2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 11:10 AM


HARRIES, Peter J., Dept. of Geology, Univ. of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Ave, SCA 528, Tampa, FL 33620-5201, OCHES, Eric A., Department of Environmental Science & Policy, University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Ave. - NES107, Tampa, FL 33620 and HERBERT, Gregory S., Department of Geology, Univ of South Florida at Tampa, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., SCA 528, Tampa, FL 33620, harries@chuma.cas.usf.edu

There are several REU ‘models' whose end members range from a student cohort working on a single project to those where individual students undertake discrete research projects with various mentors, often involving quite different research questions and approaches from one another. Within the former end member, a major challenge exists in allowing students the intellectual freedom to pursue research areas of their interest while still maintaining coherence with the larger research goals of the project. In our REU – reconstructing Florida's Plio-Pleistocene paleoenvironmental history – we have dealt extensively with this issue at the proposal stage and, more importantly, in the implementation of the research plan.

Rather than assign students to specific research tasks, our goal was to first introduce them, in a general sense, to the broader questions that the project was to address. This was done through distributing readings to the students prior to their arrival, delivering introductory lectures outlining potential research questions, followed by an intensive two-week period of field research. Through this process, augmented by the examination of samples following our return from the field, students not only honed their geologic skills, but also became much more attuned to the broader research issues associated with the larger project, in addition to discovering their own research interests. As sample processing and analysis progressed, we held individual conferences with the students to define participant projects that met both individual student interests and broader site objectives. Students presented initial project hypotheses, followed by weekly progress reports, to the entire group in which the interrelated nature of the individual projects became apparent, collaborative research efforts evolved, and knowledge of a broader range of research tools was promulgated. The primary benefits of this approach are that students feel ‘vested' in their projects and are motivated to pursue their research vigorously, and also that they gain an appreciation of developing a multidisciplinary research team. The primary challenge remains to extend this interdependence to the future years and integrate not only within an individual cohort, but also from successive groups across the initial three-year site plan.