The Ecological Research As Education Network (EREN): Merging Teaching and Research through Continental-Scale Collaborative Projects
Friday, August 15, 2014: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
306, Sacramento Convention Center
Laurel J. Anderson, Ohio Wesleyan University
Bob Pohlad, Ferrum College; and
Kathleen LoGiudice, Union College
Jose-Luis Machado, Swarthmore College
The Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN) is a five-year project funded by the National Science Foundation Research Coordination Networks-Undergraduate Biology Education Program. Created by a team of faculty from 14 undergraduate institutions, EREN’s mission is to create and test models for collaborative ecological research that generate high-quality, publishable data involving undergraduate students and faculty across a continental-scale network of research sites. EREN works by inviting faculty in the network to propose research projects that are scientifically interesting, collaborative across sites and institutions, appropriate for undergraduate participation, and feasible for institutions with limited research resources. EREN facilitates online communication between these “Lead Scientists” and network members, who then volunteer to become collaborators on the project and engage their students in data collection and analysis. EREN also provides funding for annual meetings where project ideas, research protocols, pedagogical strategies, and project data are discussed. There are currently 215 members of EREN representing 160 different institutions, most of which are primarily undergraduate institutions. According to a 2012 survey of EREN members, 1,349 students have been involved with data collection or used data from an EREN project in courses, independent studies or summer research experiences. This oral session will showcase the scientific and pedagogical accomplishments of the EREN approach, and explore the diversity of ways that the EREN model has been applied by different EREN Lead Scientists. Our goal is to encourage other ecologists, at a wide range of institutions, to consider the benefits of collaborative, large-scale ecological research in both a scientific and pedagogical context, and yet to develop such projects with an awareness of the challenges inherent to this approach. As such, our talks will serve as diverse examples for other ecologists to build on and learn from. An introductory talk will introduce the EREN model and provide an overview and history of EREN as an organization. Each project-based talk will discuss (1) the scientific basis of the project and how it exemplifies the EREN model, (2) the number of faculty and student participants, (3) project findings to date, (4) progress on assessing how the project has affected student learning, (5) professional development opportunities the project has provided to PUI faculty, and (6) the best aspects of the project as well as challenges and lessons learned. A synthesis talk by the EREN Leadership Team will conclude the session.