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Ecology curriculum reform: Integrating innovative teaching and global change technology.
Williams, Kathy1, 1
ABSTRACT- The main goal of this NSF-funded program is to reform undergraduate biology education at San Diego State University by using state-of-the-art instrumentation for measuring microclimate and CO2 flux/energy balance. With cutting-edge instrumentation on campus and at field stations, students measure a variety of abiotic and biotic conditions and use the data to illustrate ecosystem dynamics and their implications. We have assembled permanent towers with microclimate and eddy covariance instrumentation at two SDSU field stations situated in Mediterranean-type habitats and on our campus. Students also compare data from instruments located in Alaska. Data are transmitted via internet to campus classes for analyses and posting on SDSU course websites. This equipment is the cornerstone of curriculum revision for courses introducing quantitative and ecological concepts to about 600 SDSU students each yr (lower- and upper-division biology majors). A unique programmatic aspect is that we introduce modern approaches early and return to them in later courses with increasing depth. Students form hypotheses and collect data to learn ecological concepts, statistical inference, and more generally gain critical thinking skills and experience the scientific process in large classes. The courses culminate with a symposium of poster presentations. Evidence from 2 semesters indicates that undergraduates become engaged by learning real life environmental issues like global change, and gain a deeper understanding of scientific concepts and technologies, compared to previous classes.
KEY WORDS: education, innovative, undergraduate, reform