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2019-Networking Topics

Now Available – a product of the 4th Life Discovery – Doing Science education conference
Gibson, J. P. and T. Mourad. 2018. The growing importance of data literacy in life science education. American Journal of Botany 105(12): 1953–1956.

Networking Topics

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

One of the goals of the Life Discovery – Doing Science Education Conference is to facilitate networking during and beyond the conference. The Life Discovery partner societies are interested in building live and virtual learning communities! Learn more about the Networking discussions at the 2019 conference:

During the Conference

There will be two networking sessions.

The first session will be held on Friday at 10:30 am and the second on Saturday at 9:45 am. During these sessions, participants will be able to join one of the groups below. Each group will be led by a facilitator.  The goal of the first networking session is to prioritize key issues related to the topic and to generate some recommendations on action steps. In other words, what does the group want to work on over the next year and who else should be engaged?

For the second networking session, all participants will be able to hear and respond to the ideas generated on the other topics.

We hope this will lead to a more well-rounded set of recommendations and ideas.


After the conference

We will summarize the discussion and post the report online. We hope to take these reflections to online forums following the conference to build collegial support and exchange of ideas and information if there is sufficient interest.


N1) Defining Biodiversity Literacy Skills


Anna Monfils, Central Michigan University

The biodiversity sciences have experienced a rapid mobilization of data that has increased our capacity to investigate large-scale issues of critical importance in the 21st century (e.g., climate change and its impacts, zoonotic disease transmission, sustainable resource management, impacts of invasive species, and biodiversity loss). Several initiatives are underway to aggregate and mobilize these biodiversity, environmental, and ecological data resources (iDigBio, NEON, GBIF, iNaturalist, etc.). Therefore, the 21st century biodiversity scientist is required to be fluent in integrative fields spanning evolutionary biology, systematics, ecology, geology, and environmental science and possess the quantitative, computational, and data skills to conduct research using large and complex datasets. The volume and variety of data being generated, the increased accessibility of data for aggregation, the improved discoverability of data, and the increasingly collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of scientific research are driving the need for new skill sets to address scientific issues of critical national and global importance. To address the needs of the biodiversity research community and develop a data literate workforce and research community, we need to identify a set of core and transferrable biodiversity data literacy competencies as the first step towards developing strategies to help students acquire biodiversity data literacy skills as a part of the undergraduate biology curriculum. The goal of this session is to define and refine a list of biodiversity information and data skills required to be biodiversity literate.

  1. What is Biodiversity Literacy?
  2. What core content and skills are required to be biodiversity literate?
  3. What (if any) skills are unique to biodiversity literacy (vs. information literacy, data literacy, etc.)?


N2) Quantifying Alpha and Beta Biodiversity


Rich Kliman, Cedar Crest College, Society for the Study of Evolution

Phil Gibson, HHMI BioInteractive & the University of Oklahoma

When we discuss “biodiversity,” we often imply that biodiversity can be quantified.  However, like any simple index, numerical measures of biodiversity summarize overall patterns in ways that mask the details of community composition.  Thus, from the standpoint of quantitative literacy, we need to ensure that students understand what simple indices of biodiversity are actually measuring.  Ultimately, our goal is to help students develop deeper appreciation for variation in community structure over time, scale, and space.

  1. Why should students care that biodiversity can be quantified?
  2. How can we quantify alpha (within-community) and beta (among-communities) biodiversity in ways that are biologically informative and comprehensible to students?
  3. What are some ways — that we have used or could propose — to help students make sense of measured levels of alpha and beta biodiversity


N3) Vertical Teaming from NGSS Through Vision and Change: What is Possible?


Paul Strode, Fairview High School

Jennifer Doherty, University of Washington

Discussions in this networking topic will focus on the opportunities of using the NGSS as a tool to facilitate vertical teaming in K-12 Life Science Education. The potential is also there for the NGSS to provide a bridge to Vision and Change in Higher Ed Biology. However, few teachers, if any, are members of a K-16 vertical team.

  1. What are the challenges to vertical teaming and why isn’t it at the center of how we approach science (biology) education, especially at the local level?
  2. What topics are most easily met with vertical teaming?
  3. What examples are out there of what vertical teaming can look like among teachers at different levels of a student’s life science educational experience?


N4) Engaging Students through 3D Digitization Technologies


Maggie Paxson, Gainesville High School

3D digitization, scanning, and printing technologies are on the forefront of various engineering and medical applications, but are also of immense value to the K-12 science classroom.  Study subjects such as CT scanned preserved organisms, fossils, and other specimens can be digitally modeled and printed using affordable technology. Many of these models are already available (often for free) through museum and university databases, and provide a rich repository of printable manipulatives that can be used in science classrooms.  Often, the digitization of rare specimens makes them available to individuals who would never be able to use or see them.  The 3D printing of fossils alone, for example, can be extremely useful in studies of comparative anatomy, evolution, and change over time.

  1. How can physical manipulatives help students better grasp abstract science concepts?
  2. Where can I find 3D resources?
  3. What are some easy ways to use 3D printing and scanning in the classroom?
  4. What are some of the pitfalls or difficulties when employing 3D tech?
  5. On what scales can I use 3D technology? (I.e.—for demonstrations, labs, observations, etc.)
  6. Is 3D printing and scanning worth it, or is it just the next fad technology?


N5) Teaching Evolution through the Fossil Record


Jennifer Bauer, Florida Museum of Natural History

Andrew Martin, University of Colorado

The teaching of evolution has a long history of being controversial in the United States. Recent bills in several states allow the teaching of alternative theories in the classroom. Students often enter the classroom with a background of preconceived ideas or beliefs that can influence how they intake information which adds to the complexity and can make it more difficult to find productive ways to navigate the topic. The fossil record provides a rich and tangible path to explore evolution, morphology, and ecology. Many fossils are easily identifiable or have modern relatives that allow us to make direct inferences about how they would have lived long ago. These similarities and differences in shape and structure provide paleontologists with information to explore deep within the tree of life.

The purpose of this session is to discuss ways to incorporate the fossil record into your classroom.

  1. How do you address evolution in your classroom and is it met with resistance?
  2. Do you already incorporate fossils into your lessons on biodiversity?
  3. Can you envision new or different ways of including fossils into your classroom?
  4. What resources would you require to effectively include fossils into your curricula?


N6) Looking Forward: Emerging Trends in Environmental Biology Education


Catrina Adams, Botanical Society of America

The objectives of the 5th Life  Discovery – Doing Science Biology Education Conference  are to highlight evidence-based research for biology education, encourage the use of digital technological resources to build scientific literacy among students, provide a platform for sharing classroom teaching resources, foster communities and partnerships among scientists and educators, and inform educators about strategies for promoting careers in organismal and environmental biology.

  1. What are some emerging challenges you are facing while teaching biology?
  2. Are the scope and objectives still relevant to the current situation in biology education?
  3. What do you think is the most important to discuss with others regarding biology education? How can we improve the conference experience?
  4. Where could the next LDC be held (Fall 2020)?
  5. What theme should the next LDC focus on?


N7) Teleology and Evolution


Lisa White, University of California Museum of Paleontology

Using precise language is critical in writing and teaching about evolution. Because there are so many deep-seated misconceptions about how evolution works, it is helpful to avoid reinforcing those ideas with careful word choices. One potential pitfall in evolutionary content is teleology (from the Greek telos, end, and logos, reason): explaining something by referring to a purpose or end. In the biological context, a teleological explanation of an organism’s structure, function, or behavior is one that is based on the organism either pursuing a particular goal or having been designed for a particular purpose by some other entity. Teleological wording is problematic because it reinforces several common misconceptions that make it difficult for students to develop a conceptual understanding of evolutionary processes. Some examples of common misconceptions include that evolution has a direction or goal: organisms are becoming more complex or more “advanced” over time, “improving” or becoming more “perfect” or that adaptations can evolve in anticipation of future needs or conditions.

Join us for a dynamic networking session and explore ways to improve the teaching of evolution through use of more precise language.

  1. How have you addressed teleology in the classroom?
  2. What are some of the challenges for language when teaching about evolution?
  3. What can you do to make sure you are not reinforcing misconceptions when teaching about evolution?