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Communication Colloquium Series: Enhancing Local Public Engagement Capacity - Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Cayuga Lake Watershed Community

Monday, April 15, 2019 at 1:30pm to 2:45pm

Mann Library, 102
Cornell University Mann Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

Watershed residents, advocacy groups, agricultural operations, government agencies, academic institutions, and Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) offices are striving to develop consensus on how to address local environmental challenges. Harmful algal blooms, rising salt levels, lead contamination, and invasive species infestations are motivating residents to attend meetings and to protest what they see as lax regulation. Farmers, environmental advocates, and other stakeholders in these issues find themselves at odds as they try to decide what to do, creating animosity and stymieing progress toward workable solutions. Here, as in other areas, as new issues emerge new configurations of stakeholders form seeking to gain knowledge, build relationships, define challenges, and develop solutions.

Community organizations are critical components in these efforts to gain knowledge and build consensus. Within New York State, CCE provides STEM programming to the public on topics such as agriculture, nutrition, energy, environmental science, and technology. CCE also facilitates engagement between public stakeholders around these topics.

This talk will present and invite participation in a current project that aims to (1) enhance use of research-based practices in public engagement with STEM-related topics, (2) conduct research to develop public engagement training tools for CCE and to build understanding about community science literacy, and (3) explore and strengthen strategies by which Cornell Department Extension Leaders may act as conduits between departments and communities, connecting expertise and experience to overcome challenges in local STEM-related engagement.


Hilary Lambert is the Executive Director for Cayuga Lake Watershed Network. CLWN’s mission is to identify key threats to Cayuga Lake and its watershed and to advocate for solutions that support a healthy environment and sustainable, vibrant communities. Among its activities, CLWN organizes free community conferences, publishes a newsletter, hosts a listserv, and connects over 400 individual members and 20 organizations ranging from state agencies to county offices to nonprofit land trusts.

Bruce Lewenstein is a Professor of Science Communication at Cornell University. Trained as a historian of science, he holds a dual appointment in the Department of Communication and the Department of Science & Technology Studies (of which he has been chair since 2014). A leader in the field of public communication of science & technology, he was editor of the journal Public Understanding of Science, evaluated citizen science projects for over 10 years, and co-chaired the National Research Council study on Learning Science in Informal Environments.

Norman Porticella is the Founding Director for Tompkins County ScienceHub, an organization aimed at increasing community science literacy by facilitating partnerships and access to STEM engagement resources. He is also a Lecturer and Department Extension Leader for Cornell University’s Department of Communication. Porticella teaches science communication courses and has worked on a variety of additional projects aimed at improving inclusion and capacity in the field of Informal STEM Learning.

Ken Schlather is the Executive Director for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County. He also leads the Cornell Cooperative Extension Statewide System’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program, which works with energy stakeholders across the state including state government agencies, local governments, universities, contractors and nonprofits to address priority issues in energy.

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