ACM institutions have a long tradition of establishing and managing field stations, to engage students in the study of the environment using active learning, and research- and place-based pedagogies. Field stations have long integrated on- and off-campus learning, but they have largely worked in isolation, despite sharing a focus on the restoration of local native communities (prairies, savannahs, wetlands, and woodlands).
This project establishes a network between four ACM institutions with strong traditions and multiple faculty and staff engaged in local field station research and teaching. Our goals are to identify common challenges in management, teaching, and research and to establish priorities for the future.
Funds will support:
- an initial meeting of representatives from the four institutions with the goal of informing faculty and staff of the history of research, teaching, and management at each field station;
- site visits and online meetings to develop potential collaborations and identify additional partners; and
- a workshop to decide upon collaborative research, teaching, and monitoring projects, including those that could be supported by external grants. For this workshop, we will invite faculty from many disciplines with interest in joining the collaboration network from other ACM institutions, including those without field stations.
Note: Adapted from original project proposal.
We seek to develop a network of collaboration among faculty and staff across several ACM institutions, each with distinctive histories of engaging students in the scientific study of local Midwestern environments.
The project will support ongoing, successful pedagogical approaches that are problem-based, seeking to understand processes behind changes in the environment, particularly those important to successful restoration and management of habitats that have been degraded or destroyed by changes in land use since Euro-American colonization.A single network of collaboration will expand student opportunities to contribute meaningfully to this understanding.While there have been two recent ACM projects involving field study, this project is unique in focusing on environments local to each institution. At the same time, collaboration across institutions and locales will allow for parallel long-term experiments, shared databases, and linked courses.
Managing and learning from local environments has a number of inherent challenges. First, ecological processes are slow and thus require long-term research planning, well-suited to engaging students in classes over the years to build long-term databases. Second, ecological outcomes are often site-specific, so creating parallel studies across field stations can lead to important insight into the generality of environmental challenges and their solutions. While each institution is small, a network of faculty and staff will provide the multi-disciplinary expertise required, along with varied experiences in pedagogical and research approaches. This will allow us to compete with groups from larger institutions while seeking funding for supporting longer term collaborations, a major goal of this project.
The team includes St. Olaf faculty who have been involved in the establishment of a field study network among institutions (Ecological Research as Education Network, erenweb.org), a project previously funded by the NSF. They will bring their perspectives to building a network of collaboration on a smaller scale and between liberal arts institutions that share the Midwest region as their locale.
In addition to the project team, we anticipate involving the following faculty and staff from each institution:
- Grinnell College: Kathryn Jacobson, Professor of Biology; Elizabeth Hill, Manager, Conard Environmental Research Area; Jonathan Andelson, Professor of Anthropology; Lee Running, Associate Professor of Art
- St. Olaf College: Diane Angell, Assistant Professor of Biology; Jean Porterfield, Associate Professor of Biology; Nic Nelson, Natural Lands Manager
- Knox College: Jim Mountjoy, Associate Professor of Biology