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Outreach in the Ashman Lab

The Ashman Lab is committed to broadening participation in science and thrives on weaving outreach into all of research and educational agendas.
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Children's books 

The Ashman lab has  created a series of Children’s books to reach elementary students at the Pitt Engagement Centers, Home School students and more!! Our series follows a diverse group of urban school children who solve community and societal problems using science. The characters use their own ingenuity, problem-solving skills along with local experts to solve the problems like cultivar theft, loss of pollinators and a toxic spill !! The first was an  interpretation of the ‘Strawberry Caper’ curriculum, the second link to the Urban biodiversity Curriculum. We have collaborated with highschool and college artists, educators, chefs and scientists t create this series!  

The Great Strawberry Caper

In collaboration with the UPitt Biology's Outreach Program Director, Dr. Alison Slinskey-Legg, the Ashman Lab has developed a middle school curriculum ('The Strawberry Caper') that meets middle school standards in genetics, ecology, agriculture, and statistics ( The strawberry caper is a novel inquiry-based curriculum that is implemented with the department's Mobile Science Lab ( This curriculum will connect students to the scientific endeavor in the context of a criminal case storyline in which the students will design experiments to test hypotheses and use deductive reasoning to provide expert evidence for the case. Hands on activities in the greenhouse and laboratory were key to teacher development and were also a lot of fun!

Language Diversity Symposium

The Ashman lab members present their research in Portugese and American Sign Language

The Ashman lab members present their research in Spanish, Portugese and American Sign Language


The Ashman Lab and the PittBio Outreach department recently created a program for pollination education for children, POP-UP! (Pollination Outreach Project for Underserved Programs). The program begins with hearing  about pollination through demonstrations of what pollination involves and why it is important. We then transition to seeing pollination by dissecting flowers in groups and transferring the pollen we find from the anthers to the stigma. In the end, we do pollination through a fun game designed by the Ashman Lab to teach concepts of successful pollen transfer, where children act as either "pollinators" or "flowers". We have used the Pitt Mobile Lab to bring our program out to day camps located in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, and we are looking forward to continuing our program through after-school sessions and other events. Through assessing pre and post-evaluation data of participants' understanding of pollination, we have seen a significantly increased awareness of the process of pollination, what can be a pollinator, and knowledge of important crops that are pollinated by insects.

Sponsorship of Science Fair Projects

The Ashman lab has hosted several students who have participated in the PA Jr Academy of Science. Our members are also involved in outreach programs locally and nationally including the Botanical Society of America's 'Planting Science' and Education Programs at Phipps Conservatory.

Plant Science Blogging

The Ashman lab members have actively developed blogging as a means to communicate science, increase participation, showcase diverse perspectives and reach broad audiences.


Both through curriculum development in our Plant Biology course (read about it here and via other venues  --check these great stories out!

Urban Biodiversity

The Ashman lab collaborates with the outreach program to understand how urbanization impacts biodiversity. In this new curriculum 9th grade biology students determine how abiotic and biotic features of urban settings affect biodiveristy and interaction diversity at several levels of organization. They learn to identify important groups of interacting organisms in their surroundings, including plants, pollinators and floral microbes, and characterize how the abundance and diversity of interactions shift with changes in their local environment to generate their own novel data and contribute to a city-wide data set.

Phipps BioBlitz

The Ashman lab brings Plant-Pollinator scientific outreach to Phipps BioBlitz every year--you never know what might show up---Pollinators selfie station, UV flower images, giant pollen grains and flower volatiles and more!

Market Science

The Ashman lab brings scientific outreach to the Bloomfield Farmer's Market once a month in the summer via Market Science Pgh! Learn about your plant neighbors, bees , microbes and more!

Mutualisms in the City

This program is designed to address a key sustainability challenge of supporting urban pollinator populations. An inquiry-based program for high school students tasks them with determining the extent to which pollination services are impacted by air pollution (ozone) and traffic in an urban environment. Outcomes of this work include quantification of the point at which air pollution endangers pollination services and guidelines for designing wildflower plantings that attract and support the robust pollinator communities required for functional urban ecosystems.

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