REEFS 2010

REEFS is a reoccurring event held during ESA’s Annual Meeting. It is organized jointly by ESA’s Office of Education and Diversity and the Education Section.

The following resources were presented during the REEFS Session at the 2010 ESA Annual Meeting.

Learning Activities

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Descriptions

Case Study: West Nile Virus as an Invasive Species

Authors: Barbara J Abraham, barbara.abraham@hamptonu.edu, Hampton University; Josephine Rodriguez, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, NCEAS
Activity type: Learning Activity
Audience level: Upper level majors
Abstract: THE ECOLOGICAL QUESTION: How do biotic and abiotic environmental factors explain the historic, present, and future prevalence and range of West Nile Virus (WNV) in the US?
WHAT STUDENTS DO: Use maps, online databases, and peer-reviewed literature to: (1) learn background information on WNV (history of emergence in the US; life cycle, hosts, and vectors; different forms of WNV disease and susceptibility of various human age groups) and (2) generate and test hypotheses correlating human, avian, and mosquito WNV infection with avian biodiversity, presence/abundance of different avian hosts, climatology, topography, land use, and presence of specific habitats such as wetlands (Hometown Approach). Use either Supplements (in Resource Files) or Internet databases to analyze data in graphs and interpret maps to answer questions (Structured Approach).
STUDENT-ACTIVE APPROACHES: Guided inquiry or open-ended inquiry, cooperative learning, critical thinking.
ASSESSABLE OUTCOMES: Research proposal; tables, graphs, maps; research report; poster or PowerPoint presentation (Hometown Approach). Written assignment with graphs and answered questions (Structured Approach).

This resource is published in TIEE, and it is available online.
Barbara J. Abraham and Josephine Rodriguez. September 2012, posting date. Investigating the Ecology of West Nile Virus in the United States. Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology, Vol. 8: Practice #3 [online]. http://tiee.esa.org/vol/v8/issues/data_sets/abraham/abstract.html

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Birds in Human Landscapes

Authors: Yula Kapetanakos, Benjamin Zuckerbuerg, and Colleen McLinn (presenter, mclinn@cornell.edu), Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Activity type: Learning Activity
Audience level: Undergraduate students in introductory environmental science, biology or conservation courses.
Abstract: Birds in Human Landscapes introduces the field of ecology and the concept of environmental impact statements through a case study and role-play addressing the question of whether and how changes in land use are impacting bird species abundance. Each student group is presented with a version of the following basic scenario, “You are an ecologist working for the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). You and tow of your colleagues have been asked to evaluate the status of two bird species that are found in an area slated for ‘eco-friendly’ development. The developers are claiming that they have taken every measure to minimize impacts on the local environment and have evaluated potential impacts through an environmental impact statement (EIS). Your task is to evaluate the legitimacy of their EIS by examining the sensitivity of these two species to habitat change and to determine whether the species have been impacted in other parts of the state by land use changes.”

We will present our thoughts on how to effectively support students in conducting database investigations and presenting their resulting positions, with an emphasis on how to use publically available online databases such as the Breeding Bird Atlas of New York State for inquiry. The intended audience is undergraduate students in introductory environmental science, biology or conservation courses.

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Wet’N’Wild: A mock congressional exercise integrating wetland ecology and policy

Authors: Dr. Romi Burks, Southwestern University, burksr@southwestern.edu; Dr. Adrienne Sponberg, American Society for Limnology and Oceanography, sponberg@aslo.org
Activity type: Learning Activity
Audience level: first year seminar students to upper level environmental studies or biology majors
Abstract: Complexity of wetland ecosystems fosters heated controversy, both from biologists and politicians. Consequently, an active learning course on wetlands represents a perfect opportunity to integrate ecology with its implications for resource management. Depending on instructor experience, course expectations and depth of content, such as interactive course may appeal to audiences ranging from first year seminar students to upper level environmental studies or biology majors. At first, learning objectives focus on student understanding of the three properties that embody a wetland: hydrology, soil and vegetation. Group activities could include determining how different entities define a wetland, designing virtual hydrology tours of different wetlands (i.e. bogs versus swamps versus salt marshes) or creating species presentations on prominent wetland vegetation. Next the course covers Policy 101 where students learn to track bills (www.Thomas.gov), identify important policy makers and profile four different constituencies that interact with wetlands: wetland scientists, conservationists, developers and managers. Using a template, each student (or pairs) then develop a bill that addresses an overarching area of wetland conservation and preservation from the perspective of a particular group (examples could include The Nature Conservancy or the American Farm Bureau). In the last part of the course, students conduct a mock congressional session where success of their bills depends heavily on incorporation of wetland biology. This simulation represents a bold attempt to model creation of a national wetland law that has the support of multiple constituents. Overall, the course introduces students to the complexity of wetlands across structure, function, interpretation and protection.

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Engaging undergraduate students in exploring ecological pattern and processes using large, public datasets: explaining the latitudinal gradients in species diversity

Authors: Denny. S. Fernández, University of Puerto Rico at Humacao, gamezdenny.fernandez@upr.edu
Activity type: Learning Activity
Audience level: undergraduate students
Abstract: Ecologists study patterns and processes at many levels, so teaching ecology to undergraduates should include the analysis of patterns in nature and their explanation due to ecological processes. But the most common way of teaching is to show a pattern to the students, followed by the description of the related ecological process, or vice versa. This project aims to produce activity modules that help teachers to explore and analyze patterns using public datasets, and to contrast the data with existing theories and/or student’s proposed hypothesis on the processes involved. I present the development and implementation of an activity module based on the following main question: what causes latitudinal gradients in biodiversity?

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Using Response Pads (“Clickers”) When implementing Active Learning in Large Classes

Authors: Eliza Woo, Columbia University, ew2335@columbia.edu
Activity type: Learning Activity
Audience level: undergraduate students
Abstract: Effective teaching largely depends on the instructors’ ability to assess levels of understanding and address misconceptions both during class sessions as well as outside of class. These aspects of effective teaching can be more easily accomplished in small classes, but is usually compromised in larger lecture halls. By integrating key tools like response pads with active learning in large lecture halls, we can create a sense of responsibility, accountability, and individuality on the part of the student. Linking technology-based tools like response pads with active learning is also likely to increase and reinforce positive interactions between students and instructors. Description of learning objectives: In large lecture hall classes, instructors can use response pads to accomplish tow things during class sessions: (1) assess student understanding of activity objectives and/or lecture material; and (2) restore a sense of individuality among students.

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