SEPA Project Descriptions 2014

The goal of the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program is to invest in educational activities, including interactive digital media resources, that complement or enhance the training of a workforce to meet the nation’s biomedical, behavioral and clinical research needs. SEPA encourages interactive partnerships between biomedical and clinical researchers and pre-kindergarten to grade 12 (P-12) pre-service and in-service teachers, schools and other interested organizations. SEPA supports diversity in the workforce by providing opportunities for students from underserved communities to consider careers in basic or clinical research, provides teachers with professional development in science content and teaching skills and improves community health literacy through SEPA-funded science centers and museum exhibits on health and medicine.

American Museum of Natural History

New York, NY

Human Health, Biodiversity, and Microbial Ecology: Strategies to Educate the Community
Estimated Five-Year Award:  $1,074,015
Project Period: 7/01/2014 - 3/31.2019

Principal Investigator
Monique Renee Scott, Ph.D., AB, DeSalle, Rob Joseph Ph.D.


The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) requests SEPA support for the five-year project, "Human Health, Biodiversity, and Microbial Ecology: Strategies to Educate." The project's overarching goal is to promote public awareness and deepen understanding of the critical impact of biodiversity on human health, with specific attention to the human microbiome and how the diversity of nature's innovations - chemical, anatomical, and physiological - are of critical value to biomedical research. The three specific aims to achieve this goal are: (1) spotlight emerging research at the intersection of biodiversity and human health by providing the general public, students, and teachers with engaging opportunities to interact with experts in the field, learn about this critical topic in AMNH's hall, and deepen their understanding through resources that extend beyond AMNH's walls; (2) provide information to the public and science cultural institutions that will lead to a better understanding of audiences' specific interests, levels of understanding, and gaps in knowledge concerning the connections between biodiversity and human health; and (3) contribute critical insights about the design of learning experiences and resources effective in engaging and educating diverse audiences about the relevance of biodiversity to human well-being, and giving them the tools to increase their understanding of this topic. Specific project components include: a SEPA exhibition element in AMNH's upcoming exhibit on poison; a smartphone application tour of AMNH permanent exhibition halls through the lens of biodiversity and human health; a series of Conversations with Experts for adults, students, and teachers, based on the Science Cafe format; Museum visitor polling that will contribute to a gap analysis of public knowledge of the topic of biodiversity and human health; and online resources and dissemination. External evaluation will help assess the value of all components in increasing public understanding of biodiversity and human health topics, as well as provide information to be shared with other informal science institutions. As a leading scientific research and education institution, AMNH is well prepared to use its own expertise in educational programming and exhibitions, as well as its research capacity in comparative and molecular biology, phylogenetics, and biodiversity science, to work with participating NIH scientists to translate and disseminate the work of NIH and other researchers to broad online and on-site audiences. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: (provided by applicant): This program will provide the public with accessible and engaging information about biodiversity and health, with a focus on the human microbiome and nature's innovations in the form of chemical compounds and medical models that are critical to biomedical research and treatments. The proposed exhibition and education components will increase audience understanding of current NIH research in these areas, giving the public a better understanding of how the diversity of species within them and around them is critically intertwined with their own wellbeing. The audience polling component of this project will also gather valuable data about public knowledge of biodiversity and health issues, informing future public health efforts on this front.