Session: Connecting Students, Instructors, and the Scientific Community Through Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences
Guiding students through CURE participation as a teaching assistant
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
Link To Share This Presentation: https://cdmcd.co/v9DGjD
Emily L. Kiehnau, Biology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK and Rebecca M. Prather, Department of Biology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Background/Question/Methods Opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in an authentic research experience may be limited. This talk will share the experience of graduate teaching assistants incorporating the Squirrel-Net Behavior module within a single lab session of Principles of Ecology at a R1 institution. The goal of the module was to provide students with authentic research experience where the outcome of the activity was unknown to both the students and instructors. After learning how to observe and interpret squirrel behavior, students used their own observations to develop research questions and hypotheses including sketching predicted results. They then collected and reported data in a standardized format. Students analyzed data by making a graph using data from the large Squirrel-Net national database and comparing their actual vs. predicted results on factors affecting squirrel behavior across the U.S.A. Finally, students interpreted their graph by writing a summary of their results and conclusions as well as proposing a follow-up question based on their results. Results/Conclusions The Squirrel-Net materials provided enough background knowledge for non-mammalogists to teach students the material. This activity did not require much equipment - binoculars, clipboard, ethogram - so was easy to coordinate. One particular advantage to this assignment is that it both allowed students to maintain social distancing and made use of real world data to examine ecological principles. In general, students found the module fun, interesting, and engaging and as teaching assistants we enjoyed watching squirrels alongside the students. Some students felt a greater sense of purpose and connection to the scientific community due to their contribution to, and use of, data from the Squirrel-Net national database. This module allowed for coupling of fundamental ecological knowledge with a variety of scientific skills and provided students with an opportunity to collect observational data as opposed to more traditional classroom based experimental activities.