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PBS 'Real Science!' Looks at SUNY-ESF Projects

6/30/00

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Two upcoming segments of PBS' "Real Science!" show are rife with ties to Central New York:

*Two scientists from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) are the focus of the shows.

*Featured along with the scientists are a recent Marcellus High School graduate and a Syracuse University student.

*A Syracuse University alumnus is producer for both segments.

"Real Science!" is produced by KTEH, a public broadcasting station in San Jose, Calif. It is aimed at helping students between the ages of 10 and 16 discover the excitement of science and the variety of careers in the field. The show is distributed to more than 200 PBS stations around the country.

"Real Science!" field producer Chris Million, a 1982 graduate of SU's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, recruited two ESF faculty members to be the focus of the segments. They are botanist Robin W. Kimmerer, who is researching the restoration of culturally significant plants to Native American communities, and wood scientist Susan E. Anagnost, who is working on the restoration of the historic Jay Covered Bridge in the Adirondacks.

In each "Real Science!" segment, a teen-ager acts as reporter, questioning the scientist about the project at hand and frequently traveling into the field to watch the scientist at work.

Playing the role of reporter in Anagnost's segment is Leah Camilleri, a recent Marcellus High School graduate who has acted extensively in school and community productions. Camilleri heads to Nazareth College next month to study theater arts.

In the segment that features Kimmerer, SU student Tiffany Lankes took the role of reporter. Lankes, who will be a sophomore at SU this fall, is a resident of Amherst, near Buffalo. She is a newspaper major who is also taking courses in policy studies.

Million and his crew spent nearly a week in upstate New York in October. They videotaped Kimmerer and Lankes at ESF's Lafayette Road Experiment Station, where Kimmerer is cultivating sweetgrass beds. Kimmerer is looking for ways to preserve the species, which is a vital component of traditional Native American basketry.

In working on the second segment, Anagnost and Camilleri spent a day in ESF's Baker Laboratory, discussing wood science. Anagnost, who specializes in wood decay and ultrastructure research, explained the use of the scanning microscope and methods of looking for wood decay. They also did some taping in the Adirondacks.

The Jay Covered Bridge, which spans the east branch of the Ausable River about 20 miles east of Lake Placid, is a historically significant landmark built in 1857. It is about 160 feet long and was constructed from local timber. It is now in need of renovation.

Anagnost and her colleague, William B. Smith, are assessing the condition of the timbers in the bridge to determine its structural soundness.

Million, who grew up in the Hudson Valley region, graduated from SU with a degree in film. He has been affiliated with KTEH for 10 years. He is a segment producer for "Real Science!", one of two field producers who travel around the country taping scientists and their work. He also has his own company, "A Million Images," which provides film and video services to a number of Silicon Valley clients.

Million said Central New York's spectacular falls helped lure him back to Syracuse. That, and the promise of a good story.

"I hadn't been back to New York in the fall in years. It was always my favorite time of year when I was growing up," he said. "And I thought, 'There's got to be a lot of great stories there.' I knew ESF was one of the leading schools in the country for that kind of science. And I knew the Adirondacks was close by and also a great source of stories."

In Central New York, "Real Science!" is broadcast at 11 a.m. Sundays on WCNY. "Threatened Plants," the segment featuring Kimmerer, is scheduled to be broadcast July 23. "Bridges to the Future," featuring Anagnost, is scheduled for Aug. 27.


SUNY-ESF
State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
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