Enhancing student learning in undergraduate ecology courses through the EcoEdDL / Science Pipes collaboration
EcoEd Digital Library (beta) (http://www.esa.org/ecoed/) is ESA’s searchable online catalog of resources for teaching undergraduate ecology. Using EcoEdDL, faculty can find free teaching resources that are peer-reviewed for quality, scientific accuracy, and pedagogical use. Teaching resources include photographs and illustrations, graphs and figures, teaching guidelines, and learning activities for the classroom, lab and field. EcoEdDL also houses ESA publications including Ecology 101 Articles, Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology (TIEE) and Issues in Ecology. During the past two years, an ESA-sponsored initiative involving Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Science Pipes project (http://sciencepipes.org) set out to develop tools to promote the use and analysis of large datasets in undergraduate classrooms. Science Pipes provides a framework that allows students to access datasets of various sizes and level of complexity, analyze them, and visualize the results without using spreadsheets or statistical software.
To guide this initiative, ESA has created a Data for the Ecology Classroom Advisory (DECA) panel. During the past year, the panel created modules that allow students to learn concepts including cemetery demography, forest species composition, evolution of Darwin’s finches, and historical reconstruction using pollen data. Each module consists of one or more datasets and related analysis and visualization tools which have been incorporated into the Science Pipes system and is applicable to introductory lab/ecology courses at the undergraduate level. The modules are available on the Science Pipes website. Instructions for learning activities for each module – providing links to the modules themselves – are available through EcoEd. The cemetery demography module will be highlighted, showing how students can easily create life tables, histograms, and survivorship curves to facilitate inquiry-based investigation of datasets that are either incorporated within the system or added by the user. In addition to the Science Pipes modules, EcoEd DL continues to incorporate digital learning resources from faculty and researchers who have developed visual resources, learning exercises, and other teaching materials. Ecology researchers and educators are encouraged to utilize and contribute to the EcoEdDL library, making it an increasingly valuable educational resource.