Stories from our Network - Harmony Dalgleish at the College of William and Mary
Institution: College of William and Mary
Context: Advanced Population and Community Ecology Lab
Class Size: 24
Length of Lab: 3 hours
I taught both the “A Walk in the Woods” and “Survivorship” modules in an advanced population and community ecology lab. Each lab was 3 hours long and in both cases I taught the module in conjunction with another activity.
I really liked how the wood module taught plant anatomy in the context of evolutionary tradeoffs to solve an ecological problem. At the time in the course we were discussing tradeoffs, so I thought this module went with the course very well. At the beginning of class, I spent about 20 minutes introducing the material. Students then explored the data using the shiny app and I was pleased to see how the app allowed students to jump into the data and really explore it. Using the shiny app, students spent about 1.5 hours on the module. For the last hour of the lab, students finished analyzing leaf data they had collected the previous class. The leaf activity was adapted from a TIEE exercise called “Leaves as Thermometers.” The leaf data was analyzed using R. The last question students completed in the wood module used the shiny app to look at the R code that generated the graphs they were analyzing. I used this code activity to transition the students to doing the leaf analysis in R without using an app.
I taught the Survivorship module in conjunction with an abbreviated version of a TIEE exercise on Human Demography using cemetery and census data. A previous class had pulled the necessary data from a local cemetery and I pulled the pertinent census data for comparison. Students used both Google spreadsheets and Excel to complete these activities. Some of the students in my class didn’t really know how to use spreadsheets, so this was a good activity for them. I broke the class into 3 person groups and each group made all of the survivorship curves. I think that in the future, I will have more groups with fewer people and each person will make only 1 curve. I’d like to have more discussion and engagement with the interpretation and more thinking about the different species.