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Striving for Excellence: O’Dowd Faculty Member Earns EPI Fellowship

Kaylinda Ellenwood

Inspired by her personal experiences and a deep interest in the intersection of humans and the planet, Science Teacher Kaylinda Ellenwood has devoted her career to sharing the natural world with her students. Since 2019, she has encouraged O’Dowd students in the 9th grade Science and the Environment class to be curious about the different paths in the science curriculum. “In one of the units, the students have a short introduction to ecology,” says Kaylinda. “This section always excites many students, and leaves them wanting to learn more.”

EPI Fellows

Last fall, Kaylinda was selected as a 2023-2024 Ecology Project International (EPI) fellow. The program’s fellowship helps science teachers see the powerful impact place-based learning can have on students. “O’Dowd has partnered with EPI for many years for our student research trips, and I was thrilled to be selected as a fellow and develop my skills!” Kaylinda shared. “I knew this experience would connect me with other dedicated educators and expand my knowledge and teaching practice.”


Kaylinda traveled with other EPI fellows to La Paz and Espiritu Santo Island in Mexico. During the 8-day field research trip, Kaylinda learned key teaching practices to support student field research. “This opportunity for place-based data collection starts meaningful conversations with my students to help them connect with the surrounding world,” shares Kaylinda. Throughout the trip, she and the other fellows discussed how the experiences and skills could be brought to the classroom.

Acanthaster planci

Kaylinda’s cohort did various research studies in the water surrounding Espiritu Santos Island. On one expedition, the group identified more than 30 fish species. On another expedition, the group conducted a population study of the Acanthaster planci, more commonly known as the crown-of-thorns starish. These native invertebrates have had a population increase in Australia due to a population decrease of their predators. When a dramatic population change occurs, it can affect the larger ecosystem and food web. Scientists are still trying to figure out why because it isn't quite that clear cut and there are many potential factors. The group’s data will help scientists in Mexico who are carefully watching the Crown-of-Thorns Star Fish population to see if similar changes are happening there.

“These data are interesting and can start meaningful conversations with my students about humans' moral responsibility when choosing to intervene when natural systems are out of balance,” shares Kaylinda.


Next year, Kaylinda will be teaching Applied Ecology, which introduces students to the science of ecology and climate change with an emphasis on local systems and solutions. “I’m excited that this class will have a solutions component,” Kaylinda says. “Many students want to take action once they see a need in their local environment.”

On the boat


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