A MODEL FOR ENGAGING UNDERGRADUATES IN AUTHENTIC LONG-TERM MULTIDISICPLINARY STREAM RESEARCH
Research themes centered on stream morphology, hydrodynamics, connectivity, and brook trout habitat to quantify biotic or abiotic changes resulting from stream barrier removal. Data was collected in 2012-2015. Undergraduate science majors, enrolled in a summer session conservation course, participated in the study. Classes met for 8 hours a week for 6 weeks. Premised on an experiential learning model, most class meetings were held in the field (for data collection). Student groups investigated each research theme, learning to 1) use scientific equipment, 2) collect, record, and analyze data, and 3) summarize findings and results. Specifically, students measured stream profiles and cross sections, macroinvertebrate and fish populations, habitat suitability, water quality, terrestrial plant coverage, and conducted pebble counts. Yearly, all data was analyzed and compiled into a final report for the DER. In addition, small groups of students annually presented findings at a state environmental science conference.
Student evaluation data indicates high student approval ratings for the course. During both the data collection and report writing phases, students were challenged to apply knowledge and skills and acquire greater appreciation of the nature of science. This course models a practical, affordable, and effective means for engaging students in science that is highly adaptable to other institutions.