This presentation is part of the Young Scientist Webinar Series, hosted by the Cape Perpetua Collaborative featuring graduate students and postdocs sharing their ocean research.

Environmental Identity is an important concept in current research on environmental education and development. We know that identity encompasses both individual and social and cultural elements, but research usually favors either the individual explanation (traditional psychological research) or the social and cultural (traditional sociological or anthropological research). In what follows, I argue that under the sociocultural lens, using Activity Theory and a narrative approach, is an appropriate framework for my research into environmental identity in informal learning experiences since from my perspective in those contexts, the awareness of environmental issues is created through the interaction between people (including stakeholders and interpreters or experts) and exhibits that represent both individual and socio-cultural perspectives, and individuals identities are constructed and refined during their participation. To support my argument, I first discuss local marine issues as an interesting and problematic contexts for thinking about environmental identity, then move on to discuss the constructs of identity and worldviews, and finally outline a collection of important theoretical perspectives from learning sciences (i.e., ecological theory to Activity Theory) and from environmental sciences (i.e., biophilia, assigned and held values) that can inform a research project on environmental identity in informal learning.

Museums and aquariums provide a good environment to learn about how environmental identity constructed by previous knowledge, worldviews, and culture affects one’s learning experience concerning abstract or complicated scientific issues, marine issues in particular, and the interpretation or awareness of these issues. Overall, this project will target early adolescents who visit museums and aquariums, including Taiwanese people and American (in Western U.S.), and if possible Brazilian, and to see how environmental identity affects their learning of local marine issues in free-choice learning settings.

Follow Janet and her research at:
Marine Environmental Science Museum
Janet’s world with wild life and nature

ABOUT THE SPEAKER, Shu-Min Tsai (Janet), Ph.D. student at Oregon State University
Shu-Min Tsai (Janet) is a Ph.D. student at Oregon State University, working on climate change and ocean acidification communication and outreach in Dr. Shawn Rowe’s Free-Choice Learning Laboratory. Before coming to OSU in 2019, she had received a Master’s degree in Bioethics and Science Policy from Duke University. She had also earned a Master’s degree in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the National Taiwan University. Through these graduate studies, she has built a strong educational background in ecology and environmental ethics. Moreover, she haas obtained NAI certification and IRB certification.

Janet’s career goal is to become a research curator focusing on environmental education in a major science museum. To achieve her goal, she makes her best efforts to seize every opportunity to improve her skills and knowledge in science communication and outreach. She has more than three years of experience in communicating environmental science to the general public and one year of experience in writing policy briefings on critical environmental issues.


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