1250 Support for Field-Based Undergraduate Research in Earth/Environmental Sciences and Biology Courses at an Oregon Community College, Including Taphonomy!

Wednesday, 15 January 2020
Hall B (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Paul Ruscher, Lane Community College, Eugene, OR; and C. Andrews, J. Anderson, S. Clarke, S. Holmes, R. Kirwin, S. Kiser, J. McLaughlin, C. Owen, and A. Pooth

Handout (6.4 MB) Handout (4.4 MB)

In 2018, a three-year NSF-supported program helped Lane Community College (LCC) to significantly enhance deployment of undergraduate research in our non-majors’ science classes was completed. Impacts have been positive and substantive, particularly for those taking (and teaching) electives in biology (botany, ecology, entomology, microbiology, mycology, zoology) and across the earth and environmental sciences. This work has facilitated division and college institutional support for dedicated research space, acquisition of new equipment and support for full-time faculty requests, and support for part-time faculty to join in the effort. As a result, many of our elective classes now include substantive research experiences as a key student learning outcome for these classes.

As a result of that success, the Science Division has engaged with the broader campus to further support and expand research across the college, renew the college’s commitment to its honors program, and also seek other opportunities, particularly for field-based research on our campus forests, wetlands, and meadows. Deployment of game cameras on our campus wildlands have illustrated some unexpected animal behavior and sightings, and also provided an opportunity for LCC to deploy the first outdoor taphonomy research facility in the western United States. This “body farm” is so far engaged in collaborative research with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oregon on a site jointly managed and maintained on the community college campus. A portable weather and soil monitoring station is being used to document environmental conditions within the small site, which we hope to greatly expand in the near future, for the benefit of biologists, environmental scientists, archaeologists, and forensic specialists.

This update on the research aspects of our educational mission will highlight some of the challenges of carrying out research within the confines of lower division science classes at a community college as well as some of its surprises and successes. It will also feature how the partnership with a transfer partner (in this case, University of Oregon), will provide tangible benefits for our students, and theirs. Caution: some of the material presented in this paper may be offensive to some.

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