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Short Presentations

This session format is designed for presentations that enhance understanding of key concepts, or projects activities that feature effective ideas and approaches. Short presentations are 30-minute sessions.

Information for LDC Presenters

Click the links below to read the abstracts of each presentation. Please note that all sessions are held in Mountain Time.

Friday, October 1 Short Presentations

9:45 – 10:15 AM MT

3:45 – 4:15 PM MT

4:30 – 5:00 PM MT

Saturday, October 2 Short Presentations

9:15 – 9:45 AM MT

10:00 – 10:30 AM MT


Short Presentation Abstracts and Descriptions:

Friday, October 1, 9:45-10:15 AM

Finding ecology where you look: Demonstrating ecological concepts through a photo scavenger hunt portfolio 

Presenter: Erica Tietjen, Nevada State College

Room: Aspen Glen

Abstract: Undergraduate ecology students developed an ecological concept photo portfolio by choosing and describing 25 ecological terms from personal field observations (home, campus, outdoor opportunities), and shared the ecological significance of their favorite photo during their end-of-course reflection presentation

Description: Providing students with opportunities to engage in essential practices of making observations and connections and applying ecology is a key goal of the Four-Dimensional Ecology Education (4DEE) Framework. Students in my online synchronous BIOL 220 (Introduction to Ecological Principles) course (sophomore-level, for both biology majors and general education students) worked throughout the semester to photograph their field observations and to identify examples of ecological terms, concepts and ideas. Students were given an open-ended project assignment that they could do at home/on their own at locations of their choice, and during two opportunities to participate in an instructor-guided campus nature walk (using the Seek app). For the portfolio, they were tasked with finding examples of 25 different ecological concepts (using lecture notes, textbook key terms, and a guided discussion with a shared document during class to generate a collection of concepts) and annotating with a brief description of how the photo exemplified the concept(s), with the focus on application/process/function rather than names/IDs of organisms. Additionally, for their end-of-course reflection presentation, they were asked to share their favorite photo to discuss the ecological significance and meaning(s) of the image. Students enjoyed the experience of applying ecological terms to real-life personal observations as well as the opportunity to reconsider from an ecological viewpoint previously taken photos.

Enhancing Student Understanding of the Biotic Impacts of Climate Change using the BIC4

Presenter: Ryan Dunk, University of Northern Colorado

Room: Glacier Basin

Abstract: We will present the Biotic Impacts of Climate Change Core Concepts (BIC4), a guide for instructors to enhance undergraduate students understanding of climate change. The BIC4 extends the 4DEE guidelines by focusing on how climate change affects ecological systems.

Description: Climate change is an existential threat to all life on earth; the documented impacts of climate change are extensive and of a devastating scale. National education recommendations (e.g. 4DEE) encourage biology undergraduate students and their educators to better understand and address this global issue. It is the responsibility of climate change educators to help students link this global issue to their everyday lives (Scannell and Gifford 2013), which can subsequently foster a climate-literate public and STEM workforce, motivating calls for public action on climate issues (Halady and Rao 2010; Sinatra et al. 2012). College faculty across disciplines report a responsibility to teach undergraduates about climate change because of its socio-scientific importance and its contribution to building scientific literacy (Beck et al. 2013). However, guidance for faculty instruction in climate change is not thoroughly discussed within the 4DEE. Here, we introduce a guiding framework for faculty which specifically focuses on distinguishing the major areas of how climate change affects living organisms. To better serve our students, educators need guidance in identifying major conceptual areas of how climate change impacts ecological systems. Here, we will present the Biotic Impacts of Climate Change Core Concepts (or BIC4), a guide for instructors to develop curriculum and for biology education researchers studying undergraduate students’ understanding of climate change. We discuss preliminary findings from interviews with novice college students, advanced college students, and faculty based on the BIC4 and identify areas of relative strengths and weaknesses in each groups’ conceptions of the biotic impacts of climate change. Attendees will be provided with a copy of the BIC4 to help further discussion of the utility of the BIC4 for course development, focused on how it extends the guidelines set forth in 4DEE and provides instructors with additional areas for highlighting how climate change affects ecological systems.

Integrating Evidentiary Reasoning into a Structural Biology Investigation in an Undergraduate Biology Laboratory Course 

Presenters: Chaonan Liu, Purdue University

Room: Emerald Mountain

Abstract: We present a hands-on structural biology investigation with the implementation of scaffolding questions in guiding undergraduate students’ reasoning with and about scientific evidence. A practical handout for designing scaffolding questions for evidentiary reasoning will be presented to the audience.

Description: The importance of integrating authentic research experience in undergraduate biology curriculum has been emphasized in recent decades, for this reason the ability of understanding and using scientific evidence is becoming an essential competence in undergraduate biology education. The Conceptual Analysis of Disciplinary Evidence (CADE) framework is a useful guide for unpacking scientific evidence and evidentiary reasoning (Samarapungavan, 2018). Here we propose a case study that presents the implementation of the scaffolding questions informed by the CADE to guide undergraduate students through a structural biology investigation, and how these questions affected students’ evidentiary reasoning ability. The study was conducted in a structural biology module of an introductory biology lab course as the context. A hands-on investigation was provided to students in which students chose their research subject from a protein in a thermophilic bacteria or a protein in a thermophilic bacteria based on their interest and used bioinformatics tools, such as ExPASy and SWISS MODEL to explore the relationship between the structure and function of macromolecules, i.e. DNA and proteins. This investigation intended to help students improve the conceptual understanding of the central dogma, macromolecules, and homology modeling, as well as practice the hypothesis testing process and reinforce visual representation skills and visual understanding of macromolecules. Most importantly, scaffolding questions designed informed by the CADE framework were implemented through the investigation to inspire students’ thinking, reasoning with and about scientific evidence and promote students’ appreciation of the complexity of scientific evidence. This study is closely related to the dimension of Cross-Cutting Themes in the Four-Dimensional Ecology Education framework. It also provides a potential format of online lab teaching with authentic research experiences. A practical handout will be provided to the audiences to help them design their own scaffolding questions. Samarapungavan, A. (2018). Construing scientific evidence: The role of disciplinary knowledge in reasoning with and about evidence in scientific practice. In Scientific Reasoning and Argumentation (pp. 56–76). Routledge.

Friday, October 1, 3:45-4:15 PM

Squirreling Around for Science: Doing Field-Based Animal Behavior Research in Undergraduate Courses

Presenters: Johanna Varner, Colorado Mesa University

Co-Presenter: Patrice Connors, Colorado Mesa University

Room: Glacier Basin

Abstract: We present a course-based research experience in which students investigate tradeoffs in behavioral ecology. In four modules adaptable to a variety of courses and habitats, students use simple protocols to observe squirrels, then analyze nationally aggregated datasets to test hypotheses.

Description: Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) are an inclusive way to engage more undergraduates in science because all students in the course participate in authentic research. Compared to traditional labs, CUREs may also better enhance intellectual independence and critical thinking because outcomes are unknown. Here, we present an overview of Squirrel-Net (, an NSF-funded network supporting four ecological CUREs that engage students in authentic, course-based research investigating the behavioral ecology of squirrels. Because squirrels are easily observed and abundant across a range of habitats, including many campuses, they are an ideal system for student research. Moreover, many of these research activities are performed outdoors without specialized equipment, so they are also easily transitioned to remote learning. Finally, the network connects classes and people: students contribute their data to nationally aggregated datasets to develop a shared resource, and courses from different institutions can connect through presentations and discussions. These modules integrate numerous aspects of the 4DEE framework, from Core Concepts like organisms, resources, and behavioral ecology, to the range of Ecology Practices and science process skills. In addition, because the datasets include a variety of species, habitats, and institution types, students can also investigate questions about Human-Environment Interactions. Lastly, the modules have been used at multiple institution types and modified for introductory and upper-division courses, showcasing their ability to engage multiple learning styles in biology. In this presentation, we will introduce participants to the Squirrel-Net CUREs, including an overview of each module’s protocols, how the modules are implemented across the network, and preliminary analyses of student outcomes. Finally, we will provide resources for participants to join the network, adapt modules to their own classrooms, and tailor the materials to a range of learning contexts (e.g., institution type, student major and level, remote instruction).

Teaching Co-Evolution Through Active Learning

Presenter: Rupesh Kariyat, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Room: Emerald Mountain

Abstract: Teaching co-evolution in a classroom setting is exciting but also challenging. Using easily available resources and a store-bought caterpillar species, I have designed an active learning-based teaching module that can be modified to teach this concept.

Description: Teaching co-evolution in a classroom setting is exciting but also challenging. Plant-herbivore interactions has served as a classic example for this concept, where plants, and insect herbivores in particular have evolved intricate and sophisticated defenses and counter defense traits to grow, develop and reproduce in the presence of each other. While a large number of research papers and behavioral observations have been routinely used to solidify these concepts to students in a classroom setting, at times these study materials can be hard for non-traditional students, and even for teachers, and general public to grasp within the time limit of the class period. However, using easily available resources and a store-bought caterpillar species, I have designed an active learning-based teaching module that can be modified to fit any student group ranging from lower to upper division undergraduate students to schoolteachers and general public. The ideas and experiments integrated through this lesson plan addresses not only co-evolution, but also ecosystem services in a broader context. Specifically, the lesson plan involves a two-way choice and no choice feeding assay using tobacco hornworm caterpillars (Manduca sexta) and leaf discs from a host plant (e.g., Tomato) and a non-host (e.g., Cucumber) in petri dishes. The experiment can be extended by also allowing participants to examine long term growth effects, in addition to short-term choice, thereby providing a clear picture of how plant-herbivore interactions can be viewed through the eye of co-evolution. A pilot experiment using this idea was recently carried out with highschool teachers in an afternoon session and was successful. The students run the experiment, observe the caterpillars, and their choice, and collect data and plot the results in the class. These results are then explained in the context of evolutionary ecology of plant-herbivore interactions.

Friday, October 1, 4:00-4:30 PM

Teaching Whale Evolution & Ecology Using a Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Framework

Presenter: Melissa Haswell, Delta College

Room: Glacier Basin

Abstract: This multi-week module uses both contemporary and traditional ecology knowledge (TEK) of whales as a framework for introducing undergraduate biology students to the nature of science, natural history, ecology, and evolution using whales as a model organism.

Description: The purpose of the multi-week module is for students to apply multiple skills required in the practice of science to analyze scientific literature presented from multiple perspectives. In this module, students analyze multiple resources, including scientific literature and the perspectives from Alaskan Inuits, to develop an understanding of whale ecology and evolution. Field research practices and data from Western science and TEK helps develop a more comprehensive understanding of whale ecology and behavior. In addition, the module teaches multiple concepts in tandem to impress upon students that biological concepts are interrelated and thus introduced and revisited in different contexts to develop a deeper understanding. Learning Objectives: Defend the different ways of knowing and understanding the Natural World: Scientific Process and TEK ( Identify strategies for successful collaboration when working with native communities (A Native Whaler’s View | Bureau of Ocean Energy Management ( Integrate the process of Western Science with TEK to better understand biology and conservation of natural resources (Food-Security-Full-Technical-Report.pdf ( Interpret graphs and apply data to biological questions. Describe examples of how scientists’ backgrounds and biases can influence science and how science is enhanced through diversity. Make observations about the natural history of bowhead whales from Western science and TEK. Describe relevant fieldwork necessary for studying whale ecology. Discuss the behavioral ecology of the whales. Identify habitat type, species diversity, competition, and stability (community ecology) of bowhead whales ( and Discussing the role of bowhead whales in the ecosystem and their relationship with humans. Describe how evolution is a process based on relationships that branch instead of a linear, progressive process. Identify relationships between organisms using an evolutionary (phylogenetic) tree ( Discuss the multiple lines of evidence that support the evolution of whales from a four-legged, terrestrial vertebrate ( and

The Impact of Obstacles to Learning Faced by College Students in the COVID-era: Effect on Learning Gains

Presenters: Sunshine Brosi, Utah State University, Eastern

Co-Presenter: Becky Williams, Utah State University, Uintah Basin

Room: Aspen Glen

Abstract: Our students are faced with additional personal obstacles enhanced by the current epidemic in our remote ecology courses. We assess the change in number and magnitude of obstacles faced in the COVID-era and how these obstacles affect learning gains. Our success strategies include telling our own stories, adding flexibility, frequent contact with students, and a focus on specific relevant course outcomes.

Description: Many of our students face additional obstacles to learning in the age of COVID including limited access to course content, food or rent security, childcare and homeschooling, caregiving of non-nuclear family members, and others. Our research shows an increase in the number and magnitude of these challenges. These traumas result in a lack of focus in classes, especially those taught remotely and with abstract topics, which are common in many ecology classrooms. A common saying is we are all in this together however, it is essential to understand that the circumstances of our students are not equal. We will discuss results from an undergraduate survey of ecology students on remote Utah campuses that included questions on challenges to quantify the various stresses our students face. Students in rural Utah may be disproportionately impacted by remote teaching challenges because they often choose online courses because they are place-bound by family, have job obligations, or have limited access on Native American reservations. Finally, we assess how the number of obstacles faced impact learning gains. We will highlight methods shown to be successful for reaching these students in distress using the 4DEE framework. These include adding culturally-relevant human-environment connections to our classroom, engaging methods for teaching ecological practices in remote formats, and addressing the added challenges of technology limitations of rural America. Approaches we will discuss include telling our own stories of personal obstacles and those of historical ecologists like E. Lucy Braun, adding flexibility with assignments while providing structure, frequent contact with students, and a focus on specific relevant course outcomes. These approaches offer opportunities to engage distracted students, put challenges in perspective, and allow for opportunities for personal growth and learning to occur.

Underwater Education: Designing & implementing a Big Data project to understand marine biodiversity

Presenters: Deanna Soper, University of Dallas

Co-Presenter: Kakani Katija, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Room: Emerald Mountain

Abstract: Exploration of the deep sea is restricted due to the remote nature of the habitat, which subsequently limits the ability to engage students with this environment. To address this need, we developed an educational program in collaboration with NOAA, MBARI, and CVision AI to introduce the deep sea to students while simultaneously contributing to ocean science research efforts.

Description: Exploration of the deep sea is restricted due to the remote nature of the ecosystem. The deep-sea community uses Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to collect samples and obtain video data to better understand the ecology and biodiversity of this habitat. One challenge with this technology is that the ROV generates thousands of hours of video that must be annotated by skilled scientists, and is largely inaccessible to other researchers, educators, students, and the general public, and limits experiential training that builds towards all Vision and Change core competencies. To address this need, we have developed an educational program in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), and CVision AI to introduce the deep sea to students while simultaneously contributing to ocean science research efforts. This program teaches evolutionary concepts through biological taxonomy, organism identification, and connects it with biodiversity and biogeography as students learn to formulate and answer questions using imagery data collected via ROVs. FathomNet (an underwater image database with annotation data) and Tator (an image and video annotation software program developed by CVision AI) are computer programs built using underwater imagery collected by NOAA and MBARI that intend to automate the classification of animals. During the summer of 2020, University of Dallas students assisted with further developing Tator and their training served as a launching point for transitioning this experience to the classroom to teach students about deep-sea environments. Two courses taught in the spring 2021 semester, one at the University of Dallas called ‘Underwater Exploration’ and another at Bates College called ‘STEM Scholars’ piloted educational materials and evaluated their impact. Eventually, we hope to engage more institutions and distribute educational materials to reach student populations that may otherwise never be introduced to animals in the deep ocean.

Saturday, October 2, 9:15-9:45 AM

NetLogo: an online programmable simulation model for remote learning science lessons

Presenter: Meg Kargul, UC Riverside

Room: Emerald Mountain

Abstract: Our outreach group developed lessons amenable to remote learning for teachers and following NGSS using NetLogo, a simulation model. Students use this online tool to evaluate, manipulate, and extend computational models of life science concepts and are exposed to coding.

Description: With the transition to online learning, there is a pressing need to develop engaging and meaningful science lessons for remote instruction that are grounded in NGSS. NetLogo ( is one tool that can be leveraged to accomplish this goal. It is an online database of programmable simulation models which spans a diverse library of life and physical science concepts and provides students the capability to test hypotheses by editing the underlying simulation model code. This interface allows students to gain a deeper understanding of specific science concepts but also gives them a chance to evaluate, manipulate, and extend models. As part of a graduate student led outreach group (DroughtReach) at UC Riverside, we designed a NGSS based lesson using NetLogo, where students are introduced to the concepts of population dynamics and invasion and have the opportunity to build their quantitative reasoning and computational thinking by working through a simulation. The lesson consists of a lecture introducing the phenomenon of human introduced invasive species related to active research in the Botany and Plant Sciences Department at UC Riverside. It also reviews concepts of population dynamics and species interactions, linking these to invasion. The students then explore these themes through a simulation model tracking population size, consumer-producer interactions, and invasiveness. Finally, students are provided an opportunity to test a hypothesis by manipulating the model. This lesson plan integrates 4DEE through core ecological concepts of populations and invasion, ecological practices of quantitative reasoning and computational thinking, human-environment interactions of human caused invasion, and cross-cutting themes of temporal scale and processes. NetLogo is an engaging and accessible tool that can be leveraged to meet and develop middle and high school NGSS science lessons during remote learning. This lesson plan is available on our website:

Schoolyard Biodiversity Community: Student Scientist Global Network to Increase Biodiversity

Presenter: Shari Wilson, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Room: Glacier Basin

Abstract: This presentation introduces the Schoolyard Biodiversity Community, a web-based portal developed by the presenter where students enter biodiversity data inventoried from their school grounds, design projects with other schools, and present results in an effort to increase wildlife habitat.


The Schoolyard Biodiversity Community (Schoobio) socio-technology tool, designed by the presenter, addresses two needs: teacher resources to implement the Next Generation Science Standards, and increase schoolyard biodiversity. Through hands-on curriculum activities, students map their school grounds and inventory plant and animal species represented. Data is entered into a web-based portal (, where it can be shared with other schools around the world and used to collaborate on biodiversity projects. Communication tools help students design presentations to share their findings. Three learning objectives are applicable for Schoobio: Students will 1) understand the concept of biodiversity and how it applies to their school grounds; 2) gain experience in project design, implementation, and presentation through working with students from other cultures; and 3) participate in civic engagement activities focused on increasing biodiversity on their school grounds. Ecology Practices evoked in the Four-Dimensional Ecology Education (4DEE) Framework Initiative are incorporated into Schoobio: natural history, fieldwork, designing and critiquing investigations, and collaboration. Schoobio encourages participation by students not motivated by an interest in science by including activities such as mapping, project design and management, communications, and learning about different cultures. Biocultural diversity is a particular interest of the presenter, who has traveled extensively and worked with schools in many countries on biodiversity and ecology projects. The connection between human activities and the cultural impacts of biodiversity decline are just starting to be understood, and are of interest to many teachers around the world who want their students to connect with each other in meaningful ways beyond social media.

Schoobio is designed for students in grades 9-12. It is still in development mode and being field-tested by a global group of schools in the presenter’s doctoral dissertation study. Feedback and suggestions for scaling up the tool are encouraged.

The ecology of social annotation: adapting the 4DEE framework to evaluate student engagement

Presenter: Erin McKenney, North Carolina State University

Room: Aspen Glen

Abstract: Social annotation assignments have been particularly useful to enhance remote learning communities during COVID-19. Here we share instructional approaches and integrate the 4DEE framework with the ecology of education to inform scholarship of teaching and learning.

Description: The ecology of education was formally introduced in the 1980s, to acknowledge that education and learning are informed by both individual interactions and social culture. Wensing and Torre (2009) borrowed terms from systems science as a metaphor for modeling group dynamics and learner participation in the ecology of education (Wensing & Torre, 2009); and Tidball & Krasny (2011) drew from social-ecological systems literature to build conceptual models describing hierarchical ecology, feedbacks, and resilience (Tidball & Krasny, 2011).Yet, ironically, the ecology of education framework still lacks many Core Ecological Concepts from ecological science. Here we address that interdisciplinary gap by adapting key concepts and Ecology Practices to describe student interactions and inform scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL) studies. We will apply this new framework specifically to Human-Environment Interactions (e.g., student assignments and behaviors) via, a free online social annotation tool. We will first introduce the tool by demonstrating its usage and utility for preparatory readings assigned prior to in-class discussion. We will present the results of a previous SOTL study to summarize observed student annotation behaviors and educational gains after using Next, we will adapt ecological terms to describe student learning dynamics and predict outcomes (i.e., Cross-Cutting Themes). By the end of this session, participants will be able to (1) assess the utility of the open annotation tool, (2) design a annotation assignment, and (3) apply the 4DEE framework to inform future SOTL investigations.

Saturday, October 2, 10:00-10:30 AM

Strategies to increase girls’ connection to field science communities of practice

Presenter: Laura Conner, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Room: Aspen Glen

Abstract: Gender differences in science interest and identification are well documented. This presentation features results from our educational research studies and associated strategies that can be used to connect girls to field science.

Description: Conducting studies in the field is a core aspect of Ecology. Our team has conducted several educational research studies on-field experiences for high school girls that suggest specific avenues for better connecting girls to science. We grounded our studies in conceptions of science identity and science communities of practice. Specifically, it is well-known that science interest among girls (and members of other marginalized groups) tends to drop around middle school, and that taking steps to build science identity among girls in the middle and high school years is important. Here, we present findings from our studies and suggest a set of design principles that can be put to work during formal or informal science experiences to help increase girls’ sense of connection to, and identification with, field science communities of practice. Some of the strategies I will discuss include highlighting and making explicit what are normally “tacit” elements of conducting fieldwork, such as team-oriented leadership, a sense of adventure, and mental and physical perseverance. I also will discuss the importance of placing authentic tools in the hands of learners. In terms of the Four-Dimensional Ecology Education Framework, our work is most closely aligned with Dimension two, Ecology Practices.

My Classes Are Pointless

Presenter: Paul Strode, Fairview High School

Room: Glacier Basin

Abstract: Join us in a discussion on running your classes without points, in a low-stress environment, and where student focus is on learning and not grades.

Description: In the Spring of 2020 teachers and students around the world were thrust into the environment of online learning. Few teachers and students had any experience with teaching and learning online and this new experience came with the added stress of social distancing, quarantines, family sickness, and perhaps even loss of loved ones. One major dilemma faced by teachers, schools, and Districts was what to do with grading. The answer for many was to adopt a pass/fail system. However, this option was met with even more uncertainty from teachers who worried if students would do much work at all when points and grades were missing as an incentive. However, the switch to the pass/fail approach in online teaching and learning was almost seamless for some teachers and their students. These teachers and students were already living in a pointless world, that is, their classes were being taught without points and, for some, even without grades. In the pointless classroom, grades are determined by a selection process involving student-accumulated evidence of their hard work and progress that is kept in a shared online journal. The pointless and gradeless teaching approach is deeply rooted in best practices research and is increasing in popularity with the formation of social media groups like Teachers Going Gradeless and Teachers Throwing out Grades. I have been part of this pointless movement for the last several years. Please join me for a discussion of what I have learned from my pointless approach and to share what we as teachers have learned from the spring of 2020. How might this experience help us move away from using points and grades as student motivators and toward helping students focus on what truly matters: the learning.