Pedagogical research has demonstrated the effectiveness of authentic, inquiry-based research experiences in a classroom context for improving both cognitive and noncognitive learning outcomes for a broad range of students. Ecology labs are especially suitable for authentic classroom research experiences because they can be designed to integrate a number of important scientific skills. Here we describe a scaffolded, semester-long Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) for an introductory ecology lab intended for sophomore-level university students who have completed introductory biology coursework. Learning objectives and skills emphasized by this project cover the gamut of activities involved in implementing a multi-part, collaborative scientific project. These include scientific thinking, proper collection and curation of data, analytical skills (e.g., statistical reasoning, using statistical Geographic Information System [GIS] software), and communicating project results in both written and oral format. We emphasize the larger-scale collaborative framework as an approach that students are unlikely to have encountered previously, despite being applied commonly among practicing scientists. We also discuss ways this project could be scaled for different grade levels, access to field sites, and access to computing and other resources.

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