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Share Fair Roundtables

Share Fair Roundtables

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Evolution in Action Ecology and Earth Systems Dynamics
Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Structure and Function

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This session is designed for educators to create or revise lesson plans or activities with a peer working group. Each lesson or idea will be presented by the author at a roundtable with up to 9 other participants. There will be time for each author to describe their lesson idea. Then discussions will follow provide feedback and ideas regarding the core concepts addressed, methodology, misconceptions, assessment or educational extensions. Participants will circulate among presenters at 15 – 20 minute intervals.

The schedule below is tentative, changes may occur before it is finalized.

Share Fair Presentation Schedule

Friday, 1:15 PM – 2:00PM, Room 62

  • Inspiring Connections to the Environment: Kelp Forest-Based Ecology and the Human Dive Response
  • Author: Kristin McCully, University of California, Santa Cruz

    Abstract: SCWIBLES develops high school inquiry-based environmental science modules. “Otters and Urchins” introduces ecology of the kelp forest ecosystem and science process skills. In “Hold Your Breath,” students measure human stress responses to cold water to learn about the circulatory system.

    Description:The University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) National Science Foundation GK-12 program SCWIBLES (Santa Cruz-Watsonville Inquiry-Based Learning in Environmental Sciences) works within an environmental framework to develop high school inquiry-based modules that facilitate learning in all fields of science. These and many other high school science modules are available at

    • “Otters and Urchins: Ecology of the Kelp Forest” introduces students to population, community, ecosystem, and conservation ecology by focusing on the kelp forest ecosystem using a variety of science process skills, such as graphing, interpreting maps, using basic equations, and more. The set of short interactive lectures and engaging classroom activities includes graphing the world human and California sea otter populations, modeling a food web and an energy pyramid, and watching short online videos. This integrated, two-week unit addresses all the high school ecology standards of the California and National Science Education Standards and introduces students to a diverse and economically important ecosystem that covers much of the world’s coasts.
    • “Hold Your Breath: What Triggers the Dive Response in Mammals” allows students to measure human stress responses. Students investigate how immersing their faces in cold water triggers reduced heart rate and reduced peripheral skin temperature. They then question, hypothesize, and test how factors, such as water temperature and exercise, modulate this dive response. With minimal lab materials, students are able to design, conduct, and analyze their own experiments on human physiological response to stress and learn about both the circulatory system and how marine mammals, reptiles, and seabirds dive to great depths.

  • Stream Monitoring using macroinvertebrates to examine the water quality for the health of stream biota
  • Author: DC Randle, St. Francis High School, Minnesota

    Abstract: Stream biological monitoring program, often called biomonitoring, is both a stream health assessment and educational program. This biomonitoring program uses macroinvertebrates to determine stream health. High school science classes are the primary volunteers. The experience affords students an opportunity to learn scientific methodologies and become involved in local natural resource management.

    Description: Getting students into the field to collect real scientific data and monitor the health of their local ponds, lakes and rivers so that they can monitor environmental changes in their water quality aquatic populations. Students uses aquatic field equipment to collect macroinvertebrates from the stream, quantify with specified collecting techniques and bring them back to the lab for identification, and placed in the bio-index to measure the help of the stream. Student then use the data to make informed decisions about their local waterways.

  • Using Research to Prepare High School Students For College Science Classrooms
  • Author: Jeff Marlow, LaVergne High School, Tennessee

    Abstract: Students engaged in real research experiences should be better prepared for the challenges they will face in a university level lab science. My lesson requires students to develop data collection skills as they study water quality.

    Description: Professors from my local university have expressed concern over the typical student’s lack of laboratory science skills upon beginning their Freshman year of college. The lesson I am in the process of developing is a semester length study of water quality surrounding the Percy Priest Reservoir near Nashville, Tennessee. Students will focus their efforts on data collection of dissolved oxygen levels within the lake and its surrounding sources. Students will analyze their weekly findings collected through use of instruments specific to their task and note any observations they may encounter at their sites. The overall results will require samples taken from pre-selected sites, each week, for the duration of the semester. Fluctuations in results will provide a basis for water quality discussions with the students as to the viability of the reservoir for the various aquatic life it supports and the reasons as to why the fluctuations may have occurred. The probe used to make the collections is an up-front expense, but can be utilized on a continual basis for a true research experience for students.

  • The Virtual Evolution Stickleback Lab
  • Author: Laura Bonetta, HHMI’s Educational Resources Group; Jennifer Bricken, HHMI’s Educational Resources Group

    Abstract: Join us for a tour of The Virtual Stickleback Evolution Lab. This interactive online lab is designed to teach students about evolutionary patterns by analyzing the body structures of stickleback collected from lakes and of fossils recovered from a quarry.

    Description: In The Virtual Stickleback Evolution Lab, students measure, record, and graph their own data using photos of actual fish and fossil specimens. The lab emphasizes quantitative measurement of phenotypic diversity and encourages inquiry into the role of natural selection and the underlying genetic mechanisms. As such, the lab is an excellent companion to an evolution unit. Because the trait under study is fish pelvic morphology, the lab can also be used for lessons on vertebrate form and function. In an ecology unit, the lab could be used to illustrate predator-prey relationships and environmental selection pressures. The sections on graphing, data analysis, and statistical significance make the lab a good fit for addressing the “science as a process” or “nature of science” aspects of the curriculum.

    After completing the lab, students will be able to:

    • Assess phenotypic diversity among stickleback populations, focusing on the structure of the pelvis.
    • Formulate hypotheses about how environments, each with potentially different predators, food sources, or resource limitations, apply different selective pressures on the shape of animal bodies.
    • Examine fossilized specimens and identify the same trait as seen in fish from living populations.
    • Learn what the fossil record can tell us about phenotypic change over time.
    • Explain how natural selection can drive the evolution of complex traits like the size and shape of skeletons.
    • Perform simple statistical calculations like the chi-square test to gauge confidence in conclusions drawn from population data.

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Friday, 3:45PM – 4:30PM, Room 62

  • Polyculture: using ecological principles to increase the sustainability of agriculture.
  • Author: Simon Pearish, University of Illinois, Urbana

    Abstract: Students will engage in research and outreach as they test the hypothesis that the detrimental effects of conventional farming can be reduced using ecological principles.

    Description: Conventional agriculture practices often do harm to the local ecosystem. By incorporating our knowledge of ecology into the planning of agriculture, the ill effects of farming might be greatly reduced or eliminated. The purpose of this lesson is for students to engage in research with a focus on testing this hypothesis and to communicate the findings of their work to the scientific community and the general public. Learning objectives: Explain possible detrimental effects of conventional farming. Understand the production of topsoil. Evaluate the use of irrigation. Illustrate how ecological services could alleviate a problem caused by conventional farming. Define ecological service. Create a nutrient cycle diagram. Critique arguments for more sustainable agricultural practices. Design and implement an experiment. Produce a manuscript that could be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. Plan an outreach event to present research to the public. This multi-class lesson will serve as the backbone of a laboratory section that accompanies an interactive lecture on the more general topic of polyculture. The research will be conducted in cooperation with the University of Illinois Student Sustainable Farm and will generate a long-term dataset which will be available to the public. Students will meet for three hours each week to conduct the activities needed to achieve each of the learning objectives including literature review, experimental design, data collection, analyzing data, producing manuscripts, and planning the outreach event.

  • Connecting Students to Biodiversity in Everyday Life.
  • Author: Jennifer Imamura, University of California, Berkeley

    Abstract: This three-lesson sequence aims to demonstrate to students that they are connected to and depend upon far more species than they realize. Students count the species in their lunches, explore connectivity through social networks, and build networks of species interactions.

    Description: Most students are broadly familiar with the idea of species biodiversity. However, they generally view biodiversity as a purely abstract and academic concept – something they see on the Discovery Channel, not what they see outside their windows or in the products they use everyday. Through these lessons, students will appreciate that they are a part of the global ecosystem, and realize how they are integrally linked to and depend upon a complex network of species. First, students discover the surprisingly high biodiversity of an ordinary lunch, and reflect on the variety of ways in which different species play a crucial role in their lives. Begin by asking students to answer two questions: How many species have you interacted with today? What are some ways that you interact with other species? Break students into small groups, and give each group a lunch and a set of ingredients/species lists. Each group tallies the number of species and kingdoms represented in their lunch. Lastly, brainstorm a list of the other species in the classroom (pine desks, wool clothes, etc). Next, students explore the idea of interconnectedness of elements and the diversity of potential interactions through mapping their own online social networks. In the process, they become familiar with visual representations of interaction networks, and potentially learn how to use one of several programs (online or downloadable) which construct and draw networks from given data. Finally, student apply what they learned in lessons one and two to develop and depict species interaction networks. Begin the lesson with a discussion about what a living organism needs to survive and reproduce (energy, habitat, pollinators, etc). Students work in small groups to compile and depict the web of interactions beginning with a species from their lunch. Groups share their results, adding each other’s new ideas and connections.

  • Using Permanent Forest Plots to Estimate Tree Biomass and Carbon Accumulation in Forests
  • Author: Kathleen Shea, St. Olaf College

    Abstract: The goal of this project is to establish permanent research plots to address questions related to tree biomass, carbon accumulation, invasive species and/or disturbance at a local site and/or across a range of sites.

    Description: The goal of this project is to collect data on forest tree diversity, tree biomass and carbon accumulation, as well as local climate and soil properties in permanent inventory plots, 20 x 20 m in size. Data can be analyzed for a local site and/or compared across sites in different parts of the U.S. using a common protocol developed by the Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN). Sharing data among institutions will provide information about diversity and growth rates among species and forests types over a range of ecoregions. Student learning outcomes include how to set up a permanent forest plot, how to measure topographic variables, how to measure and identify trees, how to manage data entry, how to calculate biomass and carbon accumulation, how to collect soil data, and how to use internet resources for climate and forest area parameters. Students may also be given the option to generate their own questions and hypotheses. Students will learn about the global carbon cycle and global climate change by better understanding how forest trees influence the exchange of carbon between terrestrial habitats and the atmosphere.

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Saturday, 10:45AM – 11:30AM, Room 62

  • The Plasmodium Problem Space – An Online Resource for Biological Inquiry
  • Author: Sam Donovan, University of Pittsburgh

    Abstract: Problem Spaces are a way of organizing research data and tools around biological scenarios. The Plasmodium Problem Space is built around molecular sequence data and provides a rich context for looking at ecological, systematic, evolutionary, and molecular research questions.

    Description: The Plasmodium Problem Space is built around a collection of molecular sequence data used to explore Plasmodium diversity in wild African Apes. Plasmodium is the name of a genus of protists that includes the species P. falciparum – the parasite that causes malaria. Last year malaria was responsible for over 650,000 deaths worldwide. Understanding Plasmodium biology requires insights into the richly interconnected nature of biological knowledge from molecular and cellular biology to ecology and evolution. In this data set populations of the parasite were collected from different Ape species in different locations providing a rich context for looking at ecological, systematic, evolutionary, and molecular research questions. Problem Spaces are a way of organizing diverse kinds of scientific and learning resources to support open-ended student research. They are designed to build connections between large datasets, biological concepts, and scientific research tools. The goal of a problem space is to provide students and faculty with a context for collaboratively and iteratively pursuing original research. The size and complexity of the datasets make them ideal for pursuing parallel small research projects. Problem Spaces can be extended when faculty share lesson plans, incorporate new data sources, or introduce new analysis tools. The materials available in the Plasmodium Problem Space were designed to be used in upper level high school or introductory undergraduate biology courses. There are existing exercises that emphasize map reading, analysis of molecular sequence data, interpretation of phylogenetic trees, and understanding the natural history and etiology of malaria. Join us for an introduction to the problem space and a discussion of how it can be used to give students realistic research experiences. The Plasmodium Problem Space is available at

  • Identification of microorganisms enriched from Winogradsky Columns
  • Author: Brian M. Forster, St. Joseph’s University; Catalina Arango Pinedo, St. Joseph’s University

    Abstract: Students prepare various types of Winogradsky columns using local environmental samples. Students then learn to identify microorganisms that have been enriched in the column using extracted chlorophyll absorption spectrums. The presence of these microorganisms is then confirmed using 16s rRNA analysis.

    Description: Objectives: This laboratory allows students to

  1. work together in the collaborative nature of science;
  2. acquire unique environmental data and process this data throughout the academic semester;
  3. observe different techniques of identifying microorganisms and;
  4. gain an insight into the wide diversity of microorganisms on our planet.

Laboratory exercise: The Winogradsky column is a miniature ecosystem that can be utilized to enrich for environmental microorganisms. Environmental samples of soil and water are amended with carbon and/or sulfur sources and incubated for several weeks under light. The microorganism community that results demonstrates the principle of “everything is everywhere: but the environment selects” This laboratory is designed for collaborative data collection and analysis by major and non-major science classes. A major and non-major are partnered into teams and work together to prepare Winogradsky columns using locally acquired water and soil samples. These partnerships demonstrate, most notably to non-science majors, the collaborative nature of science. This also allows a non-science major to work closely and learn from a science major. Teams prepare unique Winogradsky columns by altering carbon and/or sulfur sources. This allows each team to take ownership of the data they will be collecting. Depending upon the environmental samples and how the column is prepared, each group will produce a unique microbial community and data set for analysis. Visual observations and voltage measurements of each column are made weekly. After several weeks of incubation, teams harvest the soil from the column. Non-major students generate an absorption spectrum of extracted chlorophyll. Using the spectrum, each team must analyze their data and generate hypotheses as to which microorganisms they have enriched for. Science majors then isolate genomic DNA from the soil and performs 16s rDNA sequencing. Finally, each team is then asked to research the microorganisms they enriched for with their column.

  • Arctic Grayling on the North Slope of Alaska: Using research to teach genetics and biotechnology in the classroom.
  • Author: Eve Kendrick, Northside High School, Tuscaloosa Co. Alabama

    Abstract: We developed a hands-on lesson that covers DNA extraction, PCR processing, and gel electrophoresis in the context of current research on populations of arctic grayling. This lesson will help students master basic genetics and biotechnology concepts.

    Description: Incorporating current scientific research into high school science classrooms can promote critical thinking skills and provide a link between students and the scientific community. My participation in the NSF-sponsored Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program at Toolik Field Station in arctic Alaska inspired me to create a lesson that links current research in landscape ecology and climate change with basic genetics and biotechnology concepts. In this lesson, the students will learn the steps of collecting arctic grayling, extracting DNA, running PCR, and conducting gel electrophoresis, all while learning how these techniques are used to compare populations of arctic grayling across the landscape. This lesson will help students master concepts such as complementary base pairing, the structure of DNA, and basic biotechnology techniques. The lesson begins by the students reading background information about the arctic tundra and a brief overview of arctic grayling life history. This introduction will also explain sampling protocols and summarize ongoing research comparing meta-populations of arctic grayling across the artic landscape. Using high-resolution maps of the North Slope of Alaska, the students will look at the sampling sites and create hypotheses about the populations of arctic grayling at these locations across the landscape. For the laboratory component, the students will first perform a DNA extraction on Tilapia to illustrate the general technique of DNA extraction. Next, the students will perform PCR using long stripes of paper to illustrate DNA amplification. Next, the students perform a mock gel electrophoresis to identify specific sequences of DNA. Each group of students will have a different mock sequence of DNA, each representing a different population of arctic grayling, which they will compare with one another. As the students compare base pairs on the DNA sequences, they will draw conclusions to test their hypotheses regarding the relatedness of arctic grayling populations across the landscape.

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    Saturday, 2:00PM – 2:45PM, Room 62

    • Observing Plants with Project BudBurst Single Reports
    • Author: Sarah Newman, NEON, Inc.

      Abstract: The goal of this activity is to get students outside making observations of plants, to learn about the plant life cycle first hand, and compare the data they collect with data from others around the country through Project BudBurst.

      Description: “Observing Plants with Project BudBurst Single Reports” utilizes the Project BudBurst Single Report protocol to get students outside to learn about plant life cycles first hand. Project BudBurst is a network of citizen scientists across the United States who monitor plants as the seasons change. It is designed to engage the public in the collection of data about the timing of leafing, flowering, and fruiting of plants. Data are collected in a consistent way so they can be used to learn about the responses of plants to climate variation locally, regionally, and nationally. Through this activity, students will make observations of plants using the Project BudBurst Single Report protocol, enter the observations into an online database, and compare their data with observations made by others around the country. Single Reports involve reporting the “status” of a plant at any particular time. Several Learning Objectives/Concepts/Skills related to practicing the scientific process can be met through this activity including:

      • Conducting background research/generating hypotheses (Students research plants they will observe and generate hypotheses about when the different life stages of those plants occur)
      • Collecting data (Using the Single Report protocol)
      • Interpreting/analyzing data (Comparing observations to others around the country using the National Geographic’s FieldScope tool for Project BudBurst)
      • Writing Skills (Students write a scientific report summarizing what they learned)

      Materials include clipboards, datasheets, access to a computer, and resources for learning about the plants they will observe. Project BudBurst hosts three focused Single Report campaigns throughout the year to specifically encourage observations from around the country. The campaigns include: Cherry Blossom Blitz, Fall into Phenology, and Summer Solstice Snapshot. Teachers could focus their efforts on making observations specifically for one of these focused campaigns. For this activity I will cover Cherry Blossom Blitz and how teachers might incorporate it into their activities.

    • Climate Change and Impacts on Ecosystems: Using an Online Learning Environment for Making Predictions about Future Climate
    • Author: Tanya Dewey, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

      Abstract: The Center for Essential Science seeks to receive feedback to refine an 8 to 12 week middle and high school curriculum that focuses on the impacts of climate change on ecosystems. This curriculum provides authentic distribution modeling tools to students through a media-rich online learning environment.

      Description: The Center for Essential Science at the University of Michigan ( has developed an 8 to 12 week curriculum for middle and high school students that focuses on the impact of climate change on ecosystems. All curricular activities are aligned with K-12 Next Generation Science Standards and are designed to deliver climate change lessons and distribution modeling tools through SPECIES (Students Predicting the Effects of Climate In EcoSystems), a password-protected, online learning environment. This curriculum provides students with an introduction to evidence for climate change, atmospheric processes contributing to climate change, and approaches scientists use to predict the impacts of future climates. Students are provided with a simplified and structured way to interact with predicted distribution models for common North American species. They use this to explore and understand how climate change is likely to influence local and familiar faunas. In this share fair, we share preliminary data on student learning gains from two pilot implementations and insight on the challenges associated with creating an integrated climate change curriculum that focuses on ecosystem impacts using distribution modeling. We hope to receive feedback to help guide refinements or elaborations of the curriculum to expand and improve its impact and its utility.

    • Model My Watershed
    • Author: Susan Gill, Stroud Water Research Center

      Abstract: Model My Watershed is a web-based application that uses real data and a professional-grade model that allows students to model hydrology in their neighborhoods. This application is available for SE Pennsylvania and Northern Delaware, with plans to expand nation wide.

      Description: The Model My Watershed project, funded by the National Science Foundation, is an online, place-based modeling tool that uses a professional-grade hydrologic model and authentic data to allow students to model runoff in their neighborhoods and their watersheds. It allows users to delineate the boundaries of their watershed; gauge the influence of environmental conditions on local hydrology; and, examine the impacts of landscape alterations to the local water balance. In addition to predicting the impact of watershed alterations such as urban/suburban development, Model My Watershed also permits users to calculate the benefits of implementing of Best Management Practices (e.g. rain gardens, porous pavement etc.) on existing sites. Model results are based on a geospatial platform that uses elevation, land cover and other GIS data to calculate watershed metrics such as slope, soil texture. It also includes other graphic data such as school districts, congressional districts and environmental justice areas.

      To enhance the effectiveness of the application, we have developed scenarios, based on real issues in locations throughout the study area, that model the complexity inherent in addressing environmental problems. These scenarios ask students to consider not only environmental impacts, but also social and economic factors when designing solutions. The application is available for Southeastern Pennsylvania and Northern Delaware with plans to expand it nationwide.

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