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Fall 2012
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Around the Quad

Getting the Knack of ‘Naturalist Outreach’

Linda Rayor
Photo: Jason Koski (UPhoto)

Fifteen years ago, Linda Rayor, senior research associate and senior lecturer in entomology, started the Cornell Naturalist Outreach Speakers Bureau, a program that sends undergraduates and graduate students into local K-12 classes to give free, experiential natural history and ecology presentations. Bureau members learn the art of communicating science with passion and clarity from Rayor, a host of the Science Channel’s “Monster Bug Wars,” in her Naturalist Outreach Practicum course.

To date, she and 252 Cornell students have given 1,855 presentations and reached more than 41,000 people in individual presentations and 30,100 in large outreach events. Surveys indicate that over 36 percent of former bureau members have gone on to become teachers, taken leadership positions in existing outreach programs, developed their own programs, or redirected their careers into non-traditional areas of science education.

Rayor and naturalist outreach members, in association with New York State 4-H programs, have also produced classroom-ready videos and presentation guides on topics such as reptile diversity, how mammals avoid predators, and using cues from mammal skulls to understand what they eat.