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Follow a Researcher®

By Laura Wilson, 4-H Science Professional, UMaine Extension

Before I begin talking about the 4-H Follow a Researcher® program, I just want to take a moment and thank Ron Drum for all he’s done for Maine 4-H, including the creation of the 4-H Fix blog. It was a pleasure to get to know Ron over the two years he was “back in Maine.”

My role with 4-H is to make connections for youth to the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) resources at UMaine. UMaine is a premier research university, and those resources are vast and varied. The opportunities for UMaine students are also vast and varied, and students are involved in every aspect of researcher here.

Quelccaya glacier camp

We started “Follow a Researcher®” to try to show youth the opportunities that exist here at their own state public university. The ways students can be involved in research range from working in a laboratory, to looking for articles in a library, to even collecting data in the field. For graduate students at UMaine, research can take them all over the world, exposing them to different cultures and wild adventures.

Follow a Researcher® connects youth (individuals, clubs, classrooms) through social media to UMaine students who are conducting research. Youth are able to see how the research projects unfold from the planning stages to actual data collection. You can watch videos or see pictures of UMaine students as they collect ice cores from a glacier, ask questions as they dig for bones in the Falklands, and do a science activity at home that demonstrates how ice shelves in Antarctica move — and those are only the beginning! Here’s how it works…

Kit Hamley

Kit Hamley

We introduce you to a student researcher like Kit.

We give you a bit of information about what they are researching — in Kit’s case, an extinct fox in the Falkland Islands.

We give you examples of activities you can do at home or school that show how the science works, and release weekly videos showing the stages of their research. Best of all, we give youth the opportunity to ask the student researcher questions — questions about the location of the research (What is the food like? Is there a town nearby? What language is spoken?), the research itself, (What are you looking for? Have you had any problems with your equipment? Have you found anything exciting yet?) or about the adventure in data collection (How long was the plane ride? Where are you sleeping?). We use a satellite communication device to allow the student researcher to talk with us from anywhere in the world — and that device talks through Twitter.

Our Twitter handle is @UMaineFAR

Lynn Kaluzienski pets a husky at the US Antarctic Headquarters

Lynn Kaluzienski

Last year, we followed Lynn as she was exploring the movement of the Larsen ice shelf in Antarctica. An accident at her research site sent her home early, and we are very excited that we will be following Lynn back to Antarctica this fall. Lynn is excited to share her research, and we’re happy to have her back with us.

We hope you come to Antarctica with us this fall. Our prior expedition materials (to a glacier in Peru and the Falkland Islands) are online, and you are welcome to explore those too.  Visit Follow a Researcher®, email laura.wilson@maine.edu, or tweet with us at @UMaineFAR. We look forward to sharing UMaine student adventures in science and engineering with you.

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University of Maine Cooperative Extension conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth educational program through 4-H, a positive youth development program that has been empowering young people in Maine to reach their full potential since 1913.

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