Colorado mountains
From Long-Term Data to Understanding: Toward a Predictive Ecology
2015 LTER ASM Estes Park, CO - August 30 - September 2, 2015

Blazing a trail for a diversity of visitors: KBS LTER research walking trails

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Poster Number: 
Presenter/Primary Author: 
Kara Haas
Julie Doll

The KBS LTER attracts numerous visitors of all ages who are interested in learning more about the ecology and sustainability of agricultural landscapes.  As we cannot accommodate every visitor, we have strategically developed two research trails to meet the needs of these visitors.  The Agriculture and Ecology Walking Tour and the Agriculture and Ecology Student Activity Trail are two projects that help the public engage with our LTER research, even when our scientists and educators are not available.

Agriculture and Ecology Walking Tour: This self-guided trail is for the adults and families interested in learning more about agriculture and ecology. The trail winds through our main experiment, with a booklet explaining the research highlighted at 15 stations along the trail. Visitors can enjoy nature while learning how scientists at KBS are researching ways to help make farming profitable while protecting and enhancing natural resources. An undergraduate education intern created the artwork for each station and led the effort to create the accompanying booklet. The trail attracts ~100 community visitors per season, and has served as a great educational tool for undergraduate groups.

Agriculture and Ecology Student Activity Trail: This on-site science activity is for elementary students (grades 2 through 5) and is based on KBS LTER research. With guidance from a trained KBS volunteer, an interactive activity booklet leads students through a 1-mile trail at the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, teaching them about agriculture, ecology, and the scientific method. Each of the 15 lessons meets Michigan’s teaching standards. Based on teacher input, we created an accompanying teacher’s guide with background information and additional activities for the classroom. Volunteers are trained twice a year to run the activities on the trail for scheduled school groups. The KBS LTER has a long- standing relationship with area teachers.  Elementary teachers have often participated in our outreach but typically the content was not at their grade level. In 2011 a team of teachers, undergraduate interns and KBS outreach educators worked together to create this trail.  The trail opened in 2012 and has been revised through user and volunteer feedback over the past three years.

Both trails have their challenges (maintenance, protecting research sites) but they allow us to reach audiences that we would not normally be able to serve (community members, non-agricultural specialty groups, and K-12 students and teachers). A robust volunteer program and collaboration with educators outside of LTER, based at the Kellogg Biological Station, have made these projects possible.