Welcome to EVE 180!

img_7362Welcome to EVE 180 – 2017 Winter and Spring! Enjoy this picture of an empty, clean lab while it lasts. Before we know it, we will fill it with samples, wet boots, field equipment, and data sheets.

Outline of the minutes:

  • Welcome
  • Course overview/syllabus
  • Introductions
  • Logistics
    • photos
    • notebooks
    • Google Drive
    • Blogger / MC signup
    • WordPress
    • Remind
    • Keys
    • Zotero
  • What makes a really great project?
  • Field sites (Google Earth)

The minutes

The main goal, first and foremost, is to do a research project. You (the students) are in the drivers seat, and will make the big decisions. In 20 weeks time as a group we hope to perform an entire project from conception to completion as a publishable paper.

The thing that sets this class apart is it’s participatory nature. By trying to do good research, we will assume that we will learn the fundamentals of research along the way. Every aspect of the class is collaborative including conception, decision-making, and even literature searches.

One exception: Each individual will analyze the class data and write an individual report.

Our project will be voted upon by you, the students, within the coming weeks! Our goal is to hold this final vote by the week of February 14. How will we manage to complete an entire research project in ~20 weeks? The key will be collaboration, ingenuity, and enthusiasm.

The Question: Identifying a question can be one of the hardest parts of a research project, and often requires a stroke of inspiration.

The 4 elements of a great project:

  1. Question
  2. Field Site
  3. Organism
  4. Method

A successful project will require all 4, but researchers often develop projects around one of these approaches they have identified as interesting, where they have a relevant skill set, or a depth of experience.

The Blog:

We will rely on the course blog to both remember what we have done, and plan what we will do. Each meeting, two class members will sign up for roles 1) The MC – runs the meeting, keeps the class on task 2) The Blogger – write down what has been done during a meeting, and write the agenda for the next meeting. The blogger will enforce their agenda as the MC in the next meeting.

On notebooks: almost all scientists have one, and keep them on their person. Most importantly the notebooks serve as a repository for ideas. They don’t need to be neat, but knowing where you wrote down an idea can be invaluable weeks or months later.

Expectations for class:

Be thoughtful, present, prepared, and volunteer often and cheerfully! The only way this class can work is through effective collaboration among all course participants.

A few logistics:

We invested time into digital course infrastructure by signing up for several free services (quite a list! Google Drive, MC/Blogger signup, WordPress accounts, Remind, and more!). Phew! We will try our best to use smartphones and computers as tools to do better ecology this quarter.

Literature searching and bibliographic software: Mendeley and Zotero are both free options for organizing references. Use when you find the paper to create a record of what you have been reading. This will allow you to “cite and write”, inserting citations with auto formatting, and creating your bibliographies automatically.

What make for a really great project?

  • Innovative: we want to contribute new knowledge to the world. Something fundamentally new to science. Before we know something is not known, we need to be familiar with the literature and what is known
  • Importance: While the realm of unknowns is virtually infinite, we will aim to do a project from which the new knowledge is in some sense generalizable. We will aim to create knowledge that is important to the broader scope of ecology.
  • Feasible: What can we do with our time and resources? We are particularly limited in geography (a small slice of the central valley), time (January-early June), and financial (small budget with large ambitions)
  • Communication: If the project has the first 3 attributes, then we will want share it. This involves using a standardized format of scientific paper, as well as this blog!

On Gumbo:

File (fee-lay) powder. The supposedly necessary ingredient for real gumbo. Is there a similarly rigid method for performing research? (e.g. the scientific method as we know it). The process of science is all at once, variable, social, continuous, and creative. These features do not easily fit into a 5 step process.  Rather, a working group generated a more realistic and complex figure explaining how science is done:

Screen Shot 2017-01-10 at 3.25.22 PM.png

credit: http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/scienceflowchart

Science is rarely linear, and hopefully not entirely predictable.

The File powder of science: controls, replication, technology, experiments, statistics, peer review, publication. All are desirable, but not essential. Only imagination and creativity are truly essential to the scientific process. The first steps to designing an entire experiment is asking a question, and then slowly modifying it.

  • asking questions
  • asking testable questions
  • asking creative testable questions

This is a difficult process, but we will struggle together. Among the group, we will likely have individuals who either “jackrabbits” rushing ahead to complete a task before planning, or “perfectionists”, over-planning and never getting into the field to gather the data.

Three pieces of advice on science creativity

Creating science that inspires wonder, surprises, and amazes.

  • find and create moments of reflection (we are processor limited, not information limited)
  • think and read outside your comfort zone (but only just! Working outside your comfort zone will help you learn new skills and expand your abilities.)
  • Dare to be naive. (R. Buckminster Fuller)

A digital tour of the Davis natural areas

  • Arboretum – lots of non-native and native plants. Of particular interest: the oak grove
  • Campus
  • Putah Creek – long riparian stretch south of campus. Much owned by UCD, friendly to research.
  • I80 field
  • cattle tanks/ponds
  • Back widow barn (!)
  • North Davis Creek
  • Putah Creek (Raptor Center)
  • LTRAS – Primary purpose, a 100 year agricultural experiment. A nice oak woodland attached, but driving distance.
  • Truman’s plots
  • Wildhorse
  • West Davis Pond
  • Student Farms
  • Yolo Bypass

A consideration to all sites: public access. If our project requires conspicuous infrastructure, then public access could lead to intentional or unintentional disturbance.

The agenda for our next meeting, Thursday – 1/12/17

  • first field trip (Arboretum). meet at Storer, go to Arb. 1:40-1:55
  • Arboretum: 1:55-3:00
  • option A: good weather – commute to Putah Creek site 3:00-3:10
  • option A: Putah Creek 3:10-4:15
  • option A: commute to campus 4:15-4:30
  • option B: bad weather – commute back to Storer 3:00-3:15
  • option B: Discuss ideas, divide literature search: 3:15-4:30

 

 

 

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