Biological Sciences (61). Growing efforts to reform undergraduate science education call for engagement of students in scientific processes, including designing investigations and analyzing data. This project is helping to meet this need by creating, piloting, and promoting use of a suite of web-based curriculum resources designed to engage undergraduates in research. These curriculum resources allow undergraduates in biology, ecology, environmental science and ornithology courses to learn how to access and use the wealth of scientific data accumulating in online databases, and guide faculty through all steps of facilitating student research using data from several rich and ever-growing online collections of data about birds and other organisms. Initially designed investigations focus on two themes central to undergraduate biology: population ecology and animal communication and behavior. In the investigations, students pose questions and conduct investigations using two types of web-accessible databases. Investigations focusing on ecology use bird population data assembled through citizen science projects such as eBird (http://ebird.org), which contains over 21 million records of bird observations submitted by more than 31,000 individuals throughout the western hemisphere. To address questions related to animal communication and behavior, students analyze recordings from Macaulay Library, the world's largest online archive of animal sounds and videos (http://macaulaylibrary.org). Students are guided through all steps of research - from devising relevant questions, to designing feasible investigations, to presenting and critiquing the results. As a consequence, undergraduate research becomes feasible in all types of academic settings, and students build skills that can enrich their future studies and careers.
Intellectual Merit: This project advances STEM learning through development of a model for provision of authentic research experiences to undergraduates in a diversity of settings, including distance-learning courses, institutions with no lab facilities, and large classes. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is uniquely qualified to carry out this work because of the close working relationship it has established among database developers, information scientists, and end users, including research scientists, educators, and students.
Broader Impacts: This project leverages the impacts of numerous NSF-sponsored citizen science projects, digital libraries, and visualization tools by making their products accessible to undergraduate students from a full range of academic institutions - community colleges, liberal arts colleges, research universities, and distance education. Collaborations are being established among a faculty network poised to implement innovative web-based research experiences in their science teaching, leading to increased success in achieving the science process goals delineated in undergraduate science education reform initiatives.