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Tasting the Tree of Life: Development of a Collaborative, Cross-Campus, Science Outreach Meal Event

    Authors: Wendy L. Clement1,‡,*, Kathryn T. Elliott1,‡, Okxana Cordova-Hoyos1, Isabel Distefano1, Kate Kearns1, Raagni Kumar1, Ashley Leto1, Janis Tumaliuan1, Lauren Franchetti2, Evelyn Kulesza1, Nicole Tineo1, Patrice Mendes2, Karen Roth2, Jeffrey M. Osborn3
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ 08628; 2: Dining Services, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ 08628; 3: School of Science, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ 08628
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Received 04 August 2017 Accepted 27 November 2017 Published 30 March 2018
    • ©2018 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Biology, The College of New Jersey, 2000 Pennington Road, Ewing, NJ 08628. Phone: 609-771-2672. Fax: 609-637-5118. E-mail: clementw@tcnj.edu.
    • indicates equal authorship
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2018 vol. 19 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1408
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    Abstract:

    Communicating about science with the public can present a number of challenges, from participation to engagement to impact. In an effort to broadly communicate messages regarding biodiversity, evolution, and tree-thinking with the campus community at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), a public, primarily undergraduate institution, we created a campus-wide, science-themed meal, “Tasting the Tree of Life: Exploring Biodiversity through Cuisine.” We created nine meals that incorporated 149 species/ingredients across the Tree of Life. Each meal illustrated a scientific message communicated through interactions with undergraduate biology students, informational signs, and an interactive website. To promote tree-thinking, we reconstructed a phylogeny of all 149 ingredients. In total, 3,262 people attended the meal, and evaluations indicated that participants left with greater appreciation for the biodiversity and evolutionary relatedness of their food. A keynote lecture and a coordinated social media campaign enhanced the scientific messages, and media coverage extended the reach of this event. “Tasting the Tree of Life” highlights the potential of cuisine as a valuable science communication tool.

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2018-03-30
2018-04-22

Abstract:

Communicating about science with the public can present a number of challenges, from participation to engagement to impact. In an effort to broadly communicate messages regarding biodiversity, evolution, and tree-thinking with the campus community at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), a public, primarily undergraduate institution, we created a campus-wide, science-themed meal, “Tasting the Tree of Life: Exploring Biodiversity through Cuisine.” We created nine meals that incorporated 149 species/ingredients across the Tree of Life. Each meal illustrated a scientific message communicated through interactions with undergraduate biology students, informational signs, and an interactive website. To promote tree-thinking, we reconstructed a phylogeny of all 149 ingredients. In total, 3,262 people attended the meal, and evaluations indicated that participants left with greater appreciation for the biodiversity and evolutionary relatedness of their food. A keynote lecture and a coordinated social media campaign enhanced the scientific messages, and media coverage extended the reach of this event. “Tasting the Tree of Life” highlights the potential of cuisine as a valuable science communication tool.

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Figures

Image of FIGURE 1

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FIGURE 1

Backward design process for “Tasting the Tree of Life.” This diagram depicts how one experiential learning goal was realized through materials associated with a single meal station, Dishing out Diversity. Paired survey questions were designed to measure the achievement of the goal ( Fig. 3 ). Activities included discussions with biology majors who acted as field guides, a keynote lecture, the diverse menu at the meal station, informational posters, and essays and additional resources posted on the event website (http://tastingtreeoflife.pages.tcnj.edu/).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2018 vol. 19 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1408
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

Key graphics designed for “Tasting the Tree of Life.” A) This image of a gender- and race-neutral person eating a tree containing foods such as cheeses, jackfruit, and mushrooms was designed specifically for the event and served as the primary visual for the day. The image was included on all promotional and educational materials, as well as the main billboard image on the event website. B) This image of the phylogenetic tree containing all 149 ingredients/taxa included in the nine meals—with a branch representing humans added and indicated by “You are here!”—is one example of the many stickers designed by students and faculty for the event and for each meal. C) This image of a tree with plates at the branch tips was created for use on the event website. Each plate represents a meal, organized by the three overarching themes of the event ( Table 3 ). On the website, each plate is a clickable image that takes the user to more information and resources about the meal.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2018 vol. 19 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1408
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Image of FIGURE 3

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FIGURE 3

Impact on attitudes toward biodiversity and evolutionary relationships measured by an event survey. Participant responses to the question pairs above each panel were recorded on a five-point Likert scale. Total frequency of each response is indicated. Responses from participants who answered only one question in each pair were discarded. For each question pair, the Wilcoxon test indicated that the differences in before and after responses were statistically significant ( < 0.05). Question topics and sample sizes were as follows: A) Food Biodiversity, = 253; B) Evolutionary Relatedness of Ingredients, = 250; C) Human Impact on Food Biodiversity, = 251.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2018 vol. 19 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1408
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Image of FIGURE 4

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FIGURE 4

Highlighted ingredient trees for each of three meals. Each informational meal poster featured the ingredient tree with the branches included in that meal’s menu highlighted in one color and the rest of the branches in black. By comparing these trees from meal station to meal station, participants could observe how the evolutionary relationships among their foods changed with each meal. Posters showing the collection of all meal trees were placed throughout the dining hall on the day of the event and are also included on the event website (https://tastingtreeoflife.pages.tcnj.edu/tree-of-life-menu/meals-by-tree/).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2018 vol. 19 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1408
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