Outreach and Public Engagement

Research in Evolution: Spring 2023. Long Branch Public High School. Presented a class session on evolution and evolutionary research to 9th grade science students.

Urban Mice: Science in the Summer at the Franklin Institute: Summer 2022 https://youtu.be/vZyKSe19A2o

eDNA at Long Branch High: Spring 2022. Dr. Phifer-Rixey, Dr. Adolf, Dr. Dunton, and student Cameron Gaines developed a two-day eDNA lab for two classes of environmental science students at Long Branch High School.  Students learned key skills (PCR, gel electrophoresis) in the context of using eDNA to learn about our coastal communities and had an opportunity to interact with local scientists. With funding from the Achelis-Bodman Foundation, we were also able to provide equipment for the teachers to use in future labs.

Genetics, Genomics, and Racism: How Science Shapes Policy Past, Present, Future: Spring 2021. Dr Phifer-Rixey, Dr. Jennifer McGovern (Sociology) & student Cameron Gaines (Bio/Soc major),  organized an interdisciplinary program with the goal of confronting the legacy of past genetic technologies and the future impacts of new genomic initiatives. We invited two emerging leaders, one from Sociology (Gabriela Corona Valencia) and one from Genetics (Krystal Tsosie), to discuss their work in a joint class session and a virtual panel event for the public. We also integrated classroom readings, and assignments to help students engage with the issues fully.  This program was funded through a competitive pilot Diversity Innovation Grant from the Office of the Provost and the Intercultural Center. https://www.monmouth.edu/news/panel-genetics-genomics-and-racism-april-8/

Teacher Revolution: The Phifer-Rixey Lab hosted two high school teachers, Carleigh Engstrom and Chelsea Baretto, as part of the NSF Beacon Teacher Revolution Program.  Both teachers gained hands-on experience in the lab, presented their work at national conferences, and translated their work into lesson plans that all teachers can use http://datanuggets.org/2019/12/fishy-origins/.

DNA Unraveled : We recently wrapped up our outreach program, “DNA Unraveled.” The project began when Dr. Phifer-Rixey and  biology, and biology student Brian Reiss ’18 were looking for a way to engage with young students and encourage them to consider careers in STEM. Dr. Phifer-Rixey and Brian Reiss secured a grant from the European Society for Evolutionary Biology to fund an interactive workshop extracting DNA from strawberries with everyday items in local elementary schools. After a pilot workshop, biology student Katherine Banfitch ’18 launched the project, which included all fourth grade classes in Ocean Township and students at Amerigo A. Anastasia School in Long Branch.

During each school visit, Banfitch led a discussion on DNA,  highlighting the scientific process and the significance of DNA in everyday life.  Teams of undergraduates guided students through the DNA extraction, giving them a chance to be scientists. Through on-campus collaborations with the School of Social Work’s “Kids at College Day” and Associate Professor of Biology Pedram Daneshgar, Ph.D., the program expanded to more schools across New Jersey. In total, approximately 500 students participated in the workshop . Over 50 undergraduates volunteered their time, including students from introductory biology and evolution courses, the Phifer-Rixey Lab, and the NextGen Science club.

Banfitch received the Department of Biology Service Award (2017-2018) for her work and will be pursuing a master’s degree in teaching at Monmouth this summer. In addition to the workshops, local participating teachers were provided with kits so that they can repeat the project with future classes at low cost.

More Information: https://www.monmouth.edu/news/monmouth-u-students-partner-with-local-elementary-schools-to-unravel-dna/

Resources: Lesson Plan,  Protocol

We also recommend these sites for alternative protocols and additional demonstrations/materials:

https://www.genome.gov/pages/education/modules/strawberryextractioninstructions.pdf https://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/strawberry-dna/

Public Engagement

WINS Radio. 92.3 FM. 10.22.23. NY Times. Online 10.21.23.; In print 10.29.23. Think your city mouse has an attitude? These scientists want to find out.
NY Post. 9.27.23 https://nypost.com/2023/09/27/this-team-wants-to-study-the-mice-in-your-nyc-apartment/This team wants to study the mice in your NYC apartment — for science.
VPM Daily Newscast. 8.23.23. https://open.spotify.com/episode/6Xx9ZtCR9TIVm8vbJHi8xC?si=7apcQ6MBQ7KeRCzE3ow8xw
Axios. 8.21.23. Why researchers want to come trap mice in Richmond homes.
West Side Rag. 8.13.23. Free Mouse Removal in the Name of Science.
Radio New Zealand, Sunday Morning with Jim Mora, February 2023. https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/sunday.
Live Science, February 2023.  https://www.livescience.com/do-mice-really-like-cheese
Undark Magazine, July 2021. https://undark.org/2021/07/19/wild-frontier-model-organism-research/
Science News, April 2019. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/dna-emus-ostriches-birds-lost-ability-fly
Society for the Study of Evolution New Faculty Profile, 2018. https://www.evolutionsociety.org/content/new-faculty-profiles/new-faculty-profile-megan-phifer-rixey.html