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Urban stream invaders: a scientist spotlight featuring Dr. Piatã Santana Marques

Author(s): Jennifer Apple

SUNY Geneseo

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Students read and interpret data from a study which addresses how urbanization affects the invasive attributes of a non-native species. They also reflect on the identity of the lead researcher and how systemic racism has shaped his experiences.

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Version 1.0 - published on 15 Jul 2021 doi:10.25334/PS3C-0T54 - cite this


The main purpose of this lesson is to give students an opportunity to read a paper in the primary literature and interpret, summarize, and evaluate its findings, including inspection of several key graphs. The paper, “Urbanization can increase the invasive potential of alien species,” by Piatã Santana Marques et al. touches on several important ecological issues:  what factors make invasive species successful, the impacts of urbanization, the impacts of the environment on an organism’s phenotype, and the consequences of species interactions and trophic relationships. The paper should be accessible to second-year students:  the study’s design and data collection is clear and easy to visualize, while most of the figures are straightforward to interpret. The author, a graduate student at the time, is a Black scientist from Brazil who had repeated encounters with police while performing field work in urban areas of Rio de Janeiro. To learn about Dr. Marques’s background and experiences, students also read a blog post he wrote, “Navigating biological invasion and structural racism in urban systems.” In response to this blog post, students respond to some questions about the identity of this scientist and the challenges he faces.

Quantitative learning objectives:

  1. Interpret informative graphs and other data visualizations
  2. Interpret the biological meaning of quantitative results
  3. Interpret, summarize, and evaluate evidence in primary literature
  4. Relate conclusions to original hypothesis, consider alternative hypotheses, and suggest future research directions based on findings

Content learning objectives:

  1. Apply knowledge of ecological concepts to predict impacts of human activities on ecosystems and biodiversity
  2. Apply knowledge of ecological processes and develop models to explain ecological patterns and make predictions

Social justice and/or diversity/equity/inclusion learning objectives:

  1. Identify and describe how systemic factors (e.g., socioeconomic, political) affect how and by whom science is conducted
  2. Adopt a more nonstereotypical description of who can be a scientist and increase ability to relate to scientists
  3. Identify challenges that systemic racism or other biases can pose for scientists of diverse backgrounds

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