Central Florida environmental research funded by Disney on display at local science fair

Filed in: Beyond the Theme Parks, Making a Difference, Walt Disney World Resort

STEM event presented by UCF PedsAcademy at Nemours Children’s Hospital features Indian River Lagoon study supported by Disney Conservation Fund

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., May 23, 2019 — The first-ever UCF PedsAcademy science fair held recently at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando offered kids the chance to explore STEM learning, and for some, show off their work as “citizen scientists” on a project supported by the Disney Conservation Fund.

While receiving care at Nemours, some of these young scientists helped University of Central Florida (UCF) researchers study the impact of oyster restoration on endangered wading and aquatic birds in the Indian River Lagoon. With a colorful display and free books, UCF marine biologist Dr. Linda Walters shared the team’s research about human impact on local estuaries with families taking part in the science fair.

“Working with the Disney Conservation Fund has not only brought financial support for our research, it’s meant outreach from our lab to our community,” said Dr. Walters. “There’s so much science we still have to explore. Some of these kids will be the ones to continue studying our natural places and wildlife.”

Funded in part by a two-year grant from the Disney Conservation Fund, the oyster reef restoration study is designed with community engagement in mind. Through UCF PedsAcademy, children at Nemours have been part of an exclusive group of community members who serve as citizen scientists, helping analyze images of birds from oyster reefs.

Some of the students presented about the oyster reef restoration project at the science fair, which was visited by a special panel of guest judges. Claire Martin, senior manager of Strategic Philanthropy with Disney Enterprise Social Responsibility, was among them.

“These inspiring citizen scientists are helping shape a brighter future by helping with important conservation research happening here in Central Florida,” said Martin. “Conservation and STEM learning are positive elements of our ongoing commitment to reimagining the children’s hospital experience.”

The STEM Day science fair was one of the unique teaching elements of UCF PedsAcademy at Nemours, which provides highly specialized schooling to chronically ill children in a way that’s tailored to their specific disease. Held in the hospital lobby, STEM Day also hosted labs from across the university, enticing children with opportunities to learn about sea turtles, get up close with bugs and learn how muscles generate electricity.