Julia Nagel/Assistant Photography Editor

A student looks for bugs by Beebe lake in November of 2020. This summer, many students are participating in CCE research internships with some working in entomology-based fields.

July 8, 2021

Cornell Cooperative Extension Students Combine Research with Service

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As the summer continues, 21 Cornellians are keeping themselves busy with their summer projects, such as research internships for the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

CCE is a community research-based program open to students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Human Ecology. Throughout the summer, students participate in a project alongside a professor or other mentor, tackling research projects that have direct impacts on New York State residents.

Students this summer are working either virtually or in-person on their research by working directly with faculty mentors, attending weekly meetings and collecting and analyzing data while maintaining blogs that chronicle their work.  

Aliza Saunders ’23, who majors in design and environmental analysis, is working with Prof. Gary Evans, design and environmental analysis and human development, to understand children’s attitudes and knowledge on climate change.

After taking Evans’ environmental psychology course, Saunders was fascinated by the interactions between humans and their natural environments and wanted to be a part of this research. 

Saunders and her team virtually interview six and seven-year-olds, make responses to questions numerical and recruit participants for their research through other organizations and camps. As it stands, 12-year-olds are the youngest group of children that have ever been studied in the field, so this project adds to the field’s knowledge of climate change attitudes in an even younger demographic. 

“The tangible goal is to create a climate change curriculum to be able to teach kids at their level of age appropriate language, and also feeling appropriate language,” Saunders said.

Kira Lee-Genzel ’21, who majors in human development, takes part in a research project named Empowering Parents Through Play. The program holds workshops for grandparents who have foster children to improve early childhood language acquisition. 

“I want to work in education policy and help improve school systems so that it’s easier for children from immigrant families or non native speakers to integrate into school systems,” Lee-Genzel said. “That was one of the things in the project description that interested me –– it’s mostly bilingual, Spanish speaking families and marginalized backgrounds.” 

Like Saunders, Lee-Genzel’s work is virtual, which includes facilitating workshops and analyzing survey feedback by creating frequency tables and looking at trends. Aside from weekly team meetings, she creates her own work schedule. 

For this research project, Lee-Genzel says that their goal is to write a final report summarizing the findings. “We want to assess the impact and possible changes that need to be made to the workshop in the future,” she said.

Like Saunders, Lee-Genzel hopes to gain experience working in her field and learn more from professionals.

“If you do research, it’s super cool to be able to apply that research and translate it into real world situations that people can benefit from,” Lee-Genzel said.

Unlike Saunders and Lee-Genzel, Brady Dolan ’23, who majors in entomology, is completing his internship in-person, at the vector control department at the Suffolk County Department of Public Works.

Dolan’s research focuses on comparing the efficacy of pesticides on different species and life stages of ticks. 

During the day, Dolan helps out with tick identification, setting up field materials and some pesticide application. He is grateful for the opportunity to gain more experience in his field, and appreciated the challenging nature of the work.

“What’s really interesting about Cornell Cooperative Extension is how it’s really linked between the University, different organizations and also the community that those organizations are in. It’s this really cool dynamic between sharing information and ideas, doing research and finding out new things,” Dolan said.

With CCE, students are able to expand their knowledge of their field in interest as well as give back to the local Ithaca community.  

“It’s great to go to Cornell and get a good education, but part of the whole thing with CCE is that it’s important to give back to the community and work directly with communities,” Saunders said.