September 27, 2018

Climate change and the effects on habitats explained in kid-friendly YouTube video

Written by: Challis Wells

Media contact: Alicia Rohan



will ryan 2018Will Ryan, Ph.D.Children from around the world can learn more about the impacts of climate change in beautifully illustrated educational animations that highlight the community of organisms that live on an oak tree. The accessible videos, created by University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers, are offered in English, Swedish and French, and they make science relatable and fun for all ages.

“There are a lot of ideas packed into these videos, allowing for an introduction to science and climate change that can lead to more in-depth discussions, lessons or activities for children,” said Will Ryan, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Department of Biology. “Scientists sometimes have trouble communicating their work in simple messages. These videos are an outlet to communicate important ideas being lost in the public discussion. They allow for our communities to understand ongoing scientific research, like that on climate change.”

Ryan and his art and science collaborators at Ecomotion Studios partnered with a team of biologists from Sweden to create “The Oak: Hidden Connection in a Changing World” as a way to introduce Swedish research to younger students. The resulting five-minute video zooms in on the ecosystem of an oak tree. Vibrant color and vivid illustrations splash across the screen as a friendly narrator explains how organisms like ants, caterpillars, birds and even fungi live in delicate balance and are impacted by climate change.

“We hope parents will use these videos as a tool to get their children to notice the natural world around them,” Ryan said. “Despite all of our technological advances, our best tools for understanding the world are still a pencil, a notebook and a keen curiosity — these are available to everyone and come with no age limit. But making science accessible and fun is our goal for these videos.

Ryan hopes the videos will better bridge the gap between scientific study and the everyday person and ultimately encourage parents and children alike to explore and appreciate their natural environments.

“Parents can use the videos to encourage their children to make backyard observations, start a household species list, catch insects for a bug collection or watch bird behavior in the backyard,” Ryan said. “We wanted to introduce kids to the plants and animals they encounter in everyday life to help them make a personal connection with their changing environment.”