One of Lexi Passante’s goals as a UWM School of Freshwater Sciences’ graduate student is to improve her science communication skills so that she can easily explain her research and inspire others who are interested in science careers. She recently received a 2021 CIGLR ECO Award from the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR), at the University of Michigan, to do just that.
She will use part of the $6,000 grant to collaborate with a UWM film student to create a three-part videos series about her research, touching on field collection, lab methods and how the science can be applied to the real world. Passante’s research at SFS aims to quantify select salt-loving bacteria that have been found in the Milwaukee River Basin, possibly due to road salt pollution.
The videos will be shared through a partnership with Wisconsin Salt Wise, a coalition of organizations that educate communities on the importance of reducing salt pollution. The organization reached out to Passante about her research after seeing her present at the 2021 Salt Symposium in August. They will use her videos as part of their educational outreach materials.
Another part of the award allows her to work with teachers on educational materials. Wisconsin Salt Wise connected Passante to an AP environmental science teacher in Oconomowoc, Wis. The two of them will develop interactive activities that complement the video series and will be posted on Data Nuggets, an online resource of free classroom activities designed to help teachers bring contemporary research and authentic data into the classroom.
“The cool part about Data Nuggets is that students will get to work with the real data that I end up producing from my research,” she says. “And I’m excited to work with Wisconsin Salt Wise; their message is what my research is about.”