade-offs between ecosystem values and functions. Annually, over 2,000 students from Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania conduct research at Oglebay Park and calculate the health of its streams and forests.

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