Building on a publication provides a fast, authentic research experience: a green and fuzzy case study for distance students

Cooke, Julia (2018). Building on a publication provides a fast, authentic research experience: a green and fuzzy case study for distance students. In: Advancing the synergies between teaching and research in ecology: Symposium of the Teaching and Learning Special Interest Group of the British Ecological Society, 27 Apr 2018, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Abstract

The fundamental process of scientific research, from initial observation to publication, is a time-consuming one in ecology making it challenging to teach in a way students can experience authentically. However, this process can be condensed in activities where students investigate new phenomena through the lens of a recent publication: a simultaneous immersion in research and published output that extends the original work. An exercise based on this approach is presented here. In 2014, thousands of green algal balls washed up unexpectedly on a Sydney beach and a possible scenario to explain their source, creation and beach wash up was described in a short paper (Cooke et al 2015). First year HE students are given a gentle, but genuine introduction into the scientific process by investigating a second (post-publication) algal ball wash-up to test outstanding hypotheses. Students use the same resources as the original authors of the paper: environmental records available online. This exercise was designed for distance learners, but the concept is appropriate for field or experimental ecology work also. The approach also offers students the opportunity to contribute their findings to future research and publications.

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