Backyard Biofuels pioneers honored at White House ceremony

July 11, 2013 |

In Missouri, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center’s director of science education and outreach, Dr. Terry Woodford-Thomas and Dr. Cindy Encarncion, director of life sciences at the St. Louis Science Center, were invited to the Champions of Change awards program on June 25, 2013 at the White House.

The event recognized American citizens’ contributions to their communities and highlighted “citizen science” projects across the nation. Dr. Woodford-Thomas and Dr. Encarncion, were invited to attend the event because of their contributions to a White House report on the impact of citizen science programs across the nation, as well as for leading Backyard Biofuels, a collaborative program between the Danforth Plant Science Center and St. Louis Science Center.

With funding from National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy, the Backyard Biofuels project opened to the public in 2010. Since then, thousands of algae collection kits were distributed and several hundred “algae hunters,” ranging from the age of six to adults contributed algae from across the nation. The Backyard Biofuels Project not only contributed valuable sets of naturally-occurring oil-producing algae to bioenergy scientists for investigative research; importantly, it allowed students whose interest in science could be enhanced by working side-by-side with “real” scientists in cutting-edge research laboratories to be identified and nurtured.

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