Date of Award

Spring 2023

Degree Type



Biological Sciences

Director of Thesis

Dr. Erin Meyer-Gutbrod

First Reader

Maeve Snyder

Second Reader

Maeve Snyder


In a typical classroom setting, there are significant challenges to exposing students to concepts related to earth sciences and the environment. These challenges are exacerbated when conveying lessons about geographic areas with limited access, such as oceans and coastlines (Louv, 2010). It is now more important than ever for environmental education to improve and adapt to our changing world. Educators may have the opportunity to bring these subjects to life by using media content such as podcasts to introduce students to new places and the scientists, managers and educators that work in those spaces. In the United States, there exists a system of protected coastal lands designated as National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRs). Although education and public information sharing are part of the mission of the NERRs, there are few pathways to bring NERRs and the associated research, monitoring and conservation into schools that are distant from NERR sites. To address this educational gap, a teacher survey was conducted, and 43 responses were analyzed to identify best practices for middle school and high school lesson formats and assessment strategies. Based on the feedback from teacher surveys, an introductory podcast series called "NERR or Far: The Reserves Are Where You Are" was created for grades 6-12 on the NERRs of the Southeast, as well as supplemental resources for teachers, including classroom lesson plans. These podcasts are based on audio recordings of interviews with representatives from 7 NERR sites, including NERR managers, coastal training program coordinators and reserve educators. Podcast content covers coastal ecology, management, anthropology, hazard mitigation and opportunities for public interaction with NERR sites. The podcast series and teacher resources are hosted on a website and made freely available to the general public. This podcast series will increase access to regional conservation information and foster stewardship of the coastal waters of the southeast US.

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© 2023, Kaitlyn M Dirr