Using the Neotoma Database in the Classroom
The Neotoma Paleoecology Database is an online hub for data, research, education, and discussion about paleoenvironments. The NSF-funded Neotoma database has North American pollen and fossil mammal data for the past 5 million years. The database is designed to make it easier for community members to discover, explore, and share datasets that illustrate paleoenvironmental conditions.
We have developed a collection of teaching activities using the Neotoma database, incorporating best practices in teaching with data. These activities are appropriate for use in many undergraduate courses, including environmental science, geology, global change, biology, ecology, or geography courses. Most of the activities focus on data that reveal changes since the end of the last Ice Age and species' responses to those changes.
The activity collection includes a subset of seven exercises designed to be used, as a series, to explore how climate change affects the distribution of mammal species. Read the Introduction to the Neotoma Education Modules for Biotic Response to Climate Change for more information about this subset of activities, or browse the complete collection of teaching activities using the Neotoma database.
The Neotoma project also has a GitHub repository of workshop materials and a template for developing future workshop materials using the RMarkdown markup language. These materials cover basic use of the Neotoma Explorer and more detailed use of the Neotoma package for R. The GitHub Repository's README file covers more information about how to edit the workshop materials in the Templates folder for custom use, and a set of materials based on implementation of the workshop Template are available for use in the repository, listed as individual directories associated with particular workshops. This Template system is under continual development and issues (feature requests, bugs, or implementation problems) can be raised by GitHub members directly, or by non-members through this online form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdRNat6L9grRF0xU5gibkr26xq9jD9wyHgw_AWxhrgn0lWv7w/viewform
The use of real data in teaching is a powerful way to engage students in scientific thinking and learning. A 1.5 day workshop designed to develop teaching activities for the undergraduate classroom, making use of the Neotoma Paleoecology Database, was held at Carleton College in the fall of 2015. This workshop was by invitation only for the project PIs, paleoecology experts, and educators with expertise in the pedagogy of teaching with online datasets.
This website is supported by the Neotoma Database project. Funding is provided by the National Science Foundation - Division of Earth Sciences (grants #0947459 and 0948652). Disclaimer: Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.