The Women in Science and Engineering Program (WISE) Works to Increase Interest and Diversity in Environmental Science

During Spring 2016, the UA Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Program partnered with the National Park Service, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the UA Community and School Garden Program, and schools throughout the Tucson Unified School District to get young people excited about environmental science. Through the Schoolyard Biodiversity Inventories Program partner organizations trained TUSD teachers and UA students on the basic science behind biodiversity, why it is crucial for ecological and human health, and how to complete biodiversity inventories using an online application called iNaturalist. UA students then worked with teachers to complete biodiversity inventories with students at 8 Tucson area schools. 

Using digital cameras and smart devices, students ranging from third grade through high school, worked in teams to collect photographic data on the different species that inhabit their schoolyards. Data was then uploaded to iNaturalist where scientists and specialists from around the world help the students identify unknown species.

The inventories that were completed during the Spring 2016 semester were carried out as part of a national initiative to document biodiversity throughout the country in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS). As of April, there have already been 18,000 observations uploaded documenting the great biodiversity that characterizes our country and over 2,300 of those observations are from here in Tucson. 

The overarching goals of this program are to increase student knowledge of the importance of biodiversity, expose them to environmental science careers, and motivate them to think about these fields as they move throughout their educational journeys. While the environmental sciences aren’t often focused on in discussions of diversity in STEM fields, women, Latino/as, and Native Americans are systematically underrepresented in environmental science majors at the University of Arizona and in the local environmental science workforce. We hope that by exposing students to innovative educational opportunities that challenge them to see their everyday environments as sites of scientific inquiry and discovery, we can help diversify the environmental sciences. 

Special thanks to the UA Institute of the Environment and National Park Service for funding this project this year.


For more information about the Schoolyard Biodiversity Inventories Program
or the Women in Science and Engineering Program in general please visit
or email WISE’s Director Jill Williams at



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