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Cary Institute, other experts aim to help public comprehend science

Understanding the natural world is important — especially to scientists. But they'll be the first to say: Science is not the easiest subject to explain.The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies will host "Forum on Translational Ecology," a presentation Friday that will incorporate the expertise of 10 scientists, educators, land managers, communication experts and policymakers.

"How is it best done to translate science to public understanding?" asked Dr. William H. Schlesinger, president of the Cary Institute. "Why is it important? What are we doing well (and) what areas need to be covered better?"

Schlesinger will try to answer those questions, along with communications director Lori Quillen, freshwater ecologist David Strayer and other experts.

"There's a lot of really wonderful research happening right now," Quillen said. "A lot of inroads have been made in our understanding of things like climate change, the health of our oceans (and) air. We have a vast body of knowledge. What we lack as a society is how to take some of that information (from) the peer reviewed journals ... and bring it into practice."

The forum is part of the organization's Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, which gives students the opportunity to participate in an independent research project with a Cary Institute scientist for the summer, Quillen said.

Two forum sessions are set from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Both sessions are free for students and open to the public. Registration is required only for the less formal second session.

artificial streams and reu students

Aquatic ecologist Emma Rosi-Marshall, right, works with students at an artificial stream facility on the Cary campus.

Founded in 1983 by ecologist Dr. Gene E. Likens, a co-discoverer of acid rain, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is home to 16 scientists, researchers and workers who aim to answer many of the questions regarding the natural world including freshwater ecology, infectious diseases, biogeochemistry and invasive species, Schlesinger said.

"(Likens) really wanted to bring some of the best and brightest environmental scientists together in one place and allow them to pursue what they felt were the biggest issues of the time," Quillen said.

In many cases, the research being conducted by Cary Institute scientists directly relates to what's happening in the Hudson Valley, according to the staff.

"We discover things about the world that people didn't know before. ... Humans are transforming the Earth in all kinds of ways. It's always good to understand the world you live in," Strayer said.

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