Joe Dauer

Joe Dauer

  • Contact Information
  • My Story
  • Publications
  • Background
  • Interests
  • Grants
  • Advising
  • Courses Taught

Contact Information

TitleLife Sciences Education
Faculty RankAssociate Professor
Address516 South Hardin Hall
3310 Holdrege Street
Lincoln NE
  • office: 402-318-7363
  • fax: 402-472-4915
VitaeDownload file


My Story

Hello, my name is Joe Dauer and I am an associate professor of life science education in the School of Natural Resources. As a life sciences education researcher, I focus on how undergraduate students learn biology.

My life sciences research broadly rests at the intersection of biology (genetics, ecology, and evolution), education, and cognitive psychology. At UNL, my work focuses on how students learn to organize biological concepts using systems thinking. I focus on how students organize and store knowledge because this will determine how they are able to access that knowledge when asked to apply it in novel scenarios. When students store knowledge in discrete units (like knowing a definition of a word), they are limited in the ways they can apply that knowledge compared to another student that has a network of concepts. This is the core of 'chunking'. Experts in an area, create larger and larger 'chunks' of knowledge such that they have multiple access points to a concept. Novices, like many undergraduate students new to learning life sciences, have much smaller 'chunks' and I study how they strategically add and connect the knowledge pieces together.

Joe Dauer teaching a Life Science Class

Currently I have two major projects that I lead.

  • In one project, I am collaborating with colleagues in educational neuroscience to investigate learning at the intersection of cognitive psychology and neurobiology. We are study the fundamental executive functions of error detection and inhibition during modeling. We look at student neural activation while students determine whether errors exist in models of biological systems. As we follow these students, we are examining if this activation is indicative of long-term knowledge retention.
  • In the other project, I am collaborating with math and biology researchers to investigate how biology instructors integrate quantitative reasoning into their teaching. We have developed a classroom observation protocol to look at this type of interdisciplinary teaching. We are also using an assessment we developed that examines the quantitative modeling abilities of undergraduate biology students to determine the student learning in these classrooms.

While I focus my research on student learning, I am constantly connected to teaching and putting into practice evidence-based and theoretical practices that improve learning in my classroom. I find joy in teaching and connecting with students where they are. I invest heavily in improving my teaching and seek to make my classes inclusive and engaging for all students.

Selected Publications

Mayes, R., Dauer, J., Owens, D. 2023. Convergence and transdisciplinary teaching in quantitative biology. Quantitative Plant Biology, 4:e8, 1–8
Spier, S.K., Dauer, J. 2023. Sexual Selection as a Tool to Improve Student Reasoning of Evolution. The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 85, No. 2, pp. 91–96. DOI:
Dauer, J.T., Dauer, J.M., Lucas, L., Helikar, T., Long, T. (2022) “Supporting university student learning of complex systems: an example of teaching the interactive processes that constitute photosynthesis.” Fostering Understanding of Complex Systems in Biology Education – Pedagogies, guidelines and insights from classroom-based research. Eds: O. B. Assaraf and M.C. Knippels, Springer Nature.Online
Lucas, L.L., Helikar, T., & Dauer, J.T. (2022). Revision as an essential step in modeling to support predicting, observing, and explaining cellular respiration system dynamics. International Journal of Science Education.
Dauer, J., Mayes, R., Rittschoff, K. (2021). Assessing Quantitative Modelling Practices, Metamodelling, and Capability Confidence of Biology Undergraduate Students. International Journal of Science Education, 43, 1685-1707.Online
Clark, C., Helikar, T., Dauer, J. (2020). Simulating a computational biological model, rather than reading, elicits changes in brain activity consistent with complex reasoning. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 19, ar45. Online
Dauer, J., Roller, H., King, G., Kjose, M., Galt, N., Helikar, T. 2019. Changes in students’ mental models from computational modeling of gene regulatory networks. International Journal of STEM Education, 6(1), 38.Online
King, G., Roller, H., Galt, N., Helikar, T., Dauer, J. 2019. Modelling Activities Integrating Construction and Simulation Supported Explanatory and Evaluative Reasoning. International Journal of Science Education 41(13): 1764-1786.Online
Mayes, R., Rittschof, K., Dauer, J., Gallant, B. 2019. Quantitative Modelling Biology Undergraduate Assessment. Letters in Biomathematics.Online
Bergan-Roller, H., Galt, N., Chizinski, C., Helikar, T., Dauer, J. (2018). Simulated computational model lesson improves systems thinking in biology students. Simulated computational model lesson improves systems thinking in biology students.
Crowther, A., Roller, H., Galt, N., Appleby, L., Dauer, J., Helikar, T. 2018. Discovering Prokaryotic Gene Regulation by Building and Investigating the lac Operon. CourseSource.Online
Crowther, A., Roller, H., Galt, N., Dauer, J., Helikar, T. (2018). Discovering Prokaryotic Gene Regulation with Simulations of the trp Operon. CourseSource.
Dauer, J., King, G., Roller, H., Galt, N., Helikar, T. (2018). Creating a space for students to theorize about model evaluation. National Association for Research in Science Teaching.
Roller, H., Galt, N., Helikar, T., Dauer, J. Content and organization of student knowledge of cellular respiration in undergraduates. Journal of Biological Education.
Dauer, J., Hulting, A., Carlson, D., Harden, J., Mankin, L., Mallory-Smith, C. (2017). Gene flow from single and stacked herbicide-resistant rice: modeling occurrence of multiple herbicide-resistant red rice. Pest Management Science, 74(2), 348-355.Online
Roller, H., Galt, N., Dauer, J., Helikar, T. (2017). Discovering Cellular Respiration with Computational Modeling and Simulation. CourseSource.Online
Sabel, J., Dauer, J., Forbes, C. (2017). Introductory Biology Students' Use of Enhanced Answer Keys and Reflection Questions to Engage in Metacognition and Enhance Understanding. CBE--Life Sciences Education, 16(3), 2-12.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.T. and T.M. Long. 2015. Long-term conceptual retrieval by college biology majors following model-based instruction. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 52(8):1188-1206.Online
Kowal, B., Schreier, T., Dauer, J., Helikar, T. (2015). Programmatic access to Cell Collective models via a REST API. Biosystems, 139, 12-16.Online
Jongejans, E., Skarpaas, O., Ferrari, M., Long, E., Dauer, J., Schwarz, C., Rauschert, E., Jabbour, R., Mortensen, D., Isard, S., Lieb, D., Hulting, A., Shea, K. (2014). A unifying gravity framework for dispersal. Theoretical Ecology, 8(2), 207-223
Long, T. M., Dauer, J., Kostelnik, K. M., Momsen, J. L., Wyse, S. A., Ebert-May, D. (2014). Designing Instruction to Foster Ecoliteracy Skills in Undergraduate Biology Education. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 12(2), 138-139.
Dauer, J.T. and E. Jongejans. 2013. Elucidating the population dynamics of Japanese knotweed using integral projection models. PLoS ONE 8:e75181.Online
Dauer, J.T., Momsen, J.L., Bray-Speth, E., Makohon-Moore, S., and T.M. Long. 2013. Analysis of Student-Constructed Models of Complex Biological Systems. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 50(6):639-659.






TitleAwarded byYear Awarded
Friends and Family AwardOffice of Student Affairs, Teaching Council, Parents Association | University of Nebraska-Lincoln2021
Holling Family Awards for Teaching Excellence , Senior Faculty University of Nebraska-Lincoln2020
Faculty Fellow for Student SuccessUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln2018


Professional Organizations

American Association for the Advancement of Science
Ecological Society of America
Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research




SNR Program Areas

  • Applied Ecology

Areas of Interest/Expertise

  • Science Literacy
  • Undergraduate Learning in Biology
  • Visualizations
  • Cognition
  • Pedagogy


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 TitleECR DBER DCL: Describing the Neurobehavioral Effects of Modeling-Based Instruction in Undergraduate Life Sciences Education
Starting Date08/17/2022


Ending Date09/30/2023
Funding Level$6,980.00
Funding AgencyNational Science Foundation


Grant TitleQuantitative Modeling in Undergraduate Biology Courses: Teaching Approaches and Student Outcomes
Starting Date10/01/2020


Ending Date09/30/2023
Funding Level$299,511.00
Funding AgencyNational Science Foundation


Grant TitleECR DBER DCI: Describing the Neurobehavioral Effects of Modeling-Based Instruction in Undergraduate Life Science Education
Starting Date09/01/2020


Ending Date09/30/2023
Funding Level$313,898.00
Funding AgencyNational Science Foundation



Graduate Programs

Master of Applied Science

Master of Science in Natural Resource Sciences
including specializations in

  • Applied Ecology
  • Human Dimensions

Doctorate of Philosophy in Natural Resource Sciences
including specializations in

  • Applied Ecology

Courses Taught

Course NumberCourse TitleFall Even YearsFall Odd YearsSpring Even YearsSpring Odd YearsSummer SessionCross Listing
LIFE 121Fundamentals of Biology IIXXX
SCIL 488/888Teaching Undergraduate ScienceXXAGRI 488/888