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Catalyst for Science Education and Validation of Traditional Knowledge

In this multi-year project from the USDA Higher Education Challenge (HEC), the Lilalab collaborates with education experts at North Carolina State University, Rutgers University, the University of Alaska Anchorage, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, United Tribes Technical College in North Dakota and Native American students to develop a lab and lecture curriculum based upon the Screens-to-Nature technology that GIBEX has pioneered. From the grant summary:

Native Americans students, dramatically underrepresented in science, technology, and advanced education, are introduced to straightforward, logical and illustrative field deployable portable biodiscovery assays known as Screens to Nature (STN) technology, and thoroughly coached on the use of these renewable and safe-to-use toolkits to investigate the biological activity of indigenous plants, fungi, microbes and marine organisms in their own communities.  The inventive STN portfolio is designed to help students recognize the unique bioactive (human health-protective) properties of their local natural resources, to put them in direct charge of making novel discoveries using the scientific method, to capture and sustain interest and enthusiasm for science discovery and to concurrently validate the traditional ecological knowledge of the community elders through science principles.

STN is simultaneously a learning tool, and a community mobilization technique that promotes interaction among different stakeholder groups (tribal leaders, elders, youth, etc.) and uniquely connects the communities, environment, and health.  The experiences will develop future scientists of Native American origin as local ambassadors, with an invigorated sense of community citizenship.  Their instructors will also engage in a transdisciplinary summer training institute designed to amplify their appreciation for integrated scientific instruction and experience first hand the next steps after initial field bioassay discoveries, through validation of bioefficacy in the laboratory and clinic.  

Our long terms goals are to create a self-sustaining, timely, and cost-effective resource to link young adults and elders in tribal nations, expand and enliven educational concepts, build pride and community, scientifically validate traditional ecological knowledge, and reinforce appreciation and recognition across generations.