Education and Outreach Projects


Current Funded Projects


Polar Literacy: A Model for Youth Engagement and Learning

Released Materials (as of August 2021):      Funding: NSF

Polar Literacy: A model for youth engagement and learning will educate and excite learners about the Polar Regions. Activities will target two audiences, middle school aged underserved youth and polar research scientists. The project will engage underserved populations (African American, Appalachian, Latino, and first-generation American) living in various geographic settings (urban, suburban, and rural) with afterschool and camp experiences. A total of 300 youth in Ohio and New Jersey will participate in afterschool experiences and 1,350 youth in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Colorado will participate in camp experiences focused on investigating the Polar Regions. Polar literacy programs will encourage public engagement with these crucial regions informed by the Polar Literacy Principles. The project will engage 23 polar scientists (many of whom are early career researchers) in the development and delivery of polar-focused education programs and provide infrastructure for scientists to: 1) increase youth understanding of and appreciation for Polar Regions, 2) increasing scientific literacy; and 3) hone science communication skills and appreciation for broader impact activities.. Beyond the life of the project funding, many of the deliverables (including kits, resources, and videos) will continue to be used and disseminated online and in person through ongoing work of project collaborators.

Polar Literacy: A model for youth engagement and learning will advance the understanding of learning environments supporting professional and public audiences while leveraging the rich interdisciplinary resources from polar investments made by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The project will create affordable and replicable ways of bringing polar education to informal learning environments, extend our understanding of how polar education initiatives can be delivered to youth with maximum effect, and design a professional development model to improve the capacity for Polar Region researchers to craft meaningful broader impacts. This project will work with three key audiences of polar researchers, informal educators, and out of school time (OST) youth in grades 4-7 (ages 9-13). These audiences will connect through both place-based and internet-based experiences and work collaboratively to generate a flexible, scalable, and transferable education model. The project will 1) design OST kits and resource guides (focused on Polar Literacy Principles) and include Concept in a Minute videos designed to highlight enduring ideas, 2) provide professional development for informal educators, 3) synthesize a club model through adaptation of successful facets of existing informal learning programs, and 4) create Data Jam events for the OST Special Interest (SPIN) clubs and camp programs by modifying an existing formal education model. A research design, implemented at four nodes over three years, will answer three research questions to evaluate the impact of professional development on informal educators, as well as the impact of programs on youth, and the effectiveness of the model. In addition to the project team and collaborators who are informal education practitioners, an advisory board composed of experts in youth programming, informal education, and evaluation will guide the efforts of polar literacy to ensure that it advances the informal STEM learning research body.

Permafrost Discovery Gateway

Web Applications:    Funding: NSF

The mission of the Permafrost Discovery Gateway is to create an online platform for archiving, processing, analysis, and visualization of permafrost big imagery products to enable discovery and knowledge-generation. The new online scientific gateway will make information of changing permafrost conditions available throughout the Arctic by providing access to very high resolution satellite data products and new visualization tools that will allow exploration and discovery for researchers, educators, and the public at large.

Monitoring OSU's Urban Heat Island to Maximize Campus Sustainability

Campus Mesonet with Real-Time Weather Feeds:     Funding: OSU Sustainability Grant

The Ohio State University’s (OSU) sustainability goals include conservation of critical resources, minimization of our institution’s impact on the environment, and promotion of human and ecosystem health. This project will contribute to the achievement of these goals by establishing a campus-wide network of environmental sensors and applying the data gathered from these stations to the following 2 issues directly related to sustainability:

  1. The magnitude of OSU’s urban heat island effect
  2. Optimization of water use for irrigation through the use of local, measurement-based estimation of daily reference evapotranspiration and total precipitation.

The network infrastructure that is installed will be scalable to allow expansion with additional sensors to measure more factors like air quality, thus serving as a springboard for the campus community to investigate other facets of sustainability.

Virtual Ice Explorer: An Immersive Web Application to Visualize and Explore Earth’s Diverse Glacial Systems

Web Applications:    Funding: NSF

Glaciers around the world are undergoing dramatic changes. Many people, however, have a limited understanding of the scope of these changes because they are geographically distant and difficult to visualize. Although both digital learning tools and online scientific data repositories have greatly expanded over the last decade, there is currently no interface that brings the two together in a way that allows the public to explore these rapidly changing glacial environments. Therefore, to both improve public understanding and provide greater access to already existing resources, the project team will develop the Virtual Ice Explorer to encourage informal learning about glacial environments.

This web application will feature an immersive virtual environment and display a suite of environmental data for an array of Earth’s glacial systems. An interactive globe will allow users to select from a collection of sites ranging from polar regions to tropical latitudes. Each featured site will offer users an opportunity to interact with:

  1. a 3D rendering of the landscape;
  2. a local map of the site;
  3. historical and contemporary photographs of the site;
  4. informational text describing the location, past research, and climate impacts; and
  5. available environmental data.

One of the most original features of the application will be its realistic, immersive 3D rendering of glacial landscapes by combining very high-resolution digital elevation models and satellite imagery with the application's built-in capabilities for immersive virtual environments. Although immersive environments often require expensive equipment, we are maximizing accessibility by developing the Virtual Ice Explorer to run in a web browser and function across various devices. Thus, the application will be available to anyone with internet access, and they can explore at their own pace.

As part of the successful development of Virtual Ice Explorer, the project team will create a platform for digital elevation models to be visualized and explored in 3D by users within the web application; curate digital elevation models, maps, images, text, and environmental data for inclusion in the web application for up to 11 geographically diverse glaciers/glacial landscapes; iteratively user-test the web application with project partners; and design the architecture of the system to readily scale to a larger collection of glaciers/glacial landscapes. The project team has partnered with the U.S. Geologic Survey to showcase four benchmark glaciers in their long-term Glaciers and Climate Change project, therefore extending the reach of an already existing federal research investment. In addition to improving understanding of glacier systems in informal learning environments, the project team will explore applications for spatial learning, employment of 3D environments for educational interventions, and use of Virtual Ice Explorer in formal learning environments.

Fluid Earth Viewer (FEVer): An engaging and interactive educational tool to explore Earth's polar regions, atmospheric phenomena, and oceanographic conditions

Web Application:    Companion Website:    Funding: NSF

This project aims to build the Fluid Earth Viewer (FEVer), an interactive, intuitive, and visually appealing web application that will allow users to visualize current and past conditions of our planet’s atmosphere and oceans. Building on a well-designed, open-source application, FEVer will be a vehicle of modern Earth science communication, bringing information most often utilized by the scientific community and making it accessible and engaging to STEM and broader communities. In particular, it will provide hands-on visualization of the important climatic role of the polar regions, their connections to lower latitudes, and the changes they are undergoing. A companion website, FEVer-Ed, will provide background, educational support, and opportunities for additional learning through a gallery of historically interesting atmospheric and oceanic events.


Past Projects


Columbus Climate Action Plan

Project Website:    Funding: Natural Resources Defense Council, Columbus Foundation, Byrd Center

During 2015, the Climate Change Committee of the Mayor’s Green Team worked with Great Lakes Integrated Sciences + Assessments (GLISA) ( to engage more than 80 stakeholders in the creation of an assessment of key climate changes, impacts, and vulnerabilities of concern (Climate Change in Columbus Ohio: An Assessment of Columbus’ Key Climate Changes, Impacts, and Vulnerabilities of Concern). This report provides an overview of the process that was followed in its creation, a prioritized list of impacts facing Columbus, and information about how other communities in the United States have responded to climate change. While the information within the report is necessary, it is not sufficient to guide planners, policymakers, companies, and private individuals in actions to prepare for climate change. Therefore, the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center and State Climate Office of Ohio will guide the creation of a Columbus Climate Action Plan.

Harnessing Education and Technology for Environmental Detection (HEATED)

Project Website:    Funding: BETHA Grant

Our project team is utilizing an undergraduate course and diverse group of students to design and build a device, to collect geo- and time-tagged temperature data when deployed on moving vehicles, and to create a database, to store and assimilate data collected by the device. This project will result in a device prototype; an innovate, replicable course; data to better understand urban heat islands; and a multidisciplinary team prepared to continue research through other funding opportunities. This project is funded by a Battelle Engineering, Technology, and Human Affairs (BETHA) Endowment grant.

From Classrooms to Geosciences Careers: Developing, Testing and Disseminating a High School Module on Modeling Water in Urban Environments

Project Website:    Funding: NSF

From Classrooms to Geoscience Careers: Developing, Testing and Disseminating a High School Module on Modeling Water in Urban Environments is a project aimed at developing resources to increase interest in geoscience careers for high school students. Ohio State University is undertaking activities to develop, implement, test, evaluate, and disseminate a module to be used in high school classrooms that promotes geoscience careers by allowing students to engage with mathematical (numerical) models to investigate local problems in hydrology. Though it is being tested locally, the module includes hands-on activities that can be deployed anywhere it rains. A sequence of modeling exercises of increasing complexity are being used in the classroom environment. The exercises culminate in a project in which students make a design decision as a result of land use change, viz. adapting to development. Training in using the module is being offered as an incentivized professional development workshop to the teachers in the partnering institution, the Metro School. After training, teachers will implement the module in their classrooms during the subsequent school year. OSU is evaluating the impact of this workshop, which helps STEM teachers meet standards outlined in the National Science Education Standards, as well as stated goals for several scientific literacies and Chapter 11 on models in the Common Core State Standards Initiative for Mathematics.