For students, the gap between reading about science in a textbook and actually doing research can yawn as wide as the Grand Canyon.
The NRS’s California Ecology and Conservation course bridges that chasm for UC undergraduates. The course immerses students in research instruction at NRS reserves. Over the next seven weeks, they blossom into bona-fide field scientists.
Students learn to notice natural patterns while exploring each reserve. Class discussions guided by experienced field instructors help focus their general questions into feasible research projects.
Then everyone heads back outside to put their study plans into practice. Students ransack the equipment van for transect tape, binoculars, quadrat frames, and butterfly nets. Over the next day or three, students will collect data for studies ranging from animal behavior to native plant abundance.
Once armed with data points, students apply the recent lectures on local natural history and biostatistics to analyze their data. Standing before their peers and instructors, research teams present their findings via posters and computer presentations. With constant feedback and practice, students advance their public speaking and scientific writing by leaps and bounds.
In the final weeks of the program, students marshal all of their training to conduct an extended research project of their own devising. Final projects are shaped into a conference-style research presentation and a paper in the style of a professional journal article. The collected papers from each class are published online in the Journal of California Ecology and Conservation.
Students rave about the course.
“This course helped to demystify the idea of research. We all learned to look at science as a completely accessible process, and a fantastically rewarding one,” said Tanner Dulay of UC Santa Cruz.
“I’ve never felt so confident in not only forming questions about the world around me, but also in my ability to turn those into testable hypotheses,” said Katie Ohlin, UC Davis
Your gift to California Ecology and Conservation provides scholarships that enable students to afford course equipment such as sleeping bags and tents, and cover fees for food and transportation over the term. Your assistance can bring the world of field science within the reach of students ready and eager to learn.