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Hands-on Workshops

View the Conference Schedule at a Glance here

In addition to the 8 workshops being offered during the conference, we are also holding a pre-conference workshop on Thursday March 17, 2016 . This will be a 1 -1/2 hour introduction to diversity mentoring  There is a $15 fee for the pre-conference workshop.

Preconference Workshop

Thursday, March 17, 2016 4:00 pm – 5:30 PM  90 min (additional $15 fee) | Deck C

PW1 Enhancing Culturally Relevant Mentoring

Teresa Mourad and Fred Abbott-Torres, Ecological Society of America

Intended Audience: Undergraduate

The challenge of retaining underrepresented minority students in science has been well-documented. Based on research on engaging racially and ethnically diverse students and the success of ESA’s Presidential award-winning Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) program, this workshop provides an opportunity for instructors, program leaders and other professionals to enhance their cultural awareness and expand their capacity for cultural competency in a non-judgmental environment. Cultural competency is the ability to “understand, communicate, operate, and provide effective services to people of another given culture”. The mission of SEEDS is to diversify and advance the ecology profession through opportunities that stimulate and nurture the interest of underrepresented students to participate, and to lead in ecology.

The objectives of the workshop are:

  • To assess and enhance personal cultural awareness
  • To identify the essentials for designing an atmosphere of interaction and learning that welcomes diversity
  • To develop a community of mentors supporting each other in gaining cultural competency


Conference Workshops

Friday, March 18, 2016 1:15-2:45 PM 90 min -Deck A

W1) Nature’s Notebook Workshop: A modern spin on an age-old process designed to understand changes in nature

LoriAnne Barnett, University of Arizona

Conference Track: Connect learning to current events

Intended Audience: Grades 9-12, Undergraduate: Lower Division

Looking for ways to integrate life, earth, and space sciences with simple outdoor activities and technology? Phenology observation through the Nature’s Notebook professional and citizen science program is the answer!

This hands-on workshop demonstrates how easy it is to implement an NGSS-aligned, long-term phenology monitoring program in the classroom. Phenology, or the study of recurring life cycle events in plants and animals and their relationship to the environment, is a fabulous way to visually demonstrate potential impacts of a changing climate on familiar species. By making repeated, detailed observations in nature, students experience the impact of seasonal change (weather) on plants and animals and learn the scientific method. Predictions and hypotheses can be made based upon what they observe, related to long term impacts on sensitive environments.

In this workshop you will learn about the history behind keeping phenological records through time, and how records kept by our favorite naturalists and scientists from 100-200+ years ago provide clues to how our environment may be changing. While the process of recording observations in nature is not revolutionary, modern technology allows us to easily track such observations with the use of a national database and mobile applications, appealing to students of all ages. Your class observations submitted to Nature’s Notebook help scientists and land managers make real-world, research-based decisions.

Your students can be part of the process designed to help us understand how our planet’s species are responding to change, a current concerning topic. Nature’s Notebook can help you connect to other educators in your community, connect your classroom to others, provide opportunities to interface with scientists, and help you visualize and analyze data you’ve entered with your students. After this workshop you will have the skills you need to participate in your own technologically savvy monitoring program in the classroom.


Friday, March 18, 2016 1:15-2:45 PM 90 min – Deck B

W2) Buildings, Rivers, & Roads: Environmental Barriers to Quail Movement

Janel Ortiz, Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Conference Track: Connect to Careers in research and practice, Connect learning to current events, Connect learning across institutions and settings

Intended Audience: Grades 9-12, Undergraduate Lower Division

The Northern Bobwhite is an important game species and has declined due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Fragmentation can isolate populations preventing dispersal, affecting genetic diversity, and population structure. For this reason, conservationists use a variety of tools including GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to gather more information about the environment bobwhites require.

Participants will be given a brief introduction to bobwhite quail, wildlife barriers, and maps. In this activity, participants will: 1) define a wildlife barrier, 2) classify the habitat into land cover types, and 3) identify barriers restricting quail movement. The concept of this lesson is to introduce habitat fragmentation and its prevention of wildlife movement. Each component of the activity emphasizes active learning of fragmentation by using and making maps as a visual aid to identify fragments and measure habitat barriers that limit animal movement. Participants will be provided an aerial photo depicting a quail’s home range. Using a transparency, they will classify land cover types by color-coding different components of the landscape (using dry erase markers). Each participant will be given a worksheet to define, in their own words and in complete sentences, a wildlife barrier and corridor. Lastly, all participants will identify barriers in their habitat that they will explain, collaborate, and defend with a partner. Transparency sheets, aerial photos, and dry erase markers are the only materials instructors will need to implement the lesson in their classroom.

GIS is a versatile tool used by many different fields including wildlife biologists, city planners, water management, social scientists, and others that allows you to map the landscape, measure geographic features, map weather patterns, and a slew of other features. Teachers will become familiar with the basics of GIS and have the opportunity to broaden their experience with activity extensions by downloading a free version of GIS.


Friday, March 18, 2016 1:15-2:45 PM 90 min Deck C

W3) No soup for you: A hands-on shark fin DNA gel electrophoresis lab

Kerri Younkin, Towson University, Christina Romano, Towson University

Conference Track: Connect learning to current events

Intended Audience: Grades 9-12

Act like a wildlife forensic scientist to perform one of Towson University’s Center for STEM Excellence’s labs: Wildlife Forensics. This lab models a real wildlife forensic cases in which U.S. Customs officials must determine the species of confiscated shark fins in order to put the teeth in federal protection laws of endangered and protected species. Students test shark tissue samples confiscated by U.S. customs officials and suspected of being from protected great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias). Students learn about DNA extraction and PCR before performing DNA gel electrophoresis. They then visualize and analyze the resulting banding pattern on their agarose gel. Students are challenged to interpret and report their results, argue with the evidence and recognize the use of biotechnology in wildlife forensics.

Participants in this session will complete the lab by running DNA gel electrophoresis and interpreting the results, learning about shark finning and its impact on shark populations, and exploring Claim-Evidence-Reasoning charts to support students in arguing with evidence.

The Towson University’s Center for STEM Excellence provides outreach programs to Maryland’s K-12 schools. The Bioscience Education and Outreach Program team within the Center for STEM Excellence is committed to engaging, exciting, and educating Maryland’s students in science. To that end, we deliver a variety of programs independently and in collaboration with faculty, educators, government agencies, and industry partners. Two of our most long-standing and well-known programs are the SciTech student learning lab which is housed in the Columbus Center in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and the Maryland Loaner Lab program. Current program offerings and curricular resources can be found on our website (


Friday, March 18, 2016 1:00 -4:00 PM 3 hr. – Building 3 Classroom 2

W4) Data-based inquiry in the classroom using authentic research data from the Dryad Digital Repository

Arietta Fleming-Davies, QUBES; Radford University, Kristin Jenkins, BioQUEST

Conference Track: Connect to Careers in research and practice, Connect learning across institutions and settings

Intended Audience: Grades 9-12, Undergraduate: Lower Division, Undergraduate: Upper Division

While the benefits of using inquiry-based instruction in the classroom are well documented, there still remain significant challenges to the adoption of this type of curricula. A key issue is access to datasets that are amenable to student analysis. DryadLab (, an educational extension of the Dryad Digital Repository (, is working to address those challenges by developing inquiry based, data-driven learning modules for students at the secondary, undergraduate and graduate levels. The authors of recent research publications work together with educators to create materials that incorporate instructional practices demonstrated to improve student learning and promote a deeper understanding of core biological concepts as defined by the Vision and Change initiative, Next Generation Science Standards and AP biology standards.

DryadLab modules encourage students to focus on core competencies such as critical thinking and data analysis by promoting an active learning environment. Through the use of authentic ecological data sets, students develop an ability to analyze and represent data to solve a problem, understand the relationship between the data and the hypothesis, cope with missing data, recognize confounding factors, interpret ambiguous results, and come to better understand how scientific knowledge is constructed.

The workshop will walk participants through the use of a DryadLab curriculum module, demonstrating the many ways in which the module can be used and customized, based on individual class needs. The modules may be adapted to a wide range of levels, including basic statistics and graphing All DryadLab modules are Open Educational Resources, and instructors are encouraged to adapt the existing modules to their classrooms (visit to see how others have adapted these materials). The modules featured in this workshop will include “Survivorship in the Natural World, A Walk Through the Woods: Data Analysis of Structural Adaptations in Wood, and Staying Alive: Introduction to Extinction and Extinction Bias.


Saturday, March 19, 2016 2:00-3:30 PM 90 min – Deck A

W5) I was told there would be no math involved: Introducing students to quantitative biology

Gabriela Hamerlinck, QUBES

Conference Track: Connect to Careers in research and practice

Intended Audience: Grades 9-12, Undergraduate: Lower Division

Quantitative skills are among the core competencies for success in biology and thus have an important place in all bioscience curricula. However, the incorporation of quantitative skills into classrooms can be challenging as students are often underprepared and less than enthusiastic about quantitative approaches. The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium has a 29 year history of helping teachers incorporate quantitative skills in biology classrooms and our latest project, QUBES (, focuses on providing resources and evidence based pedagogical approaches to promote student success with quantitative skills in biology class. This workshop will focus on accessible resources to strengthen basic student skills such as visualizing data graphically and understanding rates of change in a biological system. The goal is to have students be able to use appropriate mathematical tools for better understanding of scientific phenomena. Participants will work with open resource materials (MathBench; DataNuggets designed to help students understand how to use mathematical tools in a biological context and engage in discussion of effective implementation of these resources in the classroom.


Saturday, March 19, 2016 2:00-3:30 PM 90 min – Deck B

W6) Mini-cover Boards as a Tool for Environmental Education and Scientific Investigation

Holly Travis, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Erin Janetski, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Conference Track: Connect to Careers in research and practice

Intended Audience: Grades 9-12, Undergraduate: Lower Division, Upper Division

Many ground dwelling species of wildlife (amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, insects and other arthropods) routinely seek cover during their resting hours. They often rest in natural hideaways such as underground burrows, rotting logs, or under the leaf litter. By systematically placing pieces of plywood or other materials in forested, grassy, or wetland habitats, these boards act as natural cover objects and attract animals that use them as hiding locations. Cover boards are an effective tool for determining information about the occurrence and abundance of certain animal species in a variety of microhabitats, and can also serve as a tool in educational programs related to the environment, wildlife, and ecology. The large boards used in research projects are impractical in most school, nature center, or community settings, so smaller pieces can be used. Mini-cover boards can be different kinds or colors of wood, pieces of plastic, Plexiglas, carpet, metal, flooring tiles, or any other material that comes in flat pieces and can be obtained in an appropriate size. Sets of mini-cover boards can be placed anywhere there is flat ground that can remain undisturbed for several weeks or longer. Location variables can include shade, sun, wet, dry, forest, garden, lawn, or different substrates such as grass, concrete, gravel, leaf litter, or bare dirt. Data on diversity, trophic levels, soil temperatures, and many other ecosystem features can be collected and analyzed by children and adults as a tool to introduce conservation and ecology concepts in almost any setting and with little expense. Workshop participants will work in small groups to complete a simulated mini-cover board activity. Methods for establishing mini-cover boards and ideas for activities will be developed and shared.

Saturday, March 19, 2016 1:00-4:00 PM 3 hrs – Deck C

W7) Statistics: Connecting a Tool of Science to Classroom and Lab Work

Paul Strode, Fairview High School; Ryan Reardon,  Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School 

Conference Track: Connect to Careers in research and practice

Intended Audience: Grades 9-12, Undergraduate: Lower Division

Connecting real-world application and implementation of statistics to our biology courses is fundamental in training the next generation of biologists and informed citizens in general. Indeed, the Next Generation Science Standards charge teachers to help students, by the end of grade 12, be able to “[a]pply concepts of statistics and probability to scientific and engineering questions…” In this hands-on workshop, participants will review some of the most common mathematical and statistical tools that connect generating data to making conclusions and learn how to implement them into their biology courses. Skill practice will include understanding the nature of data, distributions, sampling, and standard statistical tests. With facilitators on-hand, participants will work in small groups to practice analyzing real scientific data and learn how HHMI BioInteractive’s: free classroom-ready resources can help. This workshop is appropriate for college-level introductory biology courses, AP Biology, and IB Biology.


Saturday, March 19, 2016 2:00 -3:30 PM 90 min – Building 3 Classroom 2

W8) How To Use Tree Thinking To Teach Plant Diversity and Evolution

Phil Gibson, University of Oklahoma

Conference Track: Connect learning to current events

Intended Audience: Undergraduate: Lower Division

This workshop presents SSE’s Huxley Award-winning activities for using phylogenetic tree thinking to teach plant evolution and diversity to students from middle school to college levels. Two topics that often pose challenges to introductory biology students are evolution and botany. They enter introductory biology with numerous misconceptions about evolution and an unfortunate unfamiliarity with botany and plant diversity. To address these problems, this workshop will cover a sequence of inquiry-based activities that engage students in learning the methods to collect and analyze data for evolutionary studies in general, and plant evolution in particular. The workshop will primarily focus on a phylogenetic analysis laboratory activity that was awarded the 2015 T.H. Huxley Award by the Society for The Study of Evolution. In this activity, fresh and preserved specimens from major taxonomic groups of plants (i.e., green algae, bryophytes, seedless vascular plants, gymnosperms, monocots, and dicots) are organized into “unknown” groups at different stations in the laboratory. Students collect data from the plants at each station to construct a phylogeny by hand or using Mesquite phylogenetic analysis software. A video on tree thinking to “flip” the lab will also be presented. This plant phylogenetic analysis activity it is a central module my introductory biology curriculum that uses tree-thinking as an organizing framework. Through this activity, the learning objective is to not only help students learn the defining characteristics of major plant groups, but also develop skills to read trees, collect and analyze data, conduct phylogenetic analysis and, also help them better understand how biologists study evolution and evolutionary relationships. Several alternate versions of this activity suitable for students at different levels of experience will also be presented.