AUTHENTIC, LOW/NO COST RESEARCH EXPERIENCES IN INTRODUCTORY COURSES AND LABS: PROMISING STRATEGIES USING GEOINFORMATICS RESOURCES AND REMOTELY OPERABLE INSTRUMENTATION
A) Many Federal granting agencies support geoinformatics portals that provide free access to global terrestrial and planetary datasets, as well as geospatial/visualization tools for data manipulation. The Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA) portal provides GeoMapApp, a freely accessible geospatial information system providing ready visualization of global data for geology, oceanography, and atmospheric sciences. Visualizations of data hosted by IEDA and other cooperating portals can be ported into Google Earth or ArcGIS, and one can import one's own datasets into the GeoMapApp environment for visualization and comparison. The NSF MARGINS/GeoPRISMS research communities have created packaged resources ("Mini-Lessons") based on IEDA data, and the GeoMapApp interface is intuitive enough to support open-ended student investigations.
B) Terminal emulation technologies have made virtual operation routine for most analytical research instruments. As part of a CCLI Type 1 project, I piloted mineral/rock characterization activities utilizing scanning electron microscopy in a course project for an introductory level natural science course. Student responses were strongly positive, and project costs are modest ($20/hr for SEM time; required sample preparation is minimal), making hands-on, in-course research participation tractable.