Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Teaching Biogeochemistry and Ecosystem Ecology

I surveyed approximately 150 colleges and universities in the US for how they teach biogeochemistry and ecosystem ecology.

I'll submit the full report to the ESA Bulletin, but can attach a draft of the report here.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Less than half of the surveyed institutions teach a course that centers on BiogeoEcosystem science.
  • 40% of these were only offered to graduate students. 
  • Approximately 1300 students a year take these courses in the US. 40% are at just 10 institutions. 
  • 75% of the classes have no lab or field component.

I'll admit that almost half offering these courses is more than I thought. I had it pegged at 25%. Still what is being offered is in line with expectations.

One thing that is clear is that most US institutions do not offer undergraduates access to rich BiogeoEcosystem courses.

Whether the current level of access to BiogeoEcosystem subject material at the national scale is sufficient is a more difficult question. Clearly defined goals and benchmarks need to be defined for that.

One opinion though is that considering the fundamental importance of an understanding of BiogeoEcosystem science, it seems like access can be improved.

  • More institutions need to teach more students earlier. 
  • On-line courses are needed to supplement the curricula of institutions that cannot provide access to these courses. 
  • BiogeoEcosystem students need richer experiences that include lab and field experiences.

There aren't many levers to implement recommendations like these at the national level, though.

Hopefully, information like this will help.

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