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From Kenya to the Arctic and Beyond: A Multicultural STEM Journey Addressing Climate Change

Written by Dr. Aidyl Gonzalez

Figure 1. 1a) Soil science kit. 1b) Dr. Gonzalez performing field research (photo credit Frederick Serricchio)

Citizen science emerges as a beacon of hope in a world of environmental challenges, bridging continents, ages, and ecosystems. TheSoil Science Lab International Research Initiative takes you on a captivating journey fromKenyatoPortugaland theArctic. This November, we venture into the "Natal" Cave on Terceira Island for CAMões | Caving Analog Mission: Ocean, Earth, Space. Here, Foldscope technology and community engagement drive change in science, exposing and combating climate change and showcasing STEM's borderless diversity.


Our partnership with Foldscope Instruments, Inc. fuels the groundbreakingCitizen-Science Soil Lab,focused on environmental science with a social justice mission. Its goal is to democratize science, recognizing clean air, water, and food as fundamental rights for all.


This longitudinal study collects worldwide soil, location, and nematode data and is open to all participants. We aim to innovate soil quality technology, combat climate change, and highlight injustices. 



KENYA

Figure 2. 2a) Collecting Soil from the Maasai Mara   2b) Educators, Scientists, and Students attending the workshop “Life Depends on Soil” led by Dr. Gonzalez. 2c. Viewing the microcosmos of the Masai Mara through a Foldscope at 140X magnification plus 5X zoom on the phone. 2d Collaborating on the savannah at Masai Mara (photo credit 2a&d:Yvette Gonzalez, 2b&c Dr. Aidyl Gonzalez)

The action of analyzing the soil, eluting nematodes, and other remarkable microorganisms emphasized the transformative power of citizen science, exclaiming that STEM knows no age boundaries. Educators and students from different African countries, Europe, and the United States armed with Foldscope kits embarked on a journey of discovery, uncovering the hidden microcosms within the Earth. Hands-on experiences and workshops of our citizen science using the foldscope atNEXUS 100 Years Starship Nairobi ignited a passion for environmental conservation and global collaboration.


PORTUGAL

Figure 3. 3a, 3b) High school students enlisting to become warriors for environmental protection and receiving their kits (photo credit:Yvette Gonzalez)

Our journey then took us to Portugal, where high school students and educators at Escola Secundária embraced the Foldscope technology. Through hands-on experiences and engaging workshops, they delved into the fascinating world of microscopy. This interaction enriched their scientific knowledge and ignited a passion for environmental conservation and the importance of global collaboration.

The pinnacle of this Portugal leg was the TED Talk delivered atThe Explorers Club's Global Exploration Summit (GLEX), emphasizing universal access to education and science and reinforcing that STEM transcends boundaries.


ARCTIC

 

Figure 4. 4a) Dr. Gonzalez’s gear for Arctic field research 4b) Dr. Gonzalez extracting soil using a boring tool. 4c) Collaboration with fellow scientists mesmerized by the data collected and the images from the foldscope (photo credit: Yvette Gonzalez)

The next stop was the icy expanse of the Arctic to further our mission of driving action and promoting engagement in the climate change conversation. During an Arctic research expedition, a remarkable discovery was made—an arctic worm. Armed with Foldscope technology, our team of new citizen scientists on our expedition ventured into this extreme environment, uncovering the secrets of a world hidden beneath the ice.


LAVA TUBES IN AZORES

Figure 5.Analog astronauts are pictured in Gruta Natal, which is an ideal environment for simulating missions to Mars or the Moon. The cave's features enable various scientific activities, such as training, technology testing, and data collection (photo credit: Marc Bluhm)

I am excited to announce an upcoming mission that will take us to new frontiers of exploration, theLunar Azores CAMões Analog Research Mission.This mission, centered around exploring Lava Tubes in Terceira Island, promises to expand our understanding of geology, geological tools, habitability, and environmental research in sustainable human habitation.


This mission aims to comprehensively study caves' geological and microbiological features, including atmospheric, soil, and nematode data collection and analysis.The mission aims to achieve various outcomes that benefit geoscience, human health, agronomy, and space exploration by developing innovative solutions and best practices. 


The mission begins this November. For more information about this exciting mission, you can visit theMontanheiros website.



SCIENCE KNOWS NO BORDERS


In partnership with Foldscope Instruments, Inc., the Soil Science Lab cultivates a global community of citizen scientists dedicated to environmental and social justice. Diverse voices and backgrounds unite to address our planet's critical issues through inclusive and accessible STEM.

Join us in becoming a backyard scientist, contributing to positive change for our planet and its people.

Figure 6 (image  credit: Joey Serricchio)