PS 4-51 - Experiences in quantitative conservation biology and critical thinking for undergraduate students

Monday, August 8, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Denny S. Fernandez and Raymond L. Tremblay, Biology, University of Puerto Rico at Humacao, Humacao, PR

We present the progress and preliminary results of an educational project aim to facilitate eight undergraduate students to develop quantitative analysis (QA) and critical thinking (CT) skills, and to review community and population ecology concepts to learn how to be trained on habitat evaluation (of red-bellied racer, Alsophis rufiventris) and population dynamics (of an orchid, Brassavola cucullata), for species with conservation interest.   The synergistic approach included a series of curricular activities: a formal class setting (CT & QA course, 45 hours contact), 10 day field activities (Quill, St. Eustatius, Netherland Caribbean), and post field activities (individual research course, 45 hours contact) including data analysis, paper writing, and oral presentations.  Throughout all activities, application of critical thinking, quantitative analysis, and clear explicit acknowledgment of assumptions and their consequences are emphasized. 


Pre-test results showed an average positive attitude of the students to use critical thinking, however assessment activities during the course, pointed out the need of formal and continuous training on its practice.   The St. Eustatius field experience showed a good use of critical thinking on an outside setting, but there was a need of basic numerical and estimation abilities.  For data analysis, each student is specialized at the beginning on one quantitative and statistical method, but later, the discussion of results will be amongst all of them.  One expected outcome is to have two papers submitted by Summer.    A main goal of the project is to encourage undergraduate students to continue to graduate school in an area of ecology and conservation, or related areas. 

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