1. Martha Merson
  2. Project Director
  4. TERC, Winston-Salem State University
  1. Louise Allen
  2. Director/Faculty
  4. Winston-Salem State University, Center for Design Innovation
  1. Nickolay Hristov
  2. Associate Professor | Program Director
  4. Center for Design Innovation, Winston-Salem State University

iSWOOP, Interpreters and Scientists Working on Our Parks

NSF Awards: 1514776

2019 (see original presentation & discussion)

Informal / multi-age

iSWOOP – Behind the Lens

The iSWOOP project brings together scientists, educational researchers, and park rangers to increase STEM learning opportunities for national park visitors. During the past five years iSWOOP (Interpreters and Scientists Working on Our Parks; NSF 154766 and previously 1323030) has developed and refined a model to showcase scientific research happening in five national parks. This transformative model includes the development of compelling visualizations about the innovative methods that scientists use to study the natural world.  These visualizations, and the conversations they fuel, help rangers reveal how we know what we know. Thus iSWOOP project staff, park rangers, and collaborating scientists make the value of these protected places as outdoor labs visible to the public. Many have contributed to the footage and insights iSWOOP has shared with park rangers and visitors. By building teams of capable students and community-based experts in multiple disciplines (e.g., biology, film making, and digital arts), the transformational power of iSWOOP has reverberated far beyond the rangers who have participated in iSWOOP professional development. We have yet to see all the ripple effects of this collaboration.

iSWOOP collaborates with students, volunteers, educators, artists, and scientists.
If you’re interested in learning more about iSWOOP, please visit us at www.iSWOOPparks.com    


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Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Nickolay Hristov

    Nickolay Hristov

    February 4, 2020 | 11:53 a.m.

    The moving image is a powerful and fascinating medium!  Film is one of the most prominent and widely celebrated form of collaboration.  Yet, too often the attention of the audience is on what happens in front of the cameras and microphones, on the sound stages, documentary sets or wherever we point our omnipresent smartphones.  How many of us stay to read the credit scroll when the lights come on in the movie theater or seek out the behind-the-scenes videos?

    For the past 5 years the iSWOOP project – Interpreters and Scientists Working on Our Parks has worked to bring together scientists, educators and park rangers to increase STEM learning opportunities for National Park visitors.  Documenting the activities of the project from Acadia National Park in Maine to Joshua Tree National Park in California and even the fascinating colonies of the monarch butterflies in Mexico, the cameras were always rolling and microphones always listening. 

    In front of the camera, iSWOOP is a fluid collaboration among scientists, rangers, educators and National Park visitors; behind the camera, a powerful and perhaps unexpected dynamic unfolds.  This short film is about that.  Check out iSWOOP – Behind the Lens, peek at the earlier submissions (2015-2018) if you want to see the full Arc of the iSWOOP project and don’t forget to stay for the credit slide :-)

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  • Icon for: Martha Merson

    Martha Merson

    Lead Presenter
    February 5, 2020 | 10:44 a.m.

    I found this quote not so long ago. Your comment made me think of it:

    Movies are the most powerful empathy machine in all the arts. When I go to a great movie I can live somebody else's life for a while. I can walk in somebody else's shoes. I can see what it feels like to be a member of a different gender, a different race, a different economic class, to live in a different time, to have a different belief.

    This is a liberalizing influence on me. It gives me a broader mind. It helps me to join my family of men and women on this planet. It helps me to identify with them, so I'm not just stuck being myself, day after day.

    The great movies enlarge us, they civilize us, they make us more decent people.

    It makes a difference, and what's why we do it …

    The above is a transcript of Roger Ebert's remarks as he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Thursday, June 23, 2005. https://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/ebert...

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  • Icon for: Nickolay Hristov

    Nickolay Hristov

    February 5, 2020 | 11:12 a.m.

    Indeed! And the fascinating thing about watching this rectangle, the Screen, no matter how large, as in the movie theater or much smaller at home or on our mobile devices, is that we know that its content does not necessarily have to be true and yet we sign up for it and do it over and over again!  And when it “works”, we stay glued to the screen, laugh or cry... The power of STORY!

    I also find it very exciting that filmmaking (as opposed to just video display) is becoming an increasingly equitable undertaking, from image-making to editing to display and distribution, we no longer need “professional” intervention to capture and share our perspectives with the world.  The possibilities are inspiring...

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  • Icon for: Nickolay Hristov

    Nickolay Hristov

    February 5, 2020 | 11:52 a.m.

    There has been an interesting discussion in the background about the place of professional gear and that pro-look-and-feel for these short film production and how discouraging such expectations might be for new projects and teams. Good story and visual narrative need not rely on these, even if occasionally they can be helpful. In our short film, we used the camera gimbal at 01:17-01:25 because we couldn’t find a better way to hold and pass the camera from one person to the next, safely and without shaking, but we used a student’s smartphone to capture the defining shot about transitioning form front of the camera to the back at 00:30-00:40. Also note at 02:32 the inverted GoPro on a branch(!) to capture the fascinating footage of the alewives at the spawning ladder in Maine. Filmmakers are inevitably DIY-ers, which is how scientists and designers happen to be as well. Design-Art-Science anyone? See if you can capture any other blooper moments in the film.

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