Meeting Abstract

41.1  Jan. 6  Future Ecologists As Researchers: A F.E.A.R. Factor Summer in St Louis BADE, L.M.; Univ. of Missouri, St Louis

Students in urban settings have limited exposure to conservation biology and ecology topics. In actuality, studying ecology in urban environments is accessible, rewarding, and can provide students with authentic research opportunities. Towards these goals, the Biology Department at the University of Missouri-St Louis and Missouri Science Teaching and Education Partnerships (MO-STEP, a National Science Foundation GK-12 Program) implemented the Future Ecologists As Researchers (F.E.A.R. Factor) program. F.E.A.R. Factor was a 6-week summer internship program for high school students funded by NSF. Through field work and on-site research, students studied aquatic, prairie, and forest ecosystems, investigated native and exotic species, and discovered the wildlife in managed urban habitats. Students measured biodiversity in urban ecosystems, compared biotic and abiotic factors, investigated habitat fragmentation, and studied the impact of introduced species in Missouri habitats. The National Science Education Standards were addressed through the inquiry-based structure of the program. Reinforcement of life science content standards such as biological evolution and interdependence of organisms were supported through field research and direct observation. Students improved their higher-order skills by developing hypotheses, designing experiments, critiquing scientific literature, routinely interacting with scientific professionals, and explaining and defending their research and hypotheses in oral presentations. The F.E.A.R. Factor program concluded with a Student Symposium, with each student presenting their research through a poster session attended by faculty, graduate students, teachers, parents, and peers.