GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 305-3
Presentation Time: 2:15 PM


VAN DIJK, Deanna, Department of Geology, Geography and Environmental Studies, Calvin College, 3201 Burton St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546 and BRUXVOORT, Crystal, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Calvin College, 3201 Burton St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546,

The First-Year Research in Earth Sciences (FYRES) project targets students at two strategic intervals in the education pipeline: the first months of undergraduate education and while students are exploring their commitment to a geoscience discipline. At Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Michigan), the FYRES project includes a course that immerses first-semester college students in authentic dune research and a related cohort of more-experienced undergraduate student mentors. Early in the semester, complementary and interacting pathways have first-year students learning and mentors advancing research skills and content knowledge focused on Lake Michigan coastal dunes. Then research teams (typically 4 first-year students and one mentor) investigate interesting questions for the rest of the semester. The teams are guided with a structured research process that takes them from research design through data collection and analysis to scientific communication in a research poster and oral presentation at the end of the semester. However, student decisions and engagement shape their research experiences and outcomes, their discoveries are real, and their research results contribute to the growing body of knowledge on Michigan dunes. After the course ends, mentors continue the research towards conference presentations and research reports for dune managers.

Five years of evaluating the FYRES project have produced data on student participation and post-FYRES trajectories, measures of student competence in the practice of science and their research outcomes, and student reflections gathered before, during and after their FYRES experiences. Through the FYRES project, 103 first-year students and 27 mentors have completed substantive undergraduate research experiences resulting in 27 conference presentations and 23 research reports. The first-year students self-identify as science and non-science in roughly equal numbers before entering the course. Tracking students after course completion shows a small increase in the number of students who graduated with or were actively pursuing STEM disciplines compared to the number who initially identified as interested in science. After graduation, FYRES mentors continued on to graduate programs in STEM disciplines or science-focused careers.