Paper No. 2-2
Presentation Time: 8:20 AM
INDEPENDENT ENVIRONMENTAL MODELING RESEARCH IN THE UNDERGRADUATE CLASSROOM
Models allow scientists and others to represent features and behaviors of environmental systems in order to promote inquiry, develop insights, test hypotheses, and consider solutions to problems. Environmental modeling also offers a way to include independent research on environmental issues in undergraduate classes, especially during winter when outdoor labs are more difficult. I will present on a directed undergraduate research course titled Environmental Modeling taught at St. Olaf College and Colorado College. The class used primary literature and hands on experiences with computer models to introduce environmentally relevant modeling tools. Topics covered in readings, lectures, or student presentations included process based models of disease, climate, ice, ecosystems, ecosystem services, hydrology, predator-prey systems, and competition among species for resources. Students conducted student-designed original research projects either by developing their own environmental model or by using existing models. Students participating in the class were environmental science/studies, economics, biology, math, geology, or physics majors, although the class was open to all students who were “comfortable thinking quantitatively”. No prior programming experience was required as a prerequisite, although students who had previous experience with R or Matlab were able to design more complex models. The students were graded on their class participation in discussions, literature presentations, a model review assignment of a peer reviewed modeling paper, several modeling “checkpoint” assignments designed to monitor progress, and on 4 in-class presentations designed to foster a collaborative atmosphere and improve communication skills.