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NEON Data in the Classroom: Implementing and Adapting an Open Education NEON Resource “Quantifying the Drivers and Impacts of Natural Disturbance Events-The 2013 Colorado Floods” for the Southern California Classroom.

By Adriane Clark Jones

Mount Saint Mary's University

Natural disasters and subsequent ecological disturbance events illustrate the complexity of problems in ecology and environmental science, and can be used as effective teaching tools. Unpacking the diverse real-world factors leading up to events...

Listed in Teaching Materials | resource by group NEON Faculty Mentoring Network

Additional materials available

Version 1.0 - published on 11 Dec 2018 doi:10.25334/Q4F43W - cite this

Licensed under CC Attribution 4.0 International according to these terms

Adapted from: Quantifying The Drivers and Impacts of Natural Disturbance Events – The 2013 Colorado Floods v 1.0



In the spring of 2018 I participated in the National Ecological Observatory Network’s (NEON) Faculty Mentoring Network (FMN) hosted by QUBES ( As part of this community I implemented and adapted the interactive lesson “Quantifying the Drivers and Impacts of Natural Disturbance Events-The 2013 Colorado Floods” developed by Leah Wasser and Megan Jones ( This lesson uses natural disasters and subsequent ecological disturbance events as a tool to illustrate the complexity of environmental science. The Colorado flood lesson explores: 1) drought, 2) precipitation, and 3) stream discharge as factors leading up to the intense floods of 2013. In southern California we rarely experience floods as natural disasters; however threats from fires and severe drought conditions are real-world problems that students constantly confront. Two recent examples are: 1) the state of California was in an official drought from 2011-2017, and 2) in December 2017 the Thomas fire located in Santa Barbara County burned 281,893 acres from Dec 4th to January 12th and the Skirball fire located in Los Angeles County burned 422 acres from Dec 6th through the 15th.  Students at Mount Saint Mary’s University Chalon campus had to be evacuated and finals were postponed. I used the California drought and fires as personal examples to frame a lesson investigating the multi-layered environmental drivers of natural disasters in an introductory environmental science class for non-science majors.


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