Jenny Dauer

Jenny Dauer

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Title SNR Associate Director for Teaching; Science Literacy
Address 904 South Hardin Hall
3310 Holdrege Street
Lincoln NE
Phone 402-472-8136
FAX 402-472-2946
Vitae Download file

I am an assistant professor in science literacy in the School of Natural Resources. I am a researcher in the area of Discipline-Based Science Education Research (DBER), and my research interests are: 1) students' understanding of complex biological and earth systems, and 2) science literacy (described below). I use educational research methods to collect data such as interviews, written assessments and survey instruments to characterize and evaluate student learning. The results are then used to inform educators of improved teaching strategies.

1) Student understanding of complex systems
Students are not blank slates and come into a classroom with knowledge and conceptions that may or may not be helpful in future learning. So, it is important to understand what students know or understand in order to teach them more effectively. In particular, biological and earth systems are complex in nature, with multiple scales or organization, heterogeneous components that have interconnections and invisible dynamic components. I am interested in understanding how students make sense of these systems and learn to do "systems-thinking." I have studied this in several contexts:

  • Students' understanding of matter and energy: I've collaborated with several colleagues at different institutions to develop theoretical frameworks to describe how students' explanation or argumentation practices about carbon-transforming processes (photosynthesis, cellular respiration, combustion, etc.) increases in sophistication as students learn. For example, I have investigated explanations that students give about matter tracing in plant growth experiments. Additionally, I've written extensive middle and high school curriculum to help students learn about matter and energy ( . Most recently I've investigated students' tracing of matter and energy in human energy systems in the context of a novel program to raise awareness of human behaviors that are linked to carbon emissions called Classrooms Take Charge (
  • Pollination systems knowledge: In collaboration with colleagues in the Entomology Department, we are developing a framework that describes undergraduate students' knowledge of pollination systems. This framework will be useful for assessing future educational activities and programming around pollinator conservation.
  • Canid species distribution and conservation: In collaboration with biologists in the School of Natural Resources, we are studying students' engagement in a citizen science or Classroom Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) project to collect camera trap data on canid species in Nebraska ( The camera trap data will be used to help biologists map the at-risk Swift fox species. This project affords an opportunity to research students understanding of complex interactions between the landscape, human action and ecosystem community dynamics, as well as student thinking about issues of conservation and the role of scientific research.

2) Scientific literacy and decision-making
Science literacy has three components: scientific knowledge, scientific competency (e.g. using scientific evidence) and scientific contexts (e.g. life situations involving science and technology). I'm interested in the interaction among these three components. The question that drives my research is, what is the role of science education in developing a scientifically literate public that uses scientific knowledge and evidence in civic discourse and decision-making?

The form that this research is currently taking is to investigate students' decision-making about complex socioscientific issues (SSI's). SSI's are complex issues that are important to society and have components of science that inform them, and in particular, I am investigating SSI's of water resources, energy use, biodiversity and conservation and food production. I am using social and cognitive psychology and decision-sciences theory to help understand what knowledge, skills and values students bring to bear in their decision-making about what society "should do" about an SSI.

My background:

Before coming to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I was a post-doc in the environmental literacy research group at Michigan State University. There I served as the project director for Carbon TIME (Transformations in Matter and Energy) and developed research-based science curriculum for middle and high school students.

My graduate work included a Ph.D. in forest science at Oregon State University and a M.S. in ecology at Penn State University. Both degrees focused on the role of calcium in biogeochemical cycling. I investigated the role of calcium-oxalate in nutrient cycling and stable isotope ratios in forests, and compared tree species differential uptake of calcium.

I have had an interest in science education for a long time. Before my graduate work, I received a bachelor's in Secondary Education with emphasis in biology and environmental sciences at Penn State University and worked in informal K-12 education at the Franklin Institute Science Museum.

Selected Publications

Alred, A., Dauer, J. M. 2020. Understanding factors related to undergraduate student decision-making about a complex socio-scientific issue: mountain lion management. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics Science and Technology Education. 16(2). Online
Alred, A., Hartley, L. M., Doherty, J. H., Harris, C., Dauer, J. M. 2019. Exploring student ideas about biological variation. International Journal of Science Education 41(12): 1682-1700. Online
Goralnik, A., Dauer, J. M., Lettero, C. 2019. Communities Take Charge: Climate Learning and Changemaking in the Science Classroom. The Science Teacher, Earth and Human Activity 87(1): 54-59.
Lynch L., Dauer J.M., Babchuck W., Heng-Moss T., Golick D. (2018) In Their Own Words: The Significance of Participant Perceptions in Assessing Entomology Citizen Science Learning Outcomes Using a Mixed Methods Approach. Insects 9(1):16. Online
Sorensen, A.E., Corral, L., Dauer, J. M., Fontaine, J.T. (2018) Integrating authentic scientific research in a conservation course-based undergraduate research experience. Natural Sciences Education. Vol 47 doi:10.4195/nse2018.02.0004 Online
Sutter, A. M., Dauer, J., Forbes, C. (2018). Application of construal level and value-belief norm theories to undergraduate decision-making on a wildlife socio-scientific issue. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCIENCE EDUCATION, 40(9), 1058-1075.
VanWormer, E., Mlawa, J., Komba, E., Gustafson, C., Mrema, H., Dauer, J. (2018). Using art and story to explore how primary school students in rural Tanzania understand planetary health: a qualitative analysis. Lancet: Planetary Health, 2.
Covitt B.A., Dauer J.M., Anderson C.W. (2017) The Role of Practices in Scientific Literacy. Helping Students Make Sense of the World Using Next Generation Science and Engineering Practices. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Press: Arlington, VA. Online
Dauer, J.M., Lute, M., Straka, O. 2017. Indicators of informal and formal decision-making about a socioscientific issue. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology. 5(2):124-138. Online
Golick D, Dauer JM, Lynch L, Ingram E (2017) A framework for pollination systems thinking and conservation. Environmental Education Research. DOI:10.1080/13504622.2017.1349878 Online
Sabel JL, Vo T, Alred A, Dauer JM, Forbes CT (2017) Undergraduate students scientifically-informed decision-making about socio-hydrological issues. Journal of College Science Teaching, 46(6), 64-72. Online
Sabel, J., Vo, T., Alred, A., Dauer, J., Forbes, C. (2017). Undergraduate students' scientifically - informed decision-making about socio-hydrological issues. Journal of College Science Teaching, 46(6), 71-79. Online
Dauer, J.M., Forbes, C. 2016. Making decisions about complex socioscientific issues: a multidisciplinary science course. Science Education and Civic Engagement: An International Journal. 8:5-12. Online
Dauer, J.T., Dauer, J.M. 2016. A framework for understanding the characteristics of complexity in biology. International Journal of STEM Education. 3(13). Online
Dauer J.M. and Perakis S.S. (2014) Calcium oxalate contribution to calcium cycling in forests of contrasting nutrient status. Forest Ecology and Management. 334:64-73. Online
Dauer J.M., Doherty J.H., Freed A.L., Anderson C.W. (2014) Connections between student explanations and arguments from evidence about plant growth. CBE-Life Science Education. 13:397-409. Online
Dauer, J.M., Miller, H. & Anderson, C. W. (2014). Conservation of energy: An analytical tool for student accounts of carbon-transforming processes. Teaching and Learning of Energy in K-12 Education. New York: Springer, pgs 47-61. Online
Dauer J.M., and S. Perakis (2013) Contribution of calcium oxalate to soil exhangeable calcium. Soil Science, 178:671-678. Online
Dauer J.M., C. Lettero, M. Ocana, 2011. A review of ethical concepts and moral reasoning integration into climate change curriculum. Journal for Activism in Science & Technology Education 3:131-175. Online
Dauer J.M., J.M. Withington, J. Oleksyn, J. Chorover, O.A. Chadwick, P.B. Reich, D.M. Eissenstat, 2009. A scanner-based approach to soil profile-wall mapping of root distribution. Dendrobiology 62:35-40 Online
Dauer J.M., J. Chorover, O.A. Chadwick, J. Oleksyn, M.G. Tjoelker, S.E. Hobbie, P.B. Reich, D.M. Eissenstat, 2007. Controls over leaf and litter calcium concentrations among temperate trees. Biogeochemistry 86: 175-187 Online
Sutter, M., Dauer, J., Kreuziger, T., Schubert, J., Forbes, C. (in press). Sixth Grade Students' Problematization of and Decision-Making about a Wind Energy Socio-Scientific Issue. International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 28(3): 242-256. Online

Educational Background

  • BS - Penn State University, Secondary Education, Biology and Environmental Science (2000)
  • MS - Penn State University, Ecology (2005)
  • PhD - Oregon State University, Forest Science (2012)


  • 2019 – Faculty Fellows for Student Success awarded by Executive Vice Chancellor's Office at University of Nebraska-Lincoln 
  • 2017 – Holling Family Award for Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence awarded by College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources | University of Nebraska-Lincoln 
  • 2016 – 2016-2017 Research Development Fellows Program (RDFP) awarded by UNL Office of Research and Economic Development 
  • 2016 – Great Plains Fellows awarded by Center for Great Plains Studies, UNL 

SNR Program Area(s)

  • Applied Ecology

Affiliations (index)

Professional Organizations

  • Ecology Society of America
  • National Association for Research in Science Teaching
  • North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture
  • Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research

Notable Websites

Areas of Interest

  • Science Literacy
  • Supporting student decision-making
  • Socioscientific issues
  • Systems thinking
  • Student learning about matter and energy
  • Media literacy
  • Student understanding of socio-ecological systems
  • Teaching and curriculum development
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Ecosystem ecology

Currently this page only displays grants that were awarded on 1/1/2009 to the present. If a grant was awarded prior to 1/1/2009 and is still active, it will not be displayed on this page.

Grant Title Bridging Perspectives for Science Literacy
Starting Date 10/11/2019
Principal Investigators
Jenny Dauer
Ending Date 12/31/2021
Funding Level $349,836.00
Funding Source National Science Foundation

Grant Title Making Decisions about Socioscientific Issues in Multipdisciplinary Postsecondary Learning Environments (Additional Funding)
Starting Date 5/8/2019
Principal Investigators
Jenny Dauer
Ending Date 5/12/2019
Funding Level $3,412.00
Funding Source National Science Foundation

Grant Title REEU FACT: Research and Science Communication Skills
Starting Date 3/15/2019
Principal Investigators
Doug Golick
Jenny Dauer
Gary Brewer
Troy Anderson
Ending Date 9/30/2022
Funding Level $36,215.00
Funding Source NIFA

Grant Title National Association for Research in Science Teaching Annual International Conference
Starting Date 3/10/2018
Principal Investigators
Jenny Dauer
Ending Date 3/13/2018
Funding Level $500.00
Funding Source IANR - Travel Grant

Grant Title Making Decisions about Socioscientific Issues in Multipdisciplinary Postsecondary Learning Environments
Starting Date 9/1/2017
Principal Investigators
Jenny Dauer
Ending Date 8/31/2020
Funding Level $299,998.00
Funding Source National Science Foundation

Grant Title E2FEW
Starting Date 5/15/2017
Principal Investigators
Cory Forbes
Jenny Dauer
Tiffany Heng-Moss
Deepak Keshwani
Ending Date 5/14/2020
Funding Level $139,604.00
Funding Source USDA-NIFA

Grant Title North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Annual Conference
Starting Date 6/21/2016
Principal Investigators
Jenny Dauer
Ending Date 6/24/2016
Funding Level $500.00
Funding Source IANR Travel Grants

Grant Title Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research
Starting Date 7/14/2016
Principal Investigators
Jenny Dauer
Ending Date 7/17/2016
Funding Level $500.00
Funding Source IANR Travel Grants

Grant Title Working with Rural Students to Document Swift Fox on Nebraska Ranches
Starting Date 6/9/2015
Principal Investigators
TJ Fontaine
Jenny Dauer
Ending Date 6/30/2018
Funding Level $258,757.00
Funding Source Nebraska Environmental Trust


Graduate Program(s)

Master of Science in Natural Resource Sciences

including specializations in
  • Applied Ecology
  • Human Dimensions

Doctor of Philosophy in Natural Resource Sciences

including specializations in
  • Applied Ecology

Courses Taught
Course Number Course Title Fall Even Years Fall Odd Years Spring Even Years Spring Odd Years Summer Session Cross Listing
LIFE 121 Fundamentals of Biology II X X X None
SCIL 488 Teaching Undergraduate Science X X n/a
SCIL 888 Teaching Undergraduate Science X X n/a