Reflecting on the Horn Point Laboratory Open House

This past Saturday was the Horn Point Laboratory Open House. In my opinion (and the opinion of many visitors), this event was massively successful!

Figure 1:

Figure 1: Freshly printed! We cut the “timeline” poster in half to have a really long time series.

As we wrote on Friday, a portion of our climate work was on display as a massive time series showing the largest precipitation event and percentage of really warm days for every month from 1930 to 2014. We also had a poster highlighting the major extreme climate changes we have observed historically in the Chesapeake Bay region and their projected patterns into the future.

This post is meant to highlight what I thought worked really well and what I would change for next year!

What Worked

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Figure 2: Our “timeline” after the Open House. (Sorry for the poor lighting!)

Our climate “timeline” started some amazing conversations! One way to connect people to climate science is to evoke memories. We found that children and adults alike had fun relating extreme events to milestones in their life, such as a birthday.

When a visitor came to our table, we asked them to write the month and year in which they were born on a post-it note. (I luckily had an abundance of post-it notes and permanent markers from our Smithsonian display). That visitor could then see if any notable precipitation events or a period of warmth occurred during their birth month.

Figure 3:

Figure 3: A zoom-in on the post-it notes marking many visitors birthdays!

I will note that children seemed a bit more willing to disclose their birthdays than the adults!

One of my favorite parts of this timeline were the stories it brought out!

For example, one visitor remember losing power during Hurricane Diane in the August of 1955 and cooking potatoes in a family member’s fireplace. Her husband, during that same storm, remember a flagpole being knocked over in his yard!

Another visitor had a story on how she was almost named Gloria since her mother was pregnant during Hurricane Gloria in the Fall of 1985!

What I would Change

Figure 3:

Figure 4: A visual data display like this could have been more effective than my climate poster.

In retrospect, my “climate summary” poster was a bit underwhelming and overly scientific, especially compared to our fun climate timeline covered in neon post-it notes.

This poster would have been more successful if I included more imagery. For example, our frequency of moderately rainy days and its connection to annual nitrogen loading is pretty neat. By using a handful of photographs to demonstrate why this index matters would have been more eye-catching!

Final Thoughts

For us, a successful exhibit was one that:

was interactive. (children and adults alike had fun discovering what climate events happened in their lives)

-related directly to people’s lives and memories. (we loved that story about cooking potatoes in a fire place!)

-visually showed climate changes. (For example, if you count how many “very” warm events we had in our time series, you’d find we have 5 events from 2000-2015 and 9 events from 1930-2000. That is a change of 1 warm event every 8 years to 1 warm event every 3 years!)

Thank you to everyone who came by to talk with us!

Kari Pohl

About Kari Pohl

I am a post-doctoral researcher at NOAA and the University of Maryland (Center for Environmental Science at Horn Point Laboratory). My work investigates how climate variability and extremes affect the diverse ecosystems in Chesapeake Bay. I received a Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Rhode Island (2014) and received a B.S. in Environmental Science and a B.A. in Chemistry from Roger Williams University (2009). When I am not busy being a scientist, my hobbies include running, watching (and often yelling at) the Boston Bruins, and taking photos of my cat.
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2 Responses to Reflecting on the Horn Point Laboratory Open House

  1. Sarah Nuss says:

    Kari, This is a GREAT idea. I love it. I think this is something we could do at future open house events here at VIMS. 🙂

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