GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 264-3
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


LUKES, Laura A., Stearns Center, Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Sciences, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, RYKER, Katherine, Geography and Geology, Eastern Michigan University, 301W Mark Jefferson, Ypsilanti, MI 48197, MILLSAPS, Camerian, Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Sciences, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, LOCKWOOD, Rowan, Department of Geology, The College of William and Mary, PO Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23187, UHEN, Mark, Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earth Sciences, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, BENTLEY, Callan, Geology program, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale, VA 22652, BERQUIST, Peter J., Geology Department, Thomas Nelson Community College, Hampton, VA 23670 and GEORGE, Christian O., Department of Biology, High Point University, One University Parkway, High Point, NC 27268,

Undergraduate research experiences have been linked to positive student success measures in STEM. With dwindling budgets and growing online programs across 2YC/4YC institutions, large datasets like the Paleobiology Database (PBDB) offer students an opportunity to engage in meaningful research experiences without the high cost associated with lab-based research experiences. As part of an NSF IUSE Grant (DUE-1504588), inquiry-based activities in which students use the PBDB to investigate a variety of phenomena were developed, evaluated, and implemented in introductory level undergraduate geoscience courses across five institutions (three 4YC; two 2YC). Students completed a survey (comprised of OSCAR and SALG instrument elements), as well as a three open-ended question future research project interest reflection.

A preliminary examination of the survey data (n = 224; 46% plan on majoring in science) suggests students are divided between whether they’ve done or plan to do research (34.9% yes, 30.7% no, 34.4% not sure). The most motivating factors for doing research are working on a specific project (18.3%), gaining experience for career/graduate school (16.0%), and being excited by/loving the work (14.2%). Students described working with the PBDB as being of moderate or much help in increasing their comfort level working with complex ideas and large datasets. A preliminary analysis of student reflections (n=189), yielded four emergent categories for student perceptions of research: research as making observations of distribution patterns; research as making observations of distribution patterns in relation to another variable; research as making observations and formulating hypotheses or making predictions; and other. Reported future interest in conducting research using PBDB varied (yes, no, maybe/non-committal) with emergent themes around interest level in geoscience and/or research in general; the perception of the value of the PBDB dataset; user experience with dataset (e.g., ease of use, likability); and appropriateness of dataset for their research topic/questions. These results suggest that students do have interest in using large datasets to engage in research, but more explicit instruction around conducting research is needed to ensure quality experience.