Over the past five years, BioEYES, a community outreach program of the Notre Dame extended Research Community (NDeRC), has introduced more than 12,750 local K-12 students to scientific research and biology concepts using zebrafish.
The program, which has cooperated with 85 teachers in 41 schools, reached the end of its grant funding this year, but will resume for middle school students next semester with support from the College of Science and the departments of Physics and Biology.
BioEYES, which originated at Thomas Jefferson University, was recommended by David Hyde, Notre Dame professor of biological sciences and director of the Center for Zebrafish Research.
It was adapted locally with expanded teacher training connected to research and graduate students on campus. In some places, such as the Chesapeake Bay area, BioEYES has connected with the local community to conduct water quality projects.
A similar effort with Bowman Creek, the most polluted local tributary of the St. Joseph River, could link BioEYES with NDeRC’s Enviro program, which has engaged 2,000 students in environmental stewardship programs such as testing groundwater in 160 wells and mapping contaminants.
Tom Loughran, a professional specialist in the Department of Physics and the managing co-principal investigator for NDeRC, says the management team led by principal investigator Mitchell Wayne, chair of the Department of Physics, is working to find funding to sustain BioEYES.
The program involves weeklong observations of zebrafish hatching and growing, with simple lessons for younger students and sophisticated genetics instruction in high school. “It’s a promising program, very scalable, and extremely popular,” Loughran says.
NDeRC will host the sixth annual Collaborating for Education and Research Forum from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23. Local educators will learn about numerous opportunities to integrate research into their curricula and partner with Notre Dame faculty.