Monday was the first meeting for EVE 180 (Experimental Ecology and Evolution in the Field). It was no surprise that the class is full of enthusiastic and talented students, all bringing different skills and experiences to the course. I am so excited to see where your creativity and nature’s inspiration takes us during this course! During our first meeting, we: did introductions, went through the course syllabus, discussed what makes for fantastic field research, and took a virtual tour of potential field sites, some of which we will be visiting on Wednesday and Monday. Find our plans for Wednesday at the bottom of the post.
—– OUTLINE OF CLASS —–
- Why this class is unique
- Course Dropbox
- Active learning
- Class schedule
- Choosing a project
- The notebook
- Course blog
- Discussion: elements of fantastic research
- Discussion: field site options
- Made plan for Wednesday
—– NOTES FROM CLASS —–
Why this class is unique: EVE 180 is a class in which we get to engage in experimental ecology. We will attempt an ambitious research project, take risks, learn by doing, and spend more than half of our class time outside. The class is full of highly-motivated students that will enable a large-scale research project and a range of perspectives on ecology and evolution.
Course Dropbox: Instead of smartsite, we will use a shared Dropbox folder to disseminate readings, share readings, keep data and paper drafts. Don’t forget to join the Dropbox folder, and remember that if you want to edit a document with personal notes to save your own version to your hard drive.
Learning through doing: Science is an iterative process, and here we will engage in the scientific process. Remember, you are the course leaders! You get to do science, and decide the directions the project will take. Yay science!
Schedule: The “normative schedule” on the syllabus is merely an outline – we won’t stick exactly to it but it will help keep us on track. Ultimately, the project you choose will determine the final schedule.
Choosing a project: Since everyone who signed up for this class is interested in ecology and evolution, everyone has probably come with some ideas on what project might be interesting for the class. The main requirements for the project is that is it should be both interesting and practical. To choose the project we pursue, our plan of action is:
everyone comes up with a project idea –> share ideas with class, class votes on favorite ideas –> class splits into 2-3 groups to develop these project ideas further –> share ideas with class, class votes on favorite idea –> move forward with designing and implementing the project
The notebook: everyone received a fresh, blank, notebook to use for EVE 180. It is small enough to bring most places, and big enough to fill with observations and thoughts. This notebook is a place to write your wonders and dreams about the natural world, and pretty much anything aside from our organized data collection. Notebooks are particularly good for writing down observations that might later aid in data analysis and interpretation (e.g. was today particularly cloudy or windy, were there certain organisms present in the field that usually aren’t? etc.)
Twitter: Twitter, the social media network, has become a great hub to share scientific information. We encourage everyone in the class to create a twitter handle. This can be used to follow your favorite scientists, science organizations, and class members to share ideas quickly and efficiently. Twitter is also a great avenue for scientific outreach. Don’t forget to add #eve180 for all the tweets you write pertaining to the course.
The blog: This blog is our shared project notebook. It will help us document our accomplishments/milestones, and it will help us track important decisions we will make for the project. There will be entries from every class meeting. The blogger will take notes during class, write the post and create the schedule for the next class. The blogger will then become the MC for the next course, and help us stick to our planned schedule.
Expectations: Be prepared for class (both physically and mentally) so that we can have productive meetings. Be prepared to volunteer for different tasks. We don’t want to keep track of who does how much work — we should all be putting in lots of effort.
Reintroduction: From our reintroduction, we learned that the students in the course are bringing a diverse skill set and scientific perspective to our team. We have organizers, citation trackers, readers and writers, outdoorsy folk, math enthusiasts, entomologists, environmental monitors, and students with experience in many different science labs, including: marine, molecular, and soil labs, along with students who have experience in experimental design and independent research. Needless to say I’m really excited to learn from you all and see what new skills and perspectives we all acquire from this course.
Elements of fantastic research: As a class, we discussed what we think are the key elements to fantastic scientific research:
- research rooted in natural history
- applied research (can be used for decision making, economics, etc.)
- research that addresses an open/active debate in ecology
- accessible research (accessible to non-scientists and the public)
- flexible research (will the results be just as interesting if the hypothesis is refuted?)
- experimental research (and the ability to zero in on a mechanism)
- innovative research (finding out something new about the world)
In general, we decided that there is no one recipe for great research.
I am sure I am not alone when I reveal that I was really inspired during our discussion. There is so much left to learn about the natural world! Sure, it is really easy to get overwhelmed when digging into the literature, but there are so many species undescribed, interactions undiscovered, and phenomena unexplored. So don’t be afraid to explore, observe, and see the world with naive eyes. Let us return to our childish state of imagination and experimentation. Lets pose risks and lighten up. Expect to be surprised!
Potential field sites: we took a virtual tour of areas in and around Davis, CA that could potentially be used as our field site. Kara came with some places in mind but everyone pitched in ideas. We discussed tradeoffs of site selection (is the site close/far, is it public or private?) and voted on which places we will visit as a class. All the potential sites we discussed are:
- Arboretum (bike, public): high plant diversity, oak garden, otters
- Bee Biology Facility (bike, private): has honey bee hives, native plants, ongoing research
- Campus (bike, public): history of research on wildlife, good for urban ecology questions
- Cemetery natural area (bike, public): lichens on tombstones, turkey activity
- Ecological Garden and Student Farm (bike, public): native plants, outreach, agroecology
- F street areas
- Fish tank area (bike, private): tanks can be used as experimental ponds
- Landfill and campus biodigester (bike?, private): microbes, seagulls, raptors
- Natural area near Conaway Ranch (drive, public)
- Old field (bike, private): high/low nutrient soil, good for common garden, site of past EVE 180 fieldwork
- Putah Creek (variable distance and accessibility): riparian areas, native wildlife
- Russel Blvd (bike, public): walnut trees, olive trees, urban ecology
- Russel Ranch (driving, private):
- Long Term Research on Agricultural Systems (LTRAS) fields (crop rotation experiment)
- Oak savannah (where 2013’s EVE 180 course did their project)
- Wildlife restoration site (native forbs, grasses, burning, grazing)
- Village Homes (bike, public): urban gardens, no-spray vineyard
- Viticulture fields (bike, public): grape ecology
- Wildhorse Greenbelt (bike, public): raptor restoration project
- Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (bike, public): wetlands, bats, wildlife
After discussion these potential field sites, the class decided to rule out the natural area near Conaway Ranch and the Viticulture fields. The most popular options were: the Arboretum, Putah Creek, F street area, and the Yolo Bypass.
Remember – we can still consider other field sites. If you are particularly passionate about a site, go visit it on your own or with some classmates. Check it out, naturalize, and report back to the class.
—– PLAN FOR WEDNESDAY, 07 JAN 2015 —–
2:10 – meet in classroom, head out to field sites (via vans)
2:20-3:00 – Explore Putah Creek
3:10 – 3:50 – Explore F Street natural areas (pond, ditch, and field)
4:00-4:40 – Explore the Yolo Bypass (fingers crossed to see the bats emerge at sunset!)
5:00 – return to classroom
FORECAST: High of 64, low of 41, 0% chance of rain, 72% humidity, light and variable winds. Sunset at 5:02pm (weather.com)
REMEMBER: come prepared for the field! Bring layers, notebook, natural history skills, curiosity, water and snacks.
See you Wednesday! 🙂