Advancing Science Literacy with a System-wide Monitoring Data Exhibit

Many people today gain environmental knowledge from informal education sources such as the internet, television, parks, and museums. In the case of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, visitors may engage in a number of activities that support self-guided learning — such as hiking trails, kayaking, and visiting exhibits — all without ever encountering a staff member. Onsite exhibits provide opportunities to educate visitors of all ages, as well as additional engagement for student or adult groups that attend an education program from reserve staff. Exhibits featuring System-wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) data can inform and engage visitors in water quality information that is locally relevant, site-specific, and inspires action. 

This project plans to develop tools and resources for reserves to improve existing SWMP-related exhibits, and will support the development and implementation of a new SWMP-related exhibit at the ACE Basin Reserve. Organizing and consolidating content from a combination of literature reviews, SWMP data interpretation, exhibit evaluations, and interviews, team members will create a SWMP Exhibit Guide that will be made accessible to all education coordinators and exhibit designers in the Reserve system. Afterwards, the team will work with a contractor to design a new SWMP exhibit at ACE Basin’s Edisto Environmental Learning Center based on best practices included in the guide. Through this project, the team hopes to enhance the visitor experience and support learning related to reserve research, water quality, and actions they can take to protect estuary water quality.