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REEFS 2021

REEFS is a reoccurring event held during ESA’s Annual Meeting. It is organized jointly by ESA’s Office of Education and Diversity and the Education Section. 

The following resources will be presented during the REEFS Session at the 2021 ESA Annual Meeting.

Learning Activities 

Return to the REEFS main page.


Descriptions

Investigating Phenology and Herbivory in Milkweed

Author: Emily Mohl, St. Olaf College

Activity type: This resource will meaningfully address core competencies of: System: living systems interconnected and interacting; Apply the process of Science, Understand the relationship between Science and Society, Use quantitative reasoning; Ecology Practices, Cross-Cutting Themes from Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education

Audience level: Undergraduate students

Abstract: Declines in the migrating population of monarch butterflies has prompted widespread milkweed planting, raising questions about geographic variation in milkweed plants and its interactions with herbivores. We are developing protocols to help students collect data that documents the variation in phenology (the timing of an organism’s development) and herbivory of milkweed plants in space and time. With the data they collect, students can generate data-driven arguments about the impacts of milkweed phenology on species interactions and predictions about the impacts of translocating milkweed for restoration or the impacts of climate change on milkweeds.

The concept of phenology strongly relates to the theme of stability and change over space and time, which is integral to the goal of developing protocols that can be used to gather data across space and time. Students use the data they generate to make predictions/arguments, which I think aligns with ecological practices.

Extent this learning activity is developed: Newly Developed 

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Teaching Succession and Intermediate Disturbance through Cultural Burning

Author: Melinda Howard, Gonzaga University

Activity type: This resource will meaningfully address core competencies of: Information flow, exchange, and storage, System: living systems interconnected and interacting; Communicate and collaborate with other disciplines, Tap into the disciplinary nature of science, Understand the relationship between Science and Society; Core Ecological Concepts, Human-Environment Interactions from Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education

Audience level: Undergraduate students

Abstract: Indigenous peoples around the globe have implemented fire through cultural burns to manage natural resources and landscapes for millenia (Pyne, 1997). These practices promote biodiversity, reduce parasitism and disease, and increase yield and quality of foods and materials. Fire is increasingly being recognized as a historically important keystone process in many human-inhabited ecoregions, with implications in ecological restoration. This activity introduces students to the concepts of intermediate disturbance theory, succession, and ecological effects of interactions between humans and the environment, including pre-settlement and colonial management practices, through video analysis of the PBS series Tending the Wild and review of primary literature. This activity can be implemented in person or remotely.

This activity teaches about moderate disturbance theory and human-environment actions by analyzing cultural interactions with ecosystems via cultural burning. These interactions have led to keystone processes that historically shaped ecosystems and are being considered in management practices. This allows students to learn about the role of low-intensity, frequent disturbances, the effect on species diversity, and the benefit to humans and other organisms.

Extent this learning activity is developed: Newly Developed 

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Using interactive web-apps for teaching ecological models

Author: Rosa McGuire, University of California, Los Angeles

Activity type: This resource will meaningfully address core competencies of: Pathways and transformations of energy and matter, System: living systems interconnected and interacting; Use modeling and simulation, Use quantitative reasoning; Core Ecological Concepts, Ecology Practices from Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education

Audience level: Undergraduate students

Abstract: Theoretical models are fundamental in the teaching of ecology, but student’s varying experiences and comfort with mathematics can make these models difficult to teach. Here, we use EcoEvoApps (https://ecoevoapps.gitlab.io), a suite of interactive apps, to facilitate active learning exercises in undergraduate Ecology courses. This learning exercise explores the Lotka-Volterra Competition model and the Island Biogeography model. First, students get a brief demo on how to navigate the apps. Then, students explore the models by changing parameters and observing the results in the graphical outputs. Finally, we use case studies to encourage students to draw conclusions on the biological interpretation of these models.

The Lotka-Volterra Competition and Island Biogeography models cover core concepts in Ecology (competitive exclusion, coexistence, extinction and immigration rates). Quantitative reasoning and computational thinking are two ecology practices that our teaching resource covers.

Extent this learning activity is developed: Newly Developed 

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Cultural Fire: Passing the Tradition

Author: Julie Flegal-Smallwood, Redlands Community College

Activity type: This resource will meaningfully address core competencies of: Structure and function, System: living systems interconnected and interacting; Apply the process of Science, Understand the relationship between Science and Society, Use modeling and simulation; Core Ecological Concepts, Ecology Practices, Human-Environment Interactions from Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education

Audience level: Undergraduate students

Abstract: Student Learning Outcomes: -Conduct interviews with indigenous and non-indigenous ranchers to explore roles and practices of fire use -Compare and contrast historical and present day fire use practices -Present project findings to elementary-aged students. Student Activities: – Students interviewed 5 individuals (4 indigenous, 1 non-indigenous). Interview questions included: 1) How did you learn about fire use to manage your land? 2) Who taught you how to implement fire practices on the land? 3) Why do you think fire use is important? and 5) How do you think fire relates to sustainability practices? – Students also conducted Matchstick Forest Model experiments. -Students presented findings to elementary-aged students using developmentally-appropriate language. Assessments: – Coding rubric – How well did students match the interview data with the principles learned in class? -Matchstick model implementation – How well did students build the models? -Presentation rubric – How well did students present their findings to elementary-aged students using developmentally-appropriate language?

In class, students learned about prairie ecosystem concepts and the effects of fire use, applied ecology practices by making observations and connections about oral history data and science principles learned in class, designed matchstick forest models to assess fire effects using different parameters, communicated ecology to elementary-aged students using developmentally-appropriate language, and through interviews with indigenous and non-indigenous ranchers, students explored ways in which humans shape and manage land resources. 

Extent this learning activity is developed: Newly Developed 

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

Author: Erica Tietjen, Nevada State College

Activity type: This resource will meaningfully address core competencies of: System: living systems interconnected and interacting; Apply the process of Science, Tap into the disciplinary nature of science; Core Ecological Concepts, Ecology Practices from Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education

Audience level: Undergraduate students

Abstract: 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 were given an open-ended project assignment to photograph their field observations (at home/locations of their choice) and to identify examples of 25 different ecological concepts, terms and ideas and annotate each with a brief description of how the photo exemplified the concept(s), with the focus on application/process/function. Additionally, for their end of course reflection presentation, they were asked to share a 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.

Students practice and apply their observational skills (Ecology Practices: Natural history) in order to make connections between ecological concepts discussed in class and observed ecosystems and their elements (Core Ecological Concepts).

Extent this learning activity is developed: Newly Developed 

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Kīpuka Pua’ulu trail Hawaiian honeycreepers lesson

Author: Sana Saiyed, University of Notre Dame

Activity type: This resource will meaningfully address core competencies of: Communicate and collaborate with other disciplines, Understand the relationship between Science and Society, System: living systems interconnected and interacting; Core Ecological Concepts, Ecology Practices, Human-Environment Interactions; from Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education

Audience level: High school students 

Abstract: This lesson plan is a guided hike activity for high school students to be conducted outdoors following a particular trail at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, but can be translated to other locations. Students will learn about cultural and natural resources and how aspects of ecology are often both. First, students will hear ancient Hawaiian stories about Hawaiian honeycreepers and how their significance to native Hawaiians means they are cultural resources. They will also learn how the birds are ecologically significant (and endemic) to the Hawaiian islands. Through this, they will learn about adaptations and adaptive radiation. As students walk the trail, they will try to spot various honeycreepers and the trees/flowers/etc. they are specifically adapted to eat. On the trail, students will be asked to hypothesize how climate change might be impacting the honeycreepers. Then, they will discuss how climate change is increasing their risk of avian malaria.

This lesson plan discusses issues of biodiversity, habitat & niche adaptations, climate change, and host-microbe and animal interactions. It also incorporates skills building with regard to ecological knowledge, such as bird watching and tracking. This lesson also discusses human-environment interactions, and specifically how we connect culturally to our local ecologies and why it’s important to preserve that.

Extent this learning activity is developed: In development, has not been implemented in a classroom, lecture or laboratory

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Applying ecological principles to campus master planning

Author: Emilie Stander, Raritan Valley Community College

Activity type: This resource will meaningfully address core competencies of: Structure and function, System: living systems interconnected and interacting; Tap into the disciplinary nature of science, Understand the relationship between Science and Society; Core Ecological Concepts, Ecology Practices, Human-Environment Interactions, Cross-Cutting Themes from Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education

Audience level: Undergraduate students

Abstract: RVCCs master plan for its 200-acre campus includes proposed future commercial development in addition to new campus buildings. My colleague and I are designing a new activity for our introductory ecology course that will guide groups of students through the process of evaluating the ecological structure and function of specific patches of natural habitat (i.e., upland forest, riparian forest, meadows, etc.) on campus and consider the potential impacts of the proposed development using their knowledge of ecological patterns and processes at the organismal, population, and community levels gained through the lecture portion of the course. Students will share knowledge about their assigned habitat patches and then use their collective knowledge to identify potential ecosystem- and landscape-scale impacts campus-wide. The students will document their ideas and recommendations for mitigating these impacts in a format that can be shared with the colleges’ Sustainability Committee and Office of Facilities.

Students will use their knowledge of core ecological concepts to perform habitat assessments and collect data in the field (both elements of the ecology practices aspect of 4DEE). Students will consider structure and function in their assessment of campus habitat patches, and will consider spatial scale when integrating information from individual patches to understand campus-wide dynamics (cross-cutting themes). Finally students will apply all of this knowledge and understanding to the problem of the impacts of new development on ecological structure and function (human-environment interactions).

Extent this learning activity is developed: In development, has not been implemented in a classroom, lecture or laboratory

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