Local Hero: Lesley Smith

This scientist and educator has spent her career championing environmental education.

Recently retired as the Associate Director of Education and Outreach at CIRES (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science), local limnologist Lesley Smith remains a devoted advocate of scientific inquiry in the exploration of natural places. Along the way she has been a fierce advocate for conservation of those wild spots.

Smith began her work in the research of wetlands, both in the tropics of the Amazon and the alpine areas around Colorado. As an outreach scientist, she made it her goal to share not just the research, but the research process with students and teachers through innovative programs like EarthWorks, which brought teachers from around the country to Colorado in the summer to design, implement and share their own research question.

“I really liked working with teachers and getting them to teach inquiry-based science,” says Smith. “It’s the best way to develop critical thinking skills.”
Other programs, such as Lens on Climate Change, challenged students to interview scientists, review data, and create a film that highlights a specific aspect of a changing climate.

“I think we’re seeing more and more now that scientists are getting push-back. We can’t just live in our little bubble and expect government to fund research. We should be able to get out of our bubble and explain to people what we do and why it’s important and that science is critical to our community and society.”

Lesley Smith is currently running for the office of CU Regent At Large.

—Heather Ridge

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