Fostering Interdisciplinary Collaboration Through Team Science Training

Oct. 16, 2023
4 People stand around a table with documents on it, one person walking in the background

Photo credit: Abby Bushman, Utah State University

It was a crisp morning in Logan, Utah and the fall colors were just starting to show. During the last week in September, I joined the 2023-24 Natural Resources Workforce Development (NRWD) Fellowship cohort for their kick-off meeting where they attended a Team Science Training. We all arrived at 8am, but there was a mishap with the coffee! There wasn’t enough for everyone. However, that didn’t stop this interdisciplinary group from starting the Team Science Training off on the right foot: full of excitement!

We were immediately broken into teams and given our first task: build a tower as tall as possible with flimsy notecards. We all dove into action, trying to build a tower taller than all the other groups. When time was up, there were notecards scattered across the room, groups sweating from all the pressure, and many different types of towers. While this was all fun and games, there were a couple of hidden messages behind this task: How did each group work with people they didn’t know? Did your group self-organize? Did the group start with a strategy? Did your group view this as a competition, even though it wasn’t presented in a competitive format? This workshop was able to take fun and exciting events, like building a tower or role playing a grant writing team that was said to be, “somehow more fun and nerdier than Dungeons & Dragons,” and demonstrate how to effectively work in interdisciplinary teams.

The next day was full of amazing and informative talks from local scientists, managers, decision-makers, and the NRWD Fellows from last year. Many of the talks centered around the Great Salt Lake because it provides 5-10% of the Wasach snowpack, it is an important nesting ground for cranes and brine shrimp, and contains 35-50% of Utah’s wetlands. There were also two panels that discussed some of the many concerns regarding Utah’s water. Additionally, last year’s NRWD Fellows presented their project on management considerations for aquatic ecosystems that are facing compounding climate extremes. We closed the day with a talk from Maya Pace, a Sheldon Fellow from Harvard University who is studying the impact that climate change has on sense of place