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2019 Education Share Fair Roundtable

For information on sessions, please click on the links below.

Keynote Speakers  Field Trips
Short Presentations  Networking Sessions
Hands-on Workshops  Education Share Fair Roundtables

Information for presenters

What is the Education Share Fair Roundtable?

The Education Share Fair will be a central event of the Life Discovery – Doing Science Education conference!

We know there is a lot of wisdom among our participants!!  The Education Share Fair is designed for educators to share teaching ideas and resources at any stage of development to receive peer feedback.

Participants will have the opportunity to provide peer feedback on fresh, preliminary ideas or discover extensions on successful, developed ones.  Presentations may highlight ideas for lessons and curriculum design, modern technologies and new applications of traditional techniques; creative tools or classroom space design!  Discussions can cover issues related but not restricted to core concepts, teaching methodology, misconceptions, assessments or educational extensions.

Each presentation will be at a roundtable with up to 7-9 other participants.    All presenters are strongly encouraged to incorporate feedback and publish teaching ideas and classroom-ready scientific resources such as photo collections, figures and charts, case studies, simulations, and datasets etc.  in the LifeDiscoveryEd Digital Library as a record of conference proceedings. Submissions will be peer-reviewed.

At the time of arrival at the conference, you will select to join a presentation from Round A and Round B.  Each table is limited to 10 persons (including the presenter).

Roundtable Discussion Descriptions

Saturday March 23, 2019  2:15 PM

Room: Century A


Table  #A1

How to use IFAT cards to increase Accountability, Feedback, and Participation, during testing?

Herbert Maysonet, Gause Academy of Leadership

Topic: Assessment

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across time, Applicable to any lesson

Audiences: Grades 9-12

Abstract: The purpose of this roundtable is to help teachers use IF-AT tool that help teacher engage their students during testing, gives immediate feedback, and gives credit for students’ prior knowledge.

Description: The IF-AT stands for Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique.  It is a new exciting way to test your students using a traditional multiple-choice testing.  This types of testing are turned into an interactive learning opportunity for students and a more informative assessment opportunity for teachers.

The IF-AT uses your multiple choice test with an answer card with that has a thin opaque film covering the correct choices. Instead of using bubble form, students scratch off their answers much like scratching a lottery ticket.

There are many benefits in using IF-AT.  It provides immediate feedback that permits the depth of knowledge and retention of the subject being tested.  This new tool allows students to walk out from a test knowing the correct answers to all the questions.  Research demonstrates that there improved learning and retention using this tool.   This is a more accurate assessment tool, because it gives partial credit for the ability to discern the two closest answers.  This tool allows students to learn from their mistakes, and makes them own their learning.  IF-AT is engaging and fun.  It has been proven to reduce test anxiety.

I plan to demonstrate how this tool works during our 5th Life Discovery Doing Science Education conference from March 22-23, 2019 in Gainesville, FL.


Table  #A2

Is there a Misnomer in the Mutually Exclusive Evolution Theory and Creationism Theory?

Dr. Damaris-Lois Y Lang, Hostos Community College

Topic: Evolution in Action

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across time

Audiences: Grades 9-12, Undergraduate: Lower Division, Undergraduate: Upper Division, Educators

Abstract: There is controversy regarding evolution and creationism as a “science.” The scientifically accepted Darwinian evolution has been mislabeled with the understanding of the Lamarckian evolution theory instead. Term “common ancestor” of the phylogeny tree may influence this misconception.



Teaching the Theory of Evolution as a Natural Science Concept and Not Social Science

Learning objectives:

  • What is Biology
  • What is a Scientific Theory
  • The Evolutionary Theories
  • The Scientifically Accepted Evolution Theory
  • Is Evolution a Natural Science or Social Science Concept?
  • Is Creationism a Natural Science or Social Science Concept?

Concepts participants will gain:

  • Understand the differences between Natural Science and Social Science
  • Understand the Concept of Evolution as a Natural Science Concept
  • Understand the Concept of Creationism as a Social Science Concept
  • Understand the boundaries of Biology as the study of life
  • Identify the Scientifically Accepted Evolution Theory
  • Understanding the Common ancestor concept

URLs of resource:,


Table  #A3

Evolution of Plants from Aquatic to Terrestrial Habitats: Visualizing Adaptation Patterns across Space

Janel Ortiz, University of San Diego

Topic: Ecology and Earth Systems Dynamics, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Evolution in Action

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across time, Evolution and Biodiversity across space

Audiences: Undergraduate: Lower Division

Abstract: Hands-on activity for undergraduates in a lower division introductory biology course that allows them to explore the spatial patterns of plant adaptations. Using GPS and Google Earth, students characterize and map traits indicative of plant evolution from aquatic to terrestrial habitats.

Description: In this lesson aimed for undergraduate, lower division students in an introductory biology course titled Genomes and Evolution, I created an activity to complement a field lab taking place in a nearby canyon where students explore plant adaptations as plants evolved from aquatic to terrestrial habitats. Prior to the lab, students will be provided background information on canyon plant communities and are asked to propose their own hypotheses of expected plant adaptation trends across the canyon. The major plant adaptations to be identified by students will be those of plants that need an aquatic and/or terrestrial habitat to survive, moving from algae that are restricted to water to flowering plants that vary in structure based upon their resource utilization, habitat, and other factors. During the lab, data will be gathered by student groups on plant adaptations such as water required for fertilization, vascular tissue, and true leaves by using transect and Daubenmire frame surveys. As a take-home assignment, students will map out the class data using Google Earth and explore how adaptation patterns change as you move across the riparian area, canyon bottom, and up the North- and South-facing slopes. Students will use their maps to support or refute their hypotheses. Students will get exposure to using GPS technologies to gather geographic locations and practice cartography skills through their use of Google Earth.


Table  #A4

Exploring Bumblebee Watch for building biodiversity awareness and citizen science modules

Karin Gastreich, Avila University

Topic: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across space

Audiences: Grades 9-12, Undergraduate: Lower Division

Abstract: A variety of biodiversity-related citizen science projects have become available that provide technological tools and resources for learning about biodiversity while contributing to large-scale databases. This roundtable will focus on applications of Bumblebee Watch and invites discussion of similar platforms.

Description: The rise of biodiversity-related citizen science projects gives us the opportunity to not only teach about the importance of biodiversity, but to involve students directly in generating data that can contribute to biodiversity conservation. In this roundtable, I will share ideas for building course-based research experiences using the platform provided by Bumblebee Watch. Bumblebee Watch ( is a collaborative effort to track and conserve North America’s bumblebees. Individuals who participate in Bumblebee Watch can upload their own photos to build a virtual bumblebee collection. Tools are provided by Bumblebee Watch to identify bees, and all identifications are verified by experts. Submitted data helps researchers determine the status and conservation needs of bumblebees, of which several species are in decline across North America. The platform also serves as a social network, connecting participants to other citizen scientists. Currently, I am piloting a Bumblebee Watch module in an introductory environmental science course that is open to all majors and forms part of the core curriculum at Avila University. Objectives of the module include (1) introducing students to different types of biodiversity as well as the biological, economic, and ethical value of biodiversity; (2) using technology, natural history, and field-based skills to contribute to conservation; and (3) inspiring long-term interest in citizen science. Bumblebees appeal to students because they are charismatic organisms that are commonly seen and serve important ecological roles. They also face a variety of threats. Tools and protocols developed by Bumblebee Watch have made studying and identifying these insects very accessible to students. This module is a work in progress, so the final verdict on functionality is still out, but I look forward to sharing my experiences and hearing from other educators who have used similar tools and platforms.


Table  #A5

Using Open Tree of Life and CUREs to Teach Biodiversity in an Introductory Biology Laboratory

Sarah Wofford, Jacksonville State University

Topic: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across space

Audiences: Undergraduate: Lower Division

Abstract: This resource outlines our plans to implement the Open Tree of Life as a tool for course-based undergraduate research experiences in an introductory biology course on the diversity of life. We aim to introduce inquiry-based methods to majors and non-majors.

Description: I will present a plan to implement course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) in an introductory laboratory. Our goal is (1) to introduce students with little to no scientific background to the process of scientific inquiry, (2) to better integrate the classroom and laboratory experience, and (3) to recruit and retain biology majors. Our focus is on the second course in this series: diversity of life. We will use the Open Tree of Life ( as a resource in the classroom and laboratory to address the evolutionary basis of biodiversity. The laboratory component will focus specifically on using Open Tree of Life as a tool to answer student-led questions about the biodiversity of our home state. The laboratory will occur in 3 phases: (1) lab activities that promote understanding of phylogeny, the use of genetic sequence data to build trees, and using Open Tree of Life; (2) student groups develop questions relevant to understanding Alabama’s organismal diversity, how it differs across physiographic and biogeographic regions (, and the use of Open Tree of Life to answer these questions; (3) write a scientific article and prepare a poster to present their work. Student learning outcomes include: (1) use current literature and bioinformatics tools to gather evidence needed to address a student-generated question about biodiversity; (2) ethically collect, analyze, and interpret data; (3) effectively communicate scientific findings in visual, oral, and written formats. We will use sequence data collected from collaborators within and beyond the university. Pending budget approval for the course, we hope to also involve students in the sequencing process (i.e. organism collection, DNA extraction). Students will utilize tools such as GenBank ( and BLAST ( to infer evolutionary relationships and build their own phylogenetic trees. This information will be used for them to contribute to the Open Tree of Life.


Table  #A6

Undergraduate lab module investigating how hurricanes affect Florida’s bird biodiversity using iNaturalist data

Tanja Zerulla, Florida International University

Topic: Ecology and Earth Systems Dynamics

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across time

Audiences: Undergraduate: Upper Division

Abstract: Lab module of authentic research for biology undergraduate majors. Students investigate whether and how biodiversity changes over time with hurricanes, a natural disturbance that occurs in Florida, using bird data from iNaturalist.

Description: Undergraduate biology majors in Florida International University’s (FIU) ecology lab perform experiments relating to different ecological themes, quantitatively analyze these data using R (open source statistical software), and interpret their results in the context of scientific literature. This lab module introduces students to ecological sampling techniques and biodiversity. Students are assigned a brief reading on biodiversity before lab, which is reviewed at the beginning of lab. After review, students divide into small groups and head outside. Each group uses four different sampling techniques (quadrat, strip-census, line-transect, and belt transect) and enters their sampled plant species data into iNaturalist (, an online biodiversity database. Students then discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each technique. Afterwards, we review species-area curves, sampling effort curves, and quantitative methods of measuring biodiversity (Simpson’s Index, Shannon-Weiner index). Using an example dataset of fish biodiversity in a pond before and after a sewage rupture, students build curves and calculate diversity indices as an in-class exercise. Following the practice, students discuss the assignment’s research question: Do hurricanes affect bird biodiversity in Florida? They work in groups to create hypotheses and predictions. Each student is then assigned a place (county) and time (before, during, and after a hurricane) to export bird observation data (species name and number of observations per species) from iNaturalist. The teaching assistant then compiles a class dataset from these files. In a take-home assignment, students write statistical hypotheses, create sampling effort curves, calculate biodiversity, identify trends in biodiversity over time, and interpret why biodiversity did or did not change in the context of how natural disturbances affect populations, communities, and ecosystems. In the roundtable, I will present the group exercise that introduces the research question, discuss and demonstrate how students access iNaturalist data, and discuss the take-home assignment.


Table  #A7

Tree Tender Curriculum Bundle

Allison Bordini , University of Florida

Topic:Ecology and Earth Systems Dynamics, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Structure and Function ,Evolution- Evidence of Common Ancestry and Diversity, Human Impacts

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across time, Anthropogenic Extinction, Ecosystem Collapse

Audiences: Grades K-12, Undergraduate: Lower and Upper Division

After watching the film Tree Tender, students will learn more about the connection between organisms on the Tree of Life and Anthropogenic Extinction through five activities, including group projects, class discussions, and games involving active movement to further understanding.

Description: After watching the short film Tree Tender (, educators will use this bundle of five activities to help students of all ages better understand the major concepts from the film: that all organisms are related and share a common ancestor, and that humans are causing a mass extinction. The Guided Film Discussion and the Socratic Seminar allow students to debate amongst their peers while also collaborating on how they can become Tree Tenders in their daily lives. Team Tree Tender (6-16) has groups of 3-4 students reporting on an ecosystem service, highlighting how we benefit, how we’ve affected it, and how we can help restore it, reporting any relevant current events. This allows students an opportunity to practice presentation skills and researching credible sources. The final activity, Go Extinct!, is a three-part game for all ages. Students will explore how organisms are related, share a common ancestor, and are affected by our actions. Students will represent a given organism for the entirety of the game, ordering themselves as a class by biological classification and morphological characteristic and discuss the presence of a common ancestor. They will then play through an Anthropocene Extinction Simulation, where extinction events happen in each of the four ecosystems represented. With the help of a Tree Tender, the students will have three chances to save species from these real events using solutions they come up with as a class. All materials assist in increasing critical thinking and communication skills while connecting current events, events from the film, and scientific knowledge. They follow many Next Generation Science Standards and the Vision and Change Standards for Higher Education and use many pedagogy, such as Open-Ended Instruction, Differentiated Instruction through Active Learning, Co-operative Learning, Inquiry Learning, Experiential Learning, Integrated Learning, and Peer Teaching.


Table  #A8

Plotting Plants and Pollinators

Jessamine Finch, Chicago Botanic Garden

Topic: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Structure and Function, Human Dimensions

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across time

Audiences: Citizen Science, all ages, 4-8

Abstract: This activity is in the early stages of its development, with the goal of meaningfully engaging elementary and middle school students with their own plant and pollinator data collected as part of the Budburst Nativars citizen science project (

Description: The “Plotting Plants and Pollinators” activity is currently under development and will be included in a curriculum to support school implementation of the Budburst Nativars project ( Partner schools of the Budburst Nativars project have a research garden on-site where they will carry out weekly pollinator observations on native wildflowers and cultivated varieties (cultivars) or wildflowers, to compare pollinator support. The research goal of this project is to answer the question: Do pollinators prefer cultivars of native plants species (nativars) or true native plants?

This data activity seeks to empower learners to visualize the data they collected at their research garden, draw conclusions from the visualizations, and pose future research questions based on data visualizations. The general concept for the activity is that the class breaks up the larger analysis into smaller investigations, works in small groups to visualize their part of the analysis, and then the groups present their findings to their peers. The class then works together to organize the different aspects of the analysis into a single story. Equipped with the class analysis, learners then individually address the original research question and pose questions for future investigations in a written reflection.


Table  #A9

Diversity of Microbes Producing Probiotic and Antibiotic Factors in the Soils of Northern Indiana

George Twaddle, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana – South Bend / Elkhart Campus

Audiences: Undergraduate: Lower Division, Undergraduate: Upper Division

Abstract: In running a version of the Yale’s “Small World Initiative” (now “Tiny Earth” from UW-Madison) as part of a course undergraduate research experience (CURE), the students isolated soil microbes that produced a zone of inhibition to S. aureus.

Description: In running a version of the Yale’s “Small World Initiative” (now “Tiny Earth” from UW-Madison) as part of a course undergraduate research experience (CURE), the students isolated soil microbes that produced a zone of inhibition to S. aureus.  The effect of conditioned media produced by the unknown soil bacteria were subsequently tested for their effects on the growth of S. aureusand additional bacteria.  The students discovered differential effects of unknown soil bacteria on the growth of S. aureus, and additionally E. coli at 8 hrs. .  However the same conditioned media clearly growth-promoting to P. putida.

We thought we could extend this work into a semester long CURE where-in soil microbes were isolated for growth inhibition of S. aureusand screened against a panel of soil microbes to screen for differential effects.  The unknown soil microbes could be classified by conventional microbiology techniques and identified by 16S-rRNA gene sequencing.  The student could then produce a phylogenetic tree with the 16S-rRNA sequences and look for the association of antibiotic-like and probiotic-like factors with bacteria genus to identify types of bacteria in the soil which are in symbiosis or direct competition for nutrients.


Table  #B1

Exploring Connections Youth Workshop Series: personalizing the global carbon cycle

Denise Piechnik, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford

Topic: Ecology and Earth Systems Dynamics, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Thematic Tracks: Ecosystems; global systems

Audiences: Middle School, Grades 9-12, Undergraduate: Lower Division

Abstract: This global carbon cycle workshop explores human-environment connections by engaging students in a riparian restoration project in the field. Participants also use STEM technology to measure CO2 levels in living systems, and discuss how humans influence the carbon cycle.

Description: We are planning a workshop series called “Exploring Connections Youth Workshop” for middle and high school students to engage in concepts of human-environmental interactions, such as the global carbon cycle in this first workshop of the series. We will combine field and laboratory exercises to provide different forms of activity-based learning that students might not encounter in their standard curriculum. The global carbon cycle workshop will begin in the field with students planting willow stakes to restore a riparian buffer, while also increasing carbon sequestration in a local ecosystem. This service-based activity provides an opportunity to learn the value of riparian buffers within local ecosystems, and how some climate change impacts can be addressed locally through habitat restoration and planting. Next, students will design and perform laboratory experiments with live material to examine carbon dioxide concentrations during photosynthesis and cellular respiration using STEM instrumentation (Arduino + CO2 sensors, and Vernier dataloggers + CO2 sensors). After discussing their experimental results the global carbon cycle will be introduced, followed by a brainstorming activity where students explore carbon-related connections between natural and human disturbances. Students will record their ideas on sticky-notes and organize them on a large poster depicting the global carbon cycle. Finally, the students will organize, discuss, and refine their ideas to develop a more thorough understanding of the global carbon cycle, and how habitat restoration is just one action to help offset climate change.


Table  #B2

Exploring the Evolution of Primates

Sarah Schlussel, Montverde Academy

Topic: Evolution in Action

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across time

Audiences: Grades 9-12, Undergraduate: Lower Division

Abstract: This lesson, intended for AP Biology students, uses a website database of primate skeletal images to teach taxonomy and evolutionary relationships. After making directed observations, students identify key features, determine relatedness, and build their own taxonomic trees.

Description: This lesson is intended for my AP Biology class. This is a college-level class taught at the high school. The purpose of this lesson is for students to learn to identify characteristics that differ between different species and to use those differences to determine relatedness, and ultimately to build a mini-taxonomic tree from their own observations. My objective is for the students to understand how taxonomic trees are constructed, their purpose, and how they show evolutionary relationships. Students will use the website ( to systematically view representative skeletons of prosimians, new world monkeys, old world monkeys, apes, and humans. This website contains a database of high-resolution images of primate skeletons. They will be directed to observe key features that distinguish these primate groups from one another. Once they complete their observations, they will be asked to identify features that show relatedness and determine phylogeny from their observations. Finally, students will be asked to build a taxonomic tree using their own observations.

This lesson is in the very beginning stages of planning, but I intend to finish and try it with my students before the conference if I am able. I found this website last year and I have used it with my Forensic Science classes to identify features of the human skeleton. I recently thought it might be useful to help students learn a little about primate evolution and taxonomy.


Table  #B3

Deforestation and Dengue Fever: A Disease Ecology Case Study

Caroline DeVan, New Jersey Institute of Technology

Topic: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Human dimensions

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across scale

Audiences: Undergraduate: Lower Division

Abstract: This case study explores a potential relationship between dengue fever and urbanization.  Introductory level students utilize their understanding of community ecology and island biogeography to elucidate potential mechanisms driving an outbreak of dengue fever.

Description: Recent studies have found that as deforestation increases so too do zoonotic diseases, like dengue fever.  This case study explores a potential relationship between dengue fever and urbanization.  Introductory level students utilize their understanding of community ecology and island biogeography to elucidate potential mechanisms driving an outbreak of dengue fever. This case study is intended to be worked on in groups with students testing out ideas and analyzing data. It begins with background information on dengue fever and students developing hypotheses of what could be driving an outbreak.  Then students analyze population and community-level ecological data to then develop potential interventions that could reduce this outbreak or prevent future outbreaks.  The learning objective addressed in the case study is: Utilize concepts of ecology to understand spatio-temporal patterns of disease. This case study is geared towards an introductory biology or ecology class and can either be done in parts throughout a semester or as a daily lesson.  The materials required are handouts (e.g., worksheets, data in the form of figures) and a means to project data (e.g., powerpoint slides).


Table  #B4

Genetic Variation to allow for Evolution

Sara-Alyse Nelson, Henrico High School

Topic: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across time

Audiences: Grades 9-12

Abstract: This concept development lesson is designed to allow students to assess given information in the form of “clue cards” that offer examples of various modes of genetic variation that allow for speciation and evolution. The students group the cards and develop their own definition of genetic variation before further developing the concept.

Description: This is a lesson on genetic variation in the midst of a unit on Genetics and Inheritance. The concept development model has been utilized to teach this lesson to a 9th/10th grade Honors Biology class, but differentiation to any level of student is possible using this technique. This lesson will be the vessel for transitioning the students from the larger genetic concepts to the specific structures and processes that underlie the observable characteristics and patterns they have been exposed to thus far. The previous lessons that are the foundation teaching the concepts of genetic diversity have given the students exposure to the nature of science, patterns, theories, laws, and terminology that characterize the unit content. The utilization of the concept development model will enable students to connect the previously taught separate lessons and gain a more in depth understanding of the significance of genetic variation and the significance of variation in the development of an evolved population. This lesson will be a transitional activity to provide an instructional bridge from the content of the previous lessons in the unit to a review of the previously taught concept of Meiosis from the prior Cell unit that provides a structural framework for the following lessons on DNA and genetic technology.  By allowing students to construct their understanding of the concept of genetic variation they will be able to observe the culmination of the scientific investigations, laws, and theories with patterns of inheritance and genetic changes in populations.  This lesson is critical because the depth of understanding concerning genetic variation from this lesson will be the foundation for the following unit on evolution, as it relates to adaptations and genetic variation. Therefore, the structure of the content for the course will allow students to develop an understanding of the cell, their components, and processes in the previous cell unit, which they will build on as they integrate inheritance and genetic into the content to apply to organism functionality and reproduction that will be essential for their understanding of patterns in populations for the unit on ecology and changes in populations over time for the unit on evolution. Students will need an understanding of the concept of genetic variation in order to ascertain knowledge about the following lessons and units, but also in order to understand the variables of genetic variation that can impact our species and all others and how those variables are applied to understand similarities and differences within and amongst species.  Students use the cards with the concepts given and group them to develop the concepts of variation independently and in an authentic way. The clues represent how variations occur in traits and how these variations can lead to evolution. Students are given the opportunity to examine the concepts and create categories to derive the means by which variation contributes to evolution.


Table  #B5

Use of NEON Data in the Botany Classroom

Tara Holmberg, Northwestern Connecticut Community College

Topic: Ecology and Earth Systems Dynamics

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across scale

Audiences: Grades 9-12, Undergraduate: Lower Division, Undergraduate: Upper Division

Abstract: Data rich lab module for an introductory, mixed majors and non-majors, course using National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) data.

Description: This resource utilizes the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN), to generate guiding questions, investigations, and analysis for students in an introductory, mixed majors and non-majors botany course. Plant-based ecology data can be a challenge to gather and utilize on a scale that lends itself to large longitudinal and spatial studies in the undergraduate lab. Both NEON and EREN are rich in methodology and population information, allowing students a hands-on experience and ability to work with large-scale datasets across the US. Students will use the data to analyze trends in biodiversity, plant productivity, carbon flux, soil composition, and phenology.

The lab materials and datasets are being compiled and designed through the spring 2019 QUBES/NEON Faculty Mentoring Network and are anticipated to be piloted in this spring’s general botany course in northwestern Connecticut over several weeks. Our ecology courses have participated in the EREN project for the past two years, collecting data on a temperate mixed forest. Keeping this past work in mind, this resource is being developed so that it can be scaled and adapted to any organismal, ecology, biodiversity, or environmental science course.

The National Ecological Observatory Network is a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation and operated under cooperative agreement by Battelle Memorial Institute. The material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the NEON Program.


Table  #B6

Vegetation comparisons via virtual sampling using the Everglades R-EMAP data retrieval

Suzanne Koptur, Florida International University

Patricia Houle,  Florida International University

Topic: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across space

Audiences: Grades 9-12, Undergraduate: Lower Division, Undergraduate: Upper Division

Abstract: A virtual field experience can be found using the Everglades Regional Environmental Monitoring Assessment Program (R-EMAP) vegetation data from 2005, available online at Students can see the plants and environmental variables at each site, make species presence/absence charts, and compare species richness and diversity.

Description: Plant communities around the world vary due to climate and geologic history, and though the southern part of Florida seems to many a flat expanse of sameness, at a finer scale the plants vary substantially, and may serve as indicators of environmental conditions.  Though Ecology is a required course for the Biology degree at FIU, most students do not choose to take the lab, so miss out on not only being outside in the field, but gathering their own data to answer questions and test hypotheses.  To allow these Miami students the virtual field experience, I use the Everglades Regional Environmental Monitoring Assessment Program (R-EMAP) vegetation data from 2005, available online at and have them get to know a little bit about the sampling protocol, how many sites were sampled, and what data was collected at each.  We talk about the position of the Everglades and the flow of freshwater down the state from Lake Okeechobee, and how water depth and salinity may be important factors influencing the flora at each site.  I have each group of students choose six sites, spread out from west to east, and north to south. At each sampling point, they can use any and all of the data to compare and contrast the plants occurring at each site.  They can make species presence/absence charts, and compare the species richness and diversity.  We anticipate the next sampling data will be online soon, and then the same sites can be compared over time. Colleagues in Earth and Environment at FIU have used these resources in their Ecology of South Florida course, taught also online; that course even has a virtual lab, where videos take students on field trips to many south Florida habitats. I plan to also use this resource in our new online Ecology.


Table  #B7

Primary Literature in the Flipped Classroom

Erika Catanese, Pasadena City College

Topic: Ecology and Earth Systems Dynamics, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across scale

Audiences: Undergraduate: Lower Division

Abstract: By the end of the lesson, all students have been exposed to 5-6 current research papers that are relevant to the current topics being taught in the classroom.

Description: In this undergraduate introductory course, students are not required to purchase a textbook but are instead instructed to read various Primary Literature Research Articles predetermined by the instructor (me).

Day 1 of the semester: Students are taught various metacognitive practices to increase their motivation for a flipped classroom experience. They are taught how to annotate (i.e. “talk to the text” [Reading Apprentice Pedagogy]) articles, both Primary and Secondary resources.

The Assignment: To create a diverse level of instruction, information and levels of complexity, I choose at least 5-6 different relevant articles for the subject matter of the week. In the beginning, prior to my understanding my students reading and comprehension skills, the articles are randomly assigned. This divides the class into 5-6 smaller groups, each of which are to become the “experts” of their assigned research article. We start with just Abstracts for the first assignment, but then graduate to the majority of research articles, i.e. Title, Abstract, Introduction, Discussion/Conclusion, and interpreting at least one graphic from the article.

The following rubric is for grading their annotations:

Students independently Talk to the Text for homework, then bring the annotated piece to class to discuss with their peers that received the same article as them. Every week, the groups are different and this leads to diversity among groups, integration of community and the potential for more group leaders rather than the same persons taking over. These groups meet for 15-20 (usually) minutes to discuss the research and receive assistance/guidance from me as needed.

As students feel they have come to agree on the interpretation of the research article, they develop a short presentation that is to include the following: Bulleted points of the research (to include the hypothesis, sample size, p-values & conclusion), a graph or table and a cartoon that helps to create imagery for students who are more visual learners.

Once groups are ready to present, all groups spread around the classroom whiteboards which are divided into 5-6 spaces. All groups are writing their lessons on the board and when the writing is complete, volunteer groups present first. The lesson is to be around 5 minutes. All students take notes and there are questions and answers.

By the end of the lesson, all students have been exposed to 5-6 current research papers that are relevant to the current topics being taught in the classroom.


Table  #B8

Byte-Sized Bioinformatics for Schools

Thomas Meagher, University of St Andrews

Topic: Evolution in Action, Human Dimension

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across time

Audiences: Grades 9-12, Undergraduate: Lower Division

Abstract: A major challenge in STEM education is introduction of computation for informatics analysis. Analysis of complex ‘big’ data is relevant to understanding of biodiversity. Our teaching materials use online bioinformatics and direct line-coding ( to explore DNA sequence variation.

Description: A major challenge in STEM education is the introduction of computational skills for analysis at an informatics level. Analysis of complex data, including DNA sequence data, characterizes much of modern biological application, and it is particularly relevant to understanding of biodiversity.

We have developed teaching materials that provide exercises for use of online bioinformatics resources as well as direct use of line-coding ( These materials explore DNA sequences in order to identify gene functionality and evolution in relation to environmental background and selection. The main exercise explores the evolution of genes underlying vitamin C synthesis, a function that has been lost in humans but that is still extant in many animal lineages.

Key concepts developed and explored in these exercises include: DNA structure, mutations, adaptation, and evolutionary diversity. Key skills developed and explored in these exercises include: application of online bioinformatics resources, computer coding, and data analysis. Our overall objective is to demystify computer applications to complex biological data and to make these methods of analysis accessible to secondary students as they prepare for further education.

Bioinformatics is a currently highlighted topic in the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence, but at secondary level teaching typically does not include a practical component. We deliver free bioinformatics workshops for Higher Biology, Higher Human Biology and Advanced Higher Biology (students aged 15-18). Teachers are encouraged to participate in delivery of the workshop to the extent they are comfortable. And we leave teachers with materials to incorporate in their own teaching. Since 2016, we have reached 137 Scottish schools, covering all 32 local authorities in Scotland.
These materials were developed to meet the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence, which is in turn closely aligned with over-arching objectives of STEM education. It is our expectation that they are readily transferable to other education frameworks for secondary education.


Table  #B9

Connecting Students to Citizen Science and Curated Collections

Anna Monfils, Central Michigan University

Deb Linton, Central Michigan University

Topic: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Thematic Tracks: Evolution and Biodiversity across time, Evolution and Biodiversity across scale, Evolution and Biodiversity across space

Audiences: Undergraduate: Lower Division, Undergraduate: Upper Division

Abstract: This educational module utilizes the traditional plant collection experience to engage students with biodiversity data and emerging resources available in our information-rich digital age, including online citizen science initiatives and herbarium databases.

Description: College-level plant diversity courses often involve a collection project, which is designed to help students learn to correctly identify, document, and preserve specimens for scientific study. Such courses are an opportunity to teach biodiversity data literacy and to expose students to resources available in our information-rich digital age, including online citizen science initiatives and herbarium databases. We will provide information on a project curriculum and associated website ( designed to enhance traditional collection projects and which can easily be incorporated into any plant diversity course. This curriculum integrates traditional taxonomic practices, ongoing citizen science initiatives, and digital-age curatorial skills, with the goal of increasing students’ familiarity with 21st century biodiversity data, in addition to producing archival-quality, research-ready plant observations and collections that will become part of our national biodiversity archive.