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Biocomplexity in undergraduate education: From hard data to hard decisions.
GREENLER, ROBIN*,1,2, GREENLER, JOHN1,2, JUNGCK, JOHN1,2, 1 Beloit College, Beloit, WI2 BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium, Beloit, WI
ABSTRACT- Biocomplexity is the study of the interrelationships between biological, environmental and human systems. The analysis of these interrelationships requires collaboration and integration across disciplines, is computationally intensive and frequently involves modeling, spatial analysis and manipulation of data from large databases (genomic, proteomic, environmental, etc.). Ultimately, the goal of biocomplexity is to develop sustainable solutions to our current biological and environmental problems. The Biocomplexity Project of the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium (http://bioquest.org) is a new initiative focused on bringing the dynamics and richness of biocomplexity-related research into undergraduate learning. Through collaborations with researchers, educators and curriculum reformers, we are developing new learning materials and teaching strategies that integrate biocomplexity and its multidisciplinary approaches to problem solving. Key elements of biocomplexity in education include: requisite need for robust, multidisciplinary collaboration; participation in significant contemporary research; exposure of students to a diversity of techniques; reliance on multiple modes of understanding and learning; and rich opportunities for authentic student-led inquiry. Biocomplexity educational materials utilize computer-based modeling, geographic information systems, bioinformatics, analysis of network-accessible data, environmental monitoring, investigative case-based learning, and problem solving activities. Case studies developed in collaboration with research partners include: fragmentation of prairie ecosystems and the corresponding mating structure and progeny fitness of native plant populations; interactions between corn-borers and their natural predators in Bt-corn verses non-Bt corn environments; and the effects of hydrologic regimes on trophic dynamics in the Everglades.
KEY WORDS: Education, biocomplexity