Informed Action for Complex Challenges

Tiny Crystals, Global Impact

Project Description

We wanted to explore the cultural, ecological,  and global significance of snow and the impact of climate change on our snowy planet. We collaborated with  the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF),  to co-create a traveling exhibition,  Snow: Tiny Crystals. Global Impact. The exhibition follows snow’s journey from tiny crystals to vast winter landscape to abundant spring snowmelt. Visitors explore how snow shapes and sustains life on Earth, snow’s vital roles in sustaining our water supply and cooling our planet, and the cultural and personal value of snow. 

Summative evaluation at OMSI and The Fleet Science Center found that the exhibition strategies clearly contributed to visitor engagement, greater awareness of snow’s properties and snow’s role in human society and global climate, and to a lesser extent greater awareness of climate change’s impact on snow as a water source.


Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

Matthew Sturm, Ph.D., Principal Investigator
Maria Berger, M.Ed., Science Educator 
Jessica Garron, M.S., Ph.D., Science Team Lead
Margaret Rudolf (Iñupiaq), M.S., Ph.D. Student, Researcher 
Charlie Parr, Snow Research Technician
Anika Pinzner, M.S., Ph.D. Student, Snow Researcher

COSI Center for Research and Evaluation, Columbus, OH

Deborah Wasserman, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator
Dolly Hayde, M.A., Researcher
Patrick Malone, Ph.D., Principal, Malone Quantitative, Statistical Consultant

Group, Inc., Fairbanks, AK

Kelly Kealy, M.A., Evaluation Consultant
Angela Larson, M.A., Principal

Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Native Village of Kotzebue

Lynda McGilvary, Director, STEM TRACKS Principle Investigator
Lena Suuyuk Hanna (Iñupiaq), Producer
Hannah Paniyavluk Loon (Iñupiaq), Producer
Lori Schoening, Producer
Daniel Walker, Cinematographer
Hannah Foss, CGI Animation & Technical Illustration
Zachary Locklear, Production Assistant


The Native Village of Kotzebue and the Qikiqtaġruŋmiut people

Kenneth G. Libbrecht, Ph.D., Professor of Physics, California Institute of Technology

Learning Research Advisors

John Falk, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Learning Innovation
Nancy Maryboy (Cherokee/Navajo), Ph.D., President, Indigenous Education Institute
Chris Niemiec, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Rochester


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. DRL-1808749, DRL-1810778, and DRL-1812888. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.