Session: Expanding the Field in Fieldwork: Connecting the Practice of Fieldwork with the Human Dimensions of the 4DEE Framework
Reimagining the field to connect across barriers
Wednesday, August 4, 2021
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Alan Berkowitz, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY, George Middendorf, Biology, Howard University, Washington, DC, Kari O'Connell, STEM Research Center, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR and Luanna Prevost, Dept. of Integrative Biology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies Millbrook, NY, USA
Background/Question/Methods The ESA’s Four Dimensional Ecology Education (4DEE) framework provides a vision of undergraduate ecological literacy. It includes the expectation that all students will have meaningful fieldwork (FW) experiences and/or achieve some basic FW proficiency in the context of the 4 dimensions. We aspire to foster 4-dimensional eco-literacy for a number of important, overlapping purposes that help operationalize the meaning of ‘field’ and ‘work’: 1) FW is distinctively able to build understanding of important phenomena in their rich, multi-dimensional contexts. 2) FW can contribute to powerful understanding of ecology in, of and/or for (to the benefit of) ecosystems, and play a critical role in understanding, restoring, managing and sustaining valued places. 3) FW can engender a sense of awe, wonder and beauty that comes from discovering in a place. 4) FW can help students pursue jobs that require proficiency with FW practices. 5) FW, while a potential barrier for some to learn, or pursue a career in, ecology, also can be an inspiration. Furthermore, immersive, intensive field experiences are likely to achieve multiple goals, including 4DEE learning plus social, personal and affective outcomes. Finally, the place or ‘field’ where FW takes place will define and constrain what the learning is useful for and what is worth learning about. Results/Conclusions Engaging a broader sweep of students in FW faces many challenges: 1) Safety of people not traditionally viewed as ‘fitting’ in field settings (e.g., the Birding while black phenomenon) or of working in places not traditionally studied (e.g., cityscapes with rats, needles, etc.). 2) Costs, including actual expenses and competing time demands (e.g., versus family commitments, etc.). 3) Different cultural perceptions of the value of FW. A number of critical questions emerge: 1) What is the current status of FW within the 4DEE at the undergraduate level? 2) Who defines the 'field' and the standards for what learning should take place ‘there’? 3) What might the ‘new’ field look like – expanded, contracted, virtual - and what are the implications for teaching? 4) What supports are needed for a) units and courses, b) degree programs and c) institutions and field stations? 4) How can we proactively advance FW and its place in eco-literacy, exerting our power and using formative assessment to influence and steer its development? We will propose concrete suggestions for addressing these questions for those seeking to advance FW and engage the broadest diversity of students in its riches.