Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Educator Spotlight: Megan Rodgers Lane

Megan's Turtle Basking Project at Bass Lake in Holly Springs

Megan Rodgers Lane recently completed her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification. Megan is the public science and internship coordinator for the UNC Institute for the Environment's (IE) Center forPublic Engagement with Science. “I work on many different projects all with the goal of engaging diverse audiences in environmental science and public health using hands-on demonstrations, interactive workshops, and science communication.  We want the public to better understand how the environmental science emerging from UNC-Chapel Hill is important and relevant in our daily lives. K-12 teachers and students are among some of my favorite audiences with which to engage.”

Lake Observations by Citizen Scientists and Satellites Project
During the past two summers, Megan managed a watershed science and stewardship program  for middle and high school teachers. “During a four-day teacher institute, I introduced the participants to researchers and experts in the field and took them on excursions to estuaries and marshes so they could then bring their new experiences and knowledge back to their classrooms.” She also works on a citizen science project called LakeObservations by Citizen Scientists and Satellites (LOCSS) which uses lake level measurements and satellite imagery to better understand how the volume of water in lakes is changing over time around the world. “I am excited to be a part of this NASA funded project because I get the opportunity to engage with citizen scientists in the field and share my excitement about the research our team is conducting.” Before joining UNC IE, Megan earned a BS in Environmental Science with a minor in Nonprofit Studies from NC State University. Then, during her first few years as a research assistant with UNC IE, she earned a MEA in Environmental Assessment with a graduate certificate in GIS, also from NCSU. In her personal time, Megan enjoys hiking, camping, playing disc golf, and taking care of her five backyard chickens with her husband, Joe. They also have a small part-time dog sitting business and love meeting and taking care of new dogs.

Megan at home with her backyard chickens

Megan says the certification program helped advance her career. “Earning my EE certification allowed me to take a larger role in some of the environmental education programming we offer within the Center for Public Engagement with Science.” Megan says her favorite part of earning her certification was getting to know so many people in the environmental education field. “Everyone I met, and continue to meet, has been so knowledgeable about their work and excited about the environment and teaching. I feel so lucky to be part of such a welcoming and fun community. I appreciated the opportunity to take so many different workshops on new topics and visit different areas of the state, and I look forward to continuing that trend as I fulfill my CE credits every year.” Megan notes a few of the workshops that she really enjoyed included NC CATCH, the Great Backyard Bird Count, and Plant Identification: Trees, Shrubs, and Conifers. “I also really enjoyed working on my community partnership project, which involved building turtle basking platforms and applying my expertise in science communication to develop signage for Bass Lake Park in Holly Springs.”

The certification experience that really stood out for Megan and encouraged her to pursue the certification program was the Environmental Education course at NC State University taught by Dr. Gail Jones and Renee Strnad during the fall 2017 semester. “At the time, I was enrolled in the MEA graduate program and was looking for an elective course that interested me and filled a requirement for my degree. I think fall 2017 was the first semester that the course was offered, and I was extremely lucky that I found it and that it was approved to count toward my degree. This course allowed me to earn credit for Basics of Environmental Education and Methods of Teaching Environmental Education, but more importantly, it solidified my interest in environmental education and my desire to learn more and get more involved.” 

For her community partnership project, Megan built turtle basking platforms and installed signage about why turtles bask in the sun for Bass Lake Park. “I live near Bass Lake and visit the park to walk and run almost weekly. During my visits, I often see park visitors pointing at the turtle basking platforms I built and reading the informational signage, which reminds me of the impact my project has on the community. I hope the platforms and signage last for many years and many people get to enjoy them and learn about why turtles bask in the sun.”

Megan at the Water Science and Stewardship Progran for teachers
Megan says the program changed her approach to teaching. “The program has also taught me best practices for implementing environmental education and programming for people/students of all ages and backgrounds and increased my confidence in teaching.”

She says the program also changed the way she views environmental issues. “After participating in the certification program, I now look at environmental issues with a more open-minded approach, instead of bringing in my previous biases. I appreciate learning and teaching about all sides of an issue and letting participants discover and make their own assumptions. All in all, I’ve embraced the emphasis on education, not advocacy.”

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