Hello All! My name is Nicole Esch and I will be working as the citizen science and education outreach assistant in New River Gorge National River this summer.

I just graduated a few weeks ago from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I received my undergraduate degrees in biology and photo/video journalism. Go Heels! I am a born and bred Tar Heel from the Chapel Hill area, and I may return there in a year or two to pursue a masters degree in science journalism. I hope to eventually have a career where I can be a part of the much-needed bridge between the scientific community and the general population.

My project for the summer involves creating an educational program for field trip groups that visit the New River park. Oftentimes, the rangers here are overbooked and unable to lead tours! With no materials or ranger guidance to make field trips cover the educational standards teachers must meet, classes often forgo field trip opportunities or simply take walks through the park (which are better than nothing but could definitely be improved upon). My job is to create a program and materials that will allow teachers to take their kids on fun, educational, beneficial trips that also have the potential to benefit research being done by resource management employees.

Citizen science is any process where someone who is not a professional scientist, or is a professional scientist working in an unfamiliar field, collects data that can then be used by a professional scientist to support or refute his or her scientific conclusions. Using the program I am soon to develop, the students who come to the park on field trips would be able to perform short experiments or observational studies that would generate data usable in professional experimental settings.

I am very excited to start my work and have had a wonderful time so far getting to explore West Virginia’s “hidden treasure.”

Panorama at Grandview Visitor Center

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