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Week 8 Newsletter: July 23-27, 2018

RECCS is a 9-week summer student research program for Colorado community college students funded by the National Science Foundation and coordinated by CIRES Education Outreach and the Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory.

For recent RECCS happenings, check out the RECCS blog.

Final Presentations: 

Aug 2, 2:30 – 5:30 pm Summer REU Poster Session at UCAR Center Green 1

Aug 3, 1:00 - 3:10 pm RECCS Student Researcher Presentations at CIRES Auditorium

Request for Poster Judges:

Aug 2: The RECCS program will be participating in a poster session with 70+ local summer REU students and we are looking for poster judges. The judged poster session is 2:30-4:00pm, which will be followed by a public reception 4:00-5:30pm. 

If you would like to participate in judging, please RSVP to judge the RECCS posters by Tuesday July 31. Please contact Renee if you have questions (

RECCS Student Researcher Spotlight

This week, our first featured RECCS student researcher is Susannah Rozak. She is mentored by Jennifer Kay (CIRES Fellow) and Ariel Morrison of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. 
Susannah Rozak

Research Project: Determining Student Engagement in Climate Change Education with the Use of Hand Sensors

Watch Susannah's elevator speech

Susannah grew up in a small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains, but after graduating high school began to travel the world. She has lived in five different states and has visited six countries on four continents.  Being able to explore different environments enhanced her appreciation for the natural world and inspired her to go back to school to get a degree that would allow her to share this love of biology and ecology with everyone around her.

Two years ago, she moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, from Honolulu, Hawaii, and began working towards a biology degree at Pikes Peak Community College (PPCC). After getting her associate degree at PPCC, she plans to attend the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs where she will get her Bachelor of Science in Biology.  Her ideal career would be to work for a wildlife rescue organization helping to coordinate public outreach and education through interactive events that would allow the public to learn more about the uniqueness of their local ecosystem. 

How engaged are you while watching videos about the impacts of climate change?

Susannah Rozak and her mentor Ariel Morrison (above) are studying the level of student engagement through the use of hand sensors that are shown on their wrists in the photo above.

As the climate continues to change, teaching methods need to be effective. Hand sensors can be used as a proxy to measure engagement, but few studies that have done that use them in an experimental setting. Susannah used hand sensors in a controlled environment to determine which climate change educational activities are the most engaging.
For Susannah's research, she held 21 sessions, each 30 minutes long, to study the engagement of 60 student volunteers at CU Boulder as they watched videos of climate change. The plot above illustrates one subject’s skin conductancethe level of electrodermal activity (EDA)throughout the study. EDA refers to changes in sweat gland activity that are reflective of the intensity of our emotional state. The higher the spike in the blue line, the higher the level of engagement. 

The plot above at first shows the baseline for the student participant at the beginning and then the level of engagement through the pretest, video one with polar bears, video two without polar bears, group discussion, an open ended question, and finally the post-test. During the group discussion, the student volunteers discussed what they found most memorable and engaging about the videos. Then, Susannah asked the students individually "how does climate change affect the U.S?" She found that students in non-STEM majors were the most engaged and nervous when attempting to answer this open ended question. 

Communication Workshop Update

We discussed the results, discussion, conclusion, and acknowledgment sections for their presentations and how to correctly cite co-authors. We also discussed tips for poster and oral presentations including how to connect with people in a poster session and how to deal with questions when giving a presentation. We also talked about the venues and what to expect at each event, as these will be the first poster sessions and talks most of the students give. Next week's deadlines are rapidly approaching and everyone is working really hard on their presentations. We can't wait to see them!

Brownbag Lunch Series

For the final brownbag lunch series of the summer, the current RECCS cohort listened to CU graduate students, Zhen Qu and Marianne Davenport, present sample oral presentations. This will help the current cohort with their own presentations next week. Marianne (shown above) is a RECCS alum; her mentor was Jenny Briggs, the current RECCS program Science Communication Lead. Marianne spoke about how the RECCS program has been vital to her career and answered questions from the current RECCS cohort.

RECCS Student Researcher Spotlight

This week, our second featured student researcher is Jason Chalmers. He is mentored by Jennifer Kay (CIRES Fellow) of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. While Jason has joined the RECCS program this summer, he is a CU undergraduate student funded through supplemental funding to Jennifer Kay’s CAREER grant.
Jason Chalmers

Watch Jason's elevator speech

Research Project: Linearity of Cloud Feedbacks in Idealized Climate Modeling Experiments

Jason is originally from the flatlands of Ohio, but is currently a student at the University of Colorado Boulder. When he is not studying Chemical Engineering, you can usually find him hiking, backpacking, or skiing in Colorado’s beautiful mountains.

Jason plans to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from CU Boulder. He also plans on minoring in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. His career interests are still broad, ranging from researching or designing renewable energy sources to studying climate change through models and field data.

The impact of cloud feedbacks on climate models

Jason Chalmer and his mentor Jennifer Kay (above) are working on determining the linearity of cloud feedbacks in idealized climate modeling experiments. General Circulation Models (GCMs) are used to study the climate. A relatively large source of error in GCMs comes from their representations of cloud feedbacks.

Clouds can have a cooling effect by reflecting shortwave radiation from the Sun back to space. In addition, clouds can have a warming effect by absorbing longwave radiation from the Earth, and re-emitting it back to the Earth. A cloud feedback either increases or decreases a radiative perturbation, leading to amplified or dampened warming.
Jason is investigating cloud feedbacks using experiments that were run on the Community Earth System Model (CESM), Community Atmospheric Model 5 (CAM5), by doubling and halving the levels of carbon dioxide concentrations from the year 1850.  These experimental runs are illustrated on the graph above which describes the zonal mean of shortwave cloud feedback averages by latitude.

The y-axis is the magnitude of the cloud feedback, which represents how much the shortwave cloud feedback affects the shortwave flux through the top of the atmosphere. A positive value of cloud feedback increases the amount of shortwave radiation that enters the atmosphere, while a negative value decreases the amount of shortwave radiation that enters the atmosphere.

Student Tips

  • Discuss with your mentor your key results and final content for poster and oral presentations.
  • Practice your poster and talk!
  • Reach out for support, if needed; we're here to help you!

Student Deadlines

  • Poster Draft due Monday July 30.
  • Final Poster due Wednesday August 1st. 
  • Oral Presentation Draft due Wednesday August 1st. 
  • Final Oral Presentation due Friday August 3rd. 

Mentor Tips

  • We are now in the home stretch!
  • If you haven't already, please take the opportunity to hear your student's presentation, both as practice for them and to catch anything that needs attention. Your input on posters and framing research results is invaluable.
  • And, of course, let us know if we can help!
Copyright © 2018 CIRES Education Outreach, All rights reserved.

RECCS is funded by the National Science Foundation Grant Award Number 1461281

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