Georgia Southern team awarded grant to study human impact on Okefenokee Swamp

Shiann Sivell

A team of Georgia Southern University professors has been awarded a $763,897 grant from the Gulf Research Program to study human impact on the Okefenokee Swamp.

The grant will fund two years of the Okefenokee Understanding Real-world Relevance through Suwannee Watershed Assessment and Monitoring Project.

The project was created by GS College of Education’s Lacey Huffling, Ph.D., and her colleagues, and will offer a summer of on-site learning experience at the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia.

Other team members include:

  • Biology professor Checo Colon-Gaud, Ph.D.,
  • Chemistry faculty Shainaz Landge, Ph.D.,
  • Institute of Interdisciplinary STEM Education Coordinator Kania Greer, Ed.D., who is also the grant evaluator.

During the course of the project, teachers will integrate Georgia middle and high school students and increase their understanding of the impact their local watersheds have on larger bodies of water.

The project also strives to continue professional development for both in-service and pre-service teachers by studying the Okefenokee Swamp in southeastern Georgia and its impact on the Gulf of Mexico.

“Our goal for the summer development is for the teachers to determine what they would like to study in their own schoolyards, something in their local ecosystem that they want to focus on,” Huffling said in the press release. “If they are not near a stream, they may look at birds, pollinators, plants or insects. There are so many different citizen science projects they can do, and we want the teachers to help us design and develop what the week will look like. We want it to be something they need and can envision using in their classrooms.”

After completing a week of hands-on activities and developing curriculum in the summer, Huffling and Scott will continue to support the educators by conducting site visits at their schools, hosting web conferencing and encouraging collaborative engagement on a blog-style website for the next year.

In summer 2019, up to 20 teachers and 10 current GS education majors will have the opportunity to visit and study the Okefenokee Swamp.

The following summer, up to 30 teachers and 10 students will partake, including some participants from year one to help serve as facilitators and guides for the new participants.

Huffling said in a press release, “A key component to this project is the follow-up. It is hard to develop a project like this if they do not have some form of support. The team plans to be that support throughout the year, but the teachers will network and support each other as well.”

Shiann Sivell, The George-Anne Enterprise Reporter, [email protected]