I am an associate 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) supporting student learning for science literacy and 2) students' understanding of complex biological and earth systems. 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) Scientific literacy and decision-making
Scientifically literate individuals recognize when science has some bearing on their needs and interest, and have the capacity to access and makes sense of science to achieve their goals (Feinstein et al., 2013). The question that drives my research is, how can formal science classrooms support students' science literacy?
The form that this research is currently taking is to investigate students' evidence evaluation and 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. Much of this research takes place in the context of SCIL 101: Science and Decision-Making for a Complex World.
2) 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. I have studied this in several contexts:
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.
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.
Master of Applied Science
Master of Science in Natural Resource Sciencesincluding specializations in
Doctorate of Philosophy in Natural Resource Sciencesincluding specializations in