Teach Quantitative Reasoning and Ecological Forecasting to Undergraduates with Project EDDIE and Macrosystems EDDIE Modules

In conjunction with the Ecological Society of America Meeting 2023

Wednesday, August 9, 2023, 8-9:30am PT Portland, OR

About this Experience

Workshop Overview


This workshop is an introduction to materials and approaches for teaching quantitative reasoning and ecological forecasting using messy, real-world environmental data in undergraduate courses through the Project EDDIE (Environmental Data-Driven Inquiry and Exploration; https://serc.carleton.edu/eddie/index.html) and Macrosystems EDDIE (MacrosystemsEDDIE.org) programs. Interpreting, visualizing, and communicating environmental data remains a major challenge in undergraduate science education. Here, we provide an "on-ramp" for instructors to leverage existing teaching resources and create new educational activities to engage students in open-ended exploration of ecological questions.

Ecological forecasting, an emerging approach which provides an estimate of future ecological conditions with uncertainty, provides a compelling framework for teaching quantitative reasoning skills. Ecological forecasts enable preemptive management of important ecosystem services and are a powerful test of the scientific method because ecologists make a hypothesis of how an ecosystem works; embed their hypothesis in a model; use the model to make a forecast; and then assess the accuracy of their forecast, which indicates if their hypothesis is supported or needs updating. Consequently, ecological forecasting provides societally relevant, scientifically complex problems for students to address using environmental data.

We will introduce participants to approachable tools, materials and strategies to teach quantitative reasoning and ecological forecasting at the undergraduate level in ecology, geology, hydrology, and related fields, including how to: set measurable learning goals, optimize the sequence of instruction in syllabi, and scaffold learning activities to lead to student success. Working with faculty partners, we have developed a suite of hands-on modules and instructor tools that have been rigorously assessed by thousands of students to date. In this workshop, we will focus on the Macrosystems EDDIE program, which has developed modules to support teaching the foundational concepts of ecological forecasting with R Shiny applications. The materials use large, publicly available datasets from the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), allowing students to choose a NEON site and develop their own forecasts within a 3-hr laboratory period. We will provide an overview of the EDDIE approach, ask participants to work through a Macrosystems EDDIE module as a demonstration, and guide participants through developing their own strategies for implementing modules in both virtual and face-to-face classrooms.

This workshop will be hands on and interactive and participants will leave with a personal action plan. Please bring a laptop.

Workshop Facilitators:

Mary Lofton, Virginia Tech

Cailin Huyck Orr, SERC

Cayelan C. Carey, Virginia Tech

R Quinn Thomas, Virginia Tech

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