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Comparing Primary and Secondary Forest in a Preserve in Plano Texas: A Forest Ecology Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) for Non-Majors and Lower-Level Majors

Author(s): Tamara Basham

Collin County Commuity College District

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Summary:
An activity that can be conducted as an online or field exercise in which students develop and test their hypotheses about how forest stand characteristics differ between two forest types.

Description

Over the course of two to three lab periods, students use their knowledge of ecological succession and forest ecology to develop and test their hypotheses about how forest stand characteristics differ between two forest types: 1) primary forest and 2) secondary forest that has been re-growing since 1995. This activity can be conducted as a field exercise followed by two lab periods in which students process and analyze collected data using pivot tables in Excel, and then present their findings in a poster format. Alternatively, the exercise can be conducted online using previously collected data. Materials for the online version of the exercises are provided here.

Notes

First online version adapted from a field exercise.

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Comments

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    J. Phil Gibson @ on

    Hey. This is really interesting. I was wondering, have you tried using any techniques like PCQ or an angle gauge. They would fit this perfectly.

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      Tamara Basham @ on

      Hi Phil,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, I considered several different survey methods, before deciding to go with this plot-based one. I know that it is not what is traditionally used for this type of sampling, but it requires very little set up and seemed like it would be more intuitive for folks who are unaccustomed to this type of work.Also, the plot method works well for the time that we have (I do this with my evening class, so we don't have a lot a of daylight in which to work), and it allows us to do random sampling across a larger distance within the two plot types with less effort than PCQ would. I also think that PCQ and other transect methods are more appropriate for sampling along gradients and transition zones. These are distinct forest patches that share an abrupt boundary.

      I think that measuring tree height would be a great addition. I will definitely keep it on the list. The first year has been discovering what is logistically possible. Last semester was consumed with turning field exercises into a guided online exercise. Eventually, I plan to have students decide what and how we sample based on readings and experience from prior labs.

      Tamara

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        J. Phil Gibson @ on

        Right on. Makes sense. If you get a chance, we can talk about angle gauges. Inexpensive, easy, and generates a lot of great data.  Also would work well with limited light time availability you mentioned. Students could even make one of their own gauges for work on their own. Even a thumb on an outstretched arm will kind of work. 

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          Tamara Basham @ on

          I think that we could fit in some angle gauge measurements. I also like that idea of students making their own equipment. Definitely would like to chat more about this.

          On a different note, I was just checking out your Tree-Thinking Curriculum!  What a wealth of resources! Have you ever thought about flipping the order in which topics are covered? Starting with Biomes and working smaller?

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