The Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP) is creating tools and materials to help students learn about the scientific observations, measurements techniques, and computer models used in a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ecological Forecasting project. A team of environmental engineers, scientists, and computational modelers is developing more precise food web models to better predict PCB toxin levels in Great Lakes fish. New Science Content and Methods for High School Students Northwestern is developing a set of hands-on inquiry activities on ecosystems, food webs, and bioaccumulation for use in high school environmental science and biology classes. These activities will teach students about current scientific research in Great Lakes ecosystems. At the same time, students will learn about innovations in the scientific process, including interdisciplinary collaboration, computer modeling of complex systems, and model validation via empirical data collection. Cyberlearning Tools

  • Students use NetLogo, a computational modeling tool developed specifically for education at Northwestern
  • Visualization and data analysis enable learners to work directly with complex scientific data and current research; modeling provides them with a mechanism for evaluating and exploring the implications of scientific theories
  • Learners interact with dynamic representations of scientific processes that contribute to improved conceptual understanding of complex systems and computational modeling
  • Using these data and analysis tools, students gain not only content knowledge, but also increased motivation, self-efficacy, and improved attitudes toward technology

Course Content

  • Students investigate real-world questions and issues, and analyze and debate multiple perspectives on ecological protection and remediation
  • Project-based approach engages students in active learning through authentic scientific practices
  • Students learn about the dynamic nature of food webs and the importance of biodiversity
  • Addresses relevant National Science Education Standards and AAAS Benchmarks for Science Literacy with a particular emphasis on teaching systems thinking skills

Undergraduate and Graduate Education As it covers a breadth of disciplines, this project will provide interdisciplinary training of Ph.D. students, post-docs, and faculty. Undergraduate students will be involved in two ways: through undergraduate research and through course work modules that extend from our research. Northwestern has included new lectures about fishery and ecological health in a new Sustainability course taught in Civil and Environmental Engineering and in a Summer Institute taught in the NU School of Continuing Studies. We also provide lectures in the Chicago area on ecological sustainability.

The EcoCasting Project: Ecological Forcasting: Framework to Evaluate the Effects of Multiple Stresses on Lake Michigan Food Webs and Guide Remediation is supported in part by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under grant NMFS-HCPO-2009-2002033 to Kimberly Gray. However, any opinions, finding, conclusions, and/or recommendations are those of the ivestigators and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Administration.