River Otter Outreach
Exhibit Code: OUT-131
Zone: Business District
Location: Outside (OUT/000) - Outside
Time: All Day
This project is designed to educate children aged 7 to 10 and their parents about efforts to reintroduce river otters to suitable habitats within their former range of the Genesee River and Finger Lakes. River otters serve a variety of ecological functions, including as an indicator species for measuring aquatic health, but habitat destruction, hunting, and pollution have greatly reduced their numbers in New York State over the past century. The Mentoring Group members have been working with personnel of the Seneca Park Zoo since early December in order to generate new scientific data via field studies for the ongoing New York State River Otter Project, and to develop a multimedia educational exhibit for the Imagine RIT festival. The exhibit will feature an interactive diorama demonstrating the negative impact of oil spills and other threats to otter populations; hands-on materials like cast skull models, posters, and pamphlets for children and adults regarding otter identification, natural history, and conservation; and a computer slide show highlighting the collaborative field work of the group and zoo personnel. As the capstone project for the Environmental Science B.S. degree, the River Otter Educational Outreach activities provide a valuable opportunity for the students to draw on the wide range of skills and knowledge they have developed at RIT. In particular, team members will be engaging with the disciplines of conservation biology, Ecology and environmental education and communication. Translating complex information from the scientific literature for the public, especially for an elementary school audience, is an endeavor requiring excellent writing skills and use of visual media. It also requires an appreciation for the psychology of learning, especially regarding how educational activities impact human behaviors toward the environment.