Mini-Grant is Catalyst for Rear Admiral's Visit to Montana

MO Girls

When Paul Lachapelle, an Extension community development specialist at Montana State University, invited David Titley to Montana, he didn't think he'd say yes. Titley is a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, former head of the Navy's Task Force on Climate Change, a professor of practice in meteorology at Penn State University, director of PSU's Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, and a speaker who travels across the country and throughout the world talking about the importance of climate change as it relates to National Security.

In other words, he's a busy guy!

But, when Lachapelle told Titley a little more about Montana, the admiral said yes. Specifically, Lachapelle told Titley about the three teen-aged girls he'd be meeting and why they are motivated to start conversations about Montana's environment.

The girls— Rachel Fessenden and Jenny Greger of Bozeman and Alexandria Schafer of Denton—received mini-grant funding from the Montana Girls STEM Collaborative last fall (see news article for more information). The funds enabled them to attend the Teen Climate & Environment Summit at Rutgers University in New Jersey in Spring 2014. Their goal was to glean ideas from that summit that they could bring back to Montana to start their own gathering of teens interested in talking about climate change. (A fourth girl, Shelbi Fitzpatrick of Cut Bank, attended the Rutgers Summit, as well, but was unable to meet Dr. Titley in Bozeman).

Titley's Montana visit was timed to coincide with the annual 4-H Congress, a gathering of about 400 4-H members from across the state. Participating teens convene on the Montana State University campus in Bozeman, enter contests, attend social activities and participate in educational workshops, one of which was called the 4-H Youth Climate Science Initiative.

JaneDuring the youth climate workshop, Rachel, Jenny, Alexandria and about 20 other teens spent time with Dr. Titley and learned about various aspects of climate change and Montana's agriculture and natural resources.They also visited the MSU farm and garden to learn about sustainable agriculture; toured the local Amaltheia Dairy to see goats being milked; learned about the future of food production from MSU Professor Pat Hatfield; and toured the Bozeman wastewater plant. In addition, they learned about climate change from some incredible female STEM mentors, including Professor Jane Mangold, who talked about how climate impacts invasive weeds; and Professor Jia Hu, a hydrologist who took the group to the forest to core trees.

According to Professor Paul Lachapelle, the visit from Dr. Titley not only impacted the 4-H youth and the local community through meetings and lectures, it also provided the motivation for MSU faculty, staff and administrators to discuss the future of climate change research and education on-campus and across the state.

“MSU Extension is now proactively pursuing an inventory of climate change programs in Extension as well as assessing demands from clientele across the state. We are discussing who we can reach, what information they need, and how best to provide it. MSU Extension is committed to providing the most relevant science-based research and education to the people of Montana and this recent effort illustrates the positive outcomes that can result from reaching out to citizens and students alike on this important issue.”

All in all, the visit directly impacted more than 350 adults and youth who care about Montana's future. The snowball is truly rolling downhill for launching a youth summit in 2015 with the support of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems, a statewide community of environmental science scholars.

Contributed by Suzi Taylor, Co-Leader of Montana Girls STEM Collaborative and Assistant Director of Outreach and Communications, Montana State University Extended University