Genomics in Society is a collaborative initiative to develop original multimedia online educational materials tailored to the British Columbia (BC) high school science curriculum on the topic of forestry genomics. Genomics in Society is centered on making connections between forestry, genomics, and indigenous communities—these three pillars have been integrated into all levels of the work done. The three pillars have been particularly central to the materials developed given that the overarching aim is to place current forestry genomics research in the context of indigenous traditional knowledge, forest industry, and a changing climate. The resources we created are interactive, complex genomics content is distilled to a basic level, and navigating the content is simple. All of the educational materials developed will be made available for free in an online repository and portions will be made downloadable to enhance accessibility.
About the Project
This work is interdisciplinary and shares primary research in the form of audio clips from current researchers in the field of forestry genomics. These researchers include graduate students, post-docs, and professors from the faculty of forestry and various Canada-wide research projects. The forestry genomics case studies covered share a common theme of improving forests to better adapt to climate change impacts and include topics such as host resistance to forest pathogens, assisted migration & assisted gene flow, and the genomic basis of drought tolerance in trees. Through their work with tree species such as Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, western larch, and black cottonwood, the genomics researchers interviewed also explain how advancing genomics technology, such as high-throughput sequencing, and classical genomics field methods, such as gardens, are used to study these valuable tree species. In addition to the audio clips from interviews with current researchers, some of the main educational tools included in the content are interactive maps, animated videos, vocabulary lists, supporting resources, interview transcripts, and slideshows.
Project Progress and Challenges
This project has faced several challenges, most notably the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Mirroring the need for tree species to adapt to climate change impacts, we adapted to COVID-19 impacts by shifting the original plan to create in-person classroom resources to creating virtual resources on an online-only platform. Another challenge faced, due to the pandemic, was a successful outreach with indigenous communities. Forging meaningful relationships with indigenous communities is a long-term process that cannot be constrained by institutional project timelines, and a shifted objective that came from that lesson is that this project should be creating resources that can be adapted and built upon in response to feedback and developing knowledge. The progress of this project has involved learning, unlearning, and understanding different ways of knowing, and a goal of the project is to reflect and acknowledge those teachings in the educational materials created.
How to Get Connected
The Genomics in Society initiative intended to connect indigenous communities, BC high school students, educators, and any other interested individuals with educational materials on the topic of forestry genomics. The educational materials developed from this process will foster a greater community-level understanding of genomic-based applications in forestry in the context of indigenous culture, forest industry, and climate change. Genomics in Society’s resources are unlike other forestry genomics resources created to date and they will aid in furthering the field of forestry genomics by highlighting the importance of current research in response to a changing climate, making connections to indigenous knowledge, and identifying knowledge gaps that require further research. A beta test of these educational materials has been made available at their lab website, Genomics in Society.
Priya Puri is a BSc graduate of the Forest Sciences Honours program. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr Gary Bull is a professor with the Department of Forest Resources Management. He can be reached at email@example.com.