iSaveSpecies: Conserving Endangered Species One Zoo Visitor at a Time

By: Olivia Bauer

Lynne Myers and the Project Dragonfly team are using a second National Science Foundation grant to address rising extinction rates with their iSaveSpecies initiative. This project uses interactive kiosks at nine zoos around the nation to encourage public engagement in conservation efforts. Lynne Myers and her team believe that zoos are a learning place for conservation, especially when they provide the visitors tools to do so, and they are striving to encourage visitors to move from passive spectators to active investigators.

Worldwide, approximately 16,928 species are currently identified as being threatened with extinction. Conserving endangered species is vital to human existence because biodiversity helps maintain ecosystem services like maintaining clean water and air, as well as fertile soil for growing crops. Project Dragonfly’s project stemmed from Lynne Myers’s position as a founding editor for Dragonfly Magazine, a publication that offered a platform for children to conduct their own scientific investigations and share their findings. Project Dragonfly’s first project, Wild Research, was conducted at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical garden and offered ten touch-screen kiosks for visitors to make predictions about research questions, collect data, and share their results.

iSaveSpecies expands Wild Research’s goals and encourages family engagement through conservation poster kiosks that are wide enough for groups to simultaneously interact with. Visitors have multiple image, text, and sound options to choose from while creating their posters. Project Dragonfly has found that the interactive stations are resulting in more conversations about preservation. Additionally, they found that allowing the public to create knowledge, rather than simply receiving it, is an effective way to cause change. Lynne Myers believes “anyone can be a scientist, and anyone can be an investigator” when it comes to learning about and promoting conservation.

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