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Meet Lauren Niemann

A banner image of ecologists who have benefitted from Opportunity Fund donations in 2020

My name is Lauren Niemann and I work at Fern Creek High School in Louisville, KY, teaching environmental science and biology. I began my professional career in Oklahoma as an ecologist studying the impacts of shrub encroachment on avian communities in mixed-grass prairies. I realized my passion for science education in 2003 after I began working as a teaching assistant for several undergraduate laboratory classes at the University of Oklahoma. For the last 10 years, I have brought my experiences as an ecologist to the classroom, teaching middle and high school biological science classes.

In 2017, I was fortunate to be able to design and teach environmental science and ecology courses at the high school level. In my classes, students learn through outdoor experiential learning, and use survey methods developed by ecologists . We also use a solutions-based approach to learn about environmental justice in our community, and with the help of community experts we have implemented several student-designed solutions to environmental problems on the high school’s campus.

In 2019, my students successfully installed a native meadow as a way of reducing the need to mow an unused space in our school’s courtyard. This project became an opportunity to co-research and co-teach with a colleague at a local university, while giving students access to ecologists and other professionals throughout the process. Carolyn Waters (Bellarmine University) and I presented our findings at the North American Association for Environmental Education conference in October 2019 and shared the opportunities and challenges in teaching environmental science in a way that is culturally relevant for a diverse classroom of students. We then had a second presentation proposal accepted to share the importance of place-based education and student voice in ecology learning at the 2020 Ecological Society of America conference.

Due to the coronavirus, typical school and community funding opportunities to support educators were limited. Thanks to the support of the ESA Opportunity Fund, I was able to present and help share our experiences, but also meet other ecologists and get new ideas about how to educate future stewards of Earth. I am so grateful for my chance to share, learn, and explore at ESA. With your support, other educators may also be able to learn from and network with ecologists, and use that experience as an inspiration for designing innovative learning opportunities for their students.

Help us support the participation of diverse people in ecology and meet the $20K in 2020 Past Presidents Challenge—contribute to the Opportunity Fund today!

A diverse science is a rich science. In the past two years, ESA has used the Opportunity Fund to support registration grants and travel for more than 300 ecologists who lack institutional support to participate in the ESA Annual Meeting. Help us to realize our goal of being the inclusive professional home for all ecologists.

You can also contribute to other funds that help us to extend professional opportunities to diverse ecologists. You can contribute directly to SEEDS or the Les Real and Jim Brown Student Travel Fund on our main donation page, or to any of our various other awards when you renew your membership.