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University of California Santa Barbara
UCSB - Smithsonian Scholars Program

Brief History / Pilot Project 2015

In 2015 UCSB, its regional community college partners, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) co-developed an innovative summer program to engage diverse students in experiential learning centered on multi-disciplinary conservation strategies, biodiversity research, and careers in STEM.

In the project’s pilot year, 20 students from UC Santa Barbara, Oxnard College, Santa Barbara City College, and Allan Hancock College, were recruited from a variety of STEM majors including biology, environmental science, math, computer science, engineering, chemistry, biochemistry and physics. The students were recruited from a regional alliance of institutions designated as Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSI) by the Federal Department of Education. The 20 undergraduate student participants engaged in an in-depth discovery of academic and career opportunities in applied conservation science, research, and public science education.

In July, 2015 the 20 students flew back east to Virginia’s Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation (SMSC), where they were exposed to a variety of careers that focused on existing Smithsonian related conservation efforts. Utilizing local amphibian populations at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the sequence included topics on amphibian conservation, conservation genetics, and the use of e-DNA (environmental DNA testing) through a field/lab exercise on Chitrid fungus detection,. Students then traveled to Washington D.C. and visited Smithsonian Flagships museums and research facilities on the National Mall. They also learned about field based survey techniques, including camera trapping, small mammal sampling, amphibian monitoring, bird banding, and vegetation surveys.