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Sarah Kirn

Vital Signs Program Manager at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute


A former Outward Bound instructor, Kirn's pedagogy is rooted in place- and inquiry-based learning. She holds a BSc in geology-biology from Brown University and an MSc in oceanography from the University of Maine. During her last year in graduate school, she served as an NSF GK-12 Teaching Fellow, providing science instruction in middle schools. She has been with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute since 2002, where she oversees the Vital Signs Program, a research and science education program that uses technology to enable students to collect and report rigorous data to inform Maine scientists' research efforts.


Vital Signs: Monitoring Invasive Species with 7th and 8th graders tiny PDF icon

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) in Portland is developing a research and science education program to help address the threat of invasive aquatic species in Maine's aquatic ecosystems. The Vital Signs: Monitoring Invasive Species program will enable 7th and 8th grade students to collect rigorous environmental data to inform Maine scientists' research efforts. GMRI staff have been working with an advisory group of teachers and scientists (from DEP, DMR, and research institutions) in this effort to ensure that the program will meet both educational goals of teachers and the scientific needs of the researchers studying invasive species. While this program addressing invasive species is new, Vital Signs programs on other themes have been active in Maine since 2000 and Ireland/ Northern Ireland since 2005.    At the core of the program is a suite of open source software products that will guide student field work, help students identify invasive and native species, allow data vetting by students, teachers, GMRI staff, and scientists, facilitate communication between students with scientists, and provide public access to the data in table form and on interactive maps. This software will be freely available online and will be installed on the 32,000 laptop computers distributed through the Maine Learning Technology Initiative to all 7th and 8th grade students in the state.  

Citizen science, volunteer monitoring, participatory action research... this site supports organizers of all initiatives where public participants are involved in scientific research.

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