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EHS Presents its Annual National Biodiversity Teach-In

Jan. 29, 2024 

Scientists from around the world will participate in this year’s National Biodiversity Teach-In, organized annually by environmental science students at Elgin High School. Featuring a series of webinars in February, the event is designed to raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity and inspire participants to take part in environmental protection. 

National Biodiversity Teach-In LogoThe National Biodiversity Teach-In will feature more than 15 webinars, all free and open to the public, on Fridays in February. Subjects to be addressed during this year’s Teach-In include the evolution of snakes and their venom; snow leopard conservation; rare frogs; welfare of captive whales; prairie restoration; the importance of native plants; and polar bears in a changing Arctic.

As in previous years, the 2024 Teach-In is expected to draw environmental science enthusiasts, as well as whole classrooms of students, from around the globe. Over the years, it has registered more than 110,000 participants from more than 27 countries. 

Environmental students at EHS, guided by several teachers, have been working on the 2024 Teach-In for months. Student organizers delegate the event responsibilities by committees. They troubleshoot technology issues, register participants, respond to media requests, advertise, and create promotional materials. 

Autumn McGowan, an EHS graduate, is now a conservation fellow at The Nature Conservancy. McGowan supports the work of the organization across the Midwest and the Great Lakes with research, writing, and data analysis. She’ll be presenting on The Nature Conservancy’s work with reefs in the Great Lakes on Feb. 9.

“From being an EHS student who helped with the National Biodiversity Teach-In in 2019, to now having the opportunity to be a presenter, is incredible,” she said. “It is so much fun working with the EHS students and staff, and I am really looking forward to the 2024 webinars.”  

The webinars are scheduled during the school day on Feb. 2, Feb. 9, Feb. 16, and Feb. 23. Each speaker will give a presentation based on their specialty and also include dedicated time for questions and answers.

As was the case in recent years, the Teach-In will feature a day of sessions with nearly all female presenters for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a declaration from the United Nations General Assembly to encourage a new generation of female scientists to tackle the major challenges of our time by leading innovation in science and technology. 

In addition to McGowan, among the women presenting Friday, Feb. 9, are Jillian Morris, a marine biologist and a shark conservationist; Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist; Dr. Bonnie Hamilton, a ecotoxicologist who studies contaminants in the Arctic; Sonya Harris, a plant biologist; and Dr. Cassandra Debets, an arctic ecologist who works with Polar Bears International. 

Student organizers of the Teach-In made an effort this year to add programming on topics that have mass appeal. For instance, Becky Chaplin-Kramer is a global biodiversity scientist who works at the World Wildlife Fund to advance the science and implantation of conservation strategies to support biodiversity. In her presentation, which will be Friday, Feb. 23, she will focus on how satellites can monitor biodiversity and be a tool to help reduce global deforestation. 

The webinars first began at EHS in 2013 to raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity. The 100-year anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon in 2014 and the story of Martha, the last known living passenger pigeon, increased the students’ interest and desire to discuss biodiversity with some of the best experts in the field. 

“Every year is more exciting as we make contact with scientists in different fields, allowing our students an opportunity to explore science in a new and different way,” said EHS science teacher Brigid Trimble, who helped launch the event.

The Teach-In website at has a full schedule and details on the speakers and topics being discussed. Those who register to attend a webinar will receive a personalized Zoom link. 

Webinars will also be live streamed on the Teach-In’s YouTube channel the day of the event at and its Facebook page at @natbioteachin.