Dr. Nicole Colston, assistant research professor in the College of Education, Health and Aviation, recently received a $1,119,204 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for her research project, “Spotty Rain Campaign: Enhancing the Capacity for Rural Libraries to Engage the Public in Drought Monitoring.”
Co-principal investigator on the project is Dr. Tutaleni Asino, assistant professor in educational technology. Colston and Asino are partnering with the National Drought Mitigation Center and the Community Collaborative for Rain, Hail and Snow to help librarians in drought prone areas of Oklahoma, Nebraska and Colorado engage their community in the practices and processes of citizen science.
Citizens can volunteer to be drought monitors, who track precipitation and share condition reports that are used for farm management, community planning and drought prediction. Drought monitors can record their observations and create their own reports through the campaign website.
Grant funds will be used to strengthen educational programming related to drought monitoring, reporting and adaptation so that librarians can more effectively involve their community in the process. Initiatives include hosting professional development workshops, creating educational materials for libraries and further developing the website.
“This project developed from the need for a more equal distribution of formal and informal STEM education opportunities in rural places,” Colston said. “We believe rural and small libraries are natural partners for citizen science initiatives. The focus of this project is on improving access to, trust in and use of science-based knowledge and resources for drought planning and adaptation.”
Colston has spent the past three years investigating the impact of droughts on Oklahoma’s panhandle region with the help of a post-doctoral fellowship funded by the NSF’s Science, Education and Engineering for Sustainability (SEES) program.
“Dr. Colston is an excellent example of what we are striving for in the College of Education, Health and Aviation,” said Bert Jacobson, associate dean for research, engagement and administration. “Our goal is to increase external funding for faculty and continue to emphasize a research culture within the college. We are proud of Dr. Colston and Dr. Asino’s work, and we know it will have a significant impact on rural communities.”