Jenny Dauer

Jenny Dauer

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

Contact Information

TitleScience Literacy | SNR Associate Director for Undergraduate Education
Faculty RankAssociate Professor
Address904 South Hardin Hall
3310 Holdrege Street
Lincoln NE

East Campus
  • office: 402-472-8136
  • fax: 402-472-4915
VitaeDownload file


My Story

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:

  • 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 Communities 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.
  • Art and story project in Tanzania: In collaboration with colleagues we collecting drawings of school children in Tanzania to qualitatively describe their understanding of connections between human health and planetary health including wildlife, livestock, water sources, and forest resources.

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

Jimenez, P.C., Zwickle, A., Dauer, J.M. (2023) Defining and describing students’ socioscientific issues tradeoffs practices. International Journal of Science Education. Online
Smith, C., Menon, D., Wierzbicki, A., Dauer J.M. (2023) Teaching Assistant Response to COVID-19: Investigating Relationships Between Stress, Self-Efficacy, and Approaches to Teaching, Journal of College Science Teaching. 52(3).
Smith, C., Menon, D., Wierzbicki, A., Dauer, J. (2023). Investigating the impact of stress associated with COVID-19 on self-efficacy in undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants. Journal of College Science Teaching, 52(3).
Smith, C.R., Menon, D., Wierzbicki, A., Dauer, J.M. (2023) Exploring STEM teaching assistants’ selfefficacy and its relation to approaches to teaching. CBE Life-Sciences. 22(1) Online
Dauer J.M., Sorensen A., Jimenez, J.C. (2022) Using a structured decision-making tool in the classroom to promote information literacy in the context of decision-making. Journal of College Science Teaching. 51(6).Online
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
Hogan, K., Fowler, J., Barnes, C., Ludwig, A., Cristiano, D., Morales, D., Quinones, R., Twidwell Jr, D., Dauer, J. (2022). New multimedia resources for ecological resilience education in modern university classrooms,. Ecosphere, 13, e4245.
Jimenez, P. C., Golick, D., Couch, B., Dauer, J. (2022). Developing and evaluating a pollination systems knowledge assessment in a multidisciplinary course. International Journal of STEM Education, 9(1), 1-13.Online
Sommers, A., Dauer J.M., White, H., Forbes, C. (2022) Impacts of Faculty Development on Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Teaching and Learning in the Food-Energy-Water Nexus. Journal of College Science Teaching. 51(6).Online
Sparks, R., Jimenez, P. C., Kirby, C., Dauer, J. (2022). Using Critical Integrative Argumentation to Assess Socioscientific Argumentation Across Decision-Making Contexts. Education Sciences, 12(10), 644.
Dauer, J., Sorensen, A.E., Wilson, J. (2021) Students' Civic Engagement Self-Efficacy Varies Across Socioscientific Issues Contexts. Frontiers in Education. Vol. 6, Article 628784.Online
Lynch L., Babchuck W., Dauer J.M., Heng-Moss T., Golick D. (2021) Transference of citizen science program impacts: A theory grounded in public participation in scientific research. Diversity, 13(8), 339;
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
Romine, W., Sadler, T. D., Dauer J.M., Kinslow, A.T. (2020) Measurement of socio-scientific reasoning (SSR) and exploration of SSR as a progression of competencies. International Journal of Science Education. Online
Sorensen, A.E., Brown, B., Alred, A., Fontaine J.J., Dauer J.M. (2020) Student representations and conceptions of ecological versus social science in a conservation course, Journal of Environmental Sciences and Studies, 1-11. 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.
Sommers, A., White, H., Alred, A., Dauer, J.M., Forbes, C. (2019) Teaching Styles and Student Outcomes in Undergraduate Food, Energy, and Water Systems (FEWS) Courses. Journal of National Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture, 63(2) 67-77.
Sutter A.M., Dauer J.M., Forbes C., Kreuziger T., Schubert J. (2019) Sixth grade students’ problematization of and decision-making about a wind energy socioscientific issue. International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 1-15Online
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/nse2018.02.0004Online
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: Arlingto
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:10.1080/13504622.2017.1349878Online
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.
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.
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
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



DegreeMajorInstitutionYear Awarded
Doctorate of PhilosophyForest ScienceOregon State University2012
Master of ScienceEcologyPennsylvania State University2005
Bachelor of ScienceSecondary Education, Biology and Environmental SciencePennsylvania State University2000





TitleAwarded byYear Awarded
Faculty Fellows for Student SuccessExecutive Vice Chancellor's Office at University of Nebraska-Lincoln2019
Holling Family Award for Junior Faculty Teaching ExcellenceCollege of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources | University of Nebraska-Lincoln2017
Great Plains FellowsCenter for Great Plains Studies, UNL2016
Research Development Fellows Program (RDFP)UNL Office of Research and Economic Development2016


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




SNR Program Areas

  • Applied Ecology

Areas of Interest/Expertise

  • 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 Title14th Conference of European Researchers in Didactics of Biology
Starting Date02/02/2024


Ending Date07/31/2024
Funding Level$800.00
Funding AgencyIANR Travel Funds


Grant TitleSupporting Students' Critical Evaluation of Evidence in Socioscientific Issues Contexts
Starting Date07/03/2022


Ending Date05/31/2025
Funding Level$299,983.00
Funding AgencyNational Science Foundation


Grant TitleBridging Perspectives for Science Literacy
Starting Date10/11/2019


Ending Date12/31/2021
Funding Level$349,836.00
Funding AgencyNational Science Foundation


Grant Title Making Decisions about Socioscientific Issues in Multipdisciplinary Postsecondary Learning Environments (Additional Funding)
Starting Date05/08/2019


Ending Date05/12/2019
Funding Level$3,412.00
Funding AgencyNational Science Foundation


Grant TitleREEU FACT: Research and Science Communication Skills
Starting Date03/15/2019


Ending Date09/30/2022
Funding Level$36,215.00
Funding AgencyNIFA


Grant TitleNational Association for Research in Science Teaching Annual International Conference
Starting Date03/10/2018


Ending Date03/13/2018
Funding Level$500.00
Funding AgencyIANR - Travel Grant


Grant TitleMaking Decisions about Socioscientific Issues in Multipdisciplinary Postsecondary Learning Environments
Starting Date09/01/2017


Ending Date08/31/2020
Funding Level$299,998.00
Funding AgencyNational Science Foundation


Grant TitleE2FEW
Starting Date05/15/2017


Ending Date05/14/2020
Funding Level$139,604.00
Funding AgencyUSDA-NIFA


Grant TitleSociety for the Advancement of Biology Education Research
Starting Date07/14/2016


Ending Date07/17/2016
Funding Level$500.00
Funding AgencyIANR Travel Grants


Grant TitleNorth American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Annual Conference
Starting Date06/21/2016


Ending Date06/24/2016
Funding Level$500.00
Funding AgencyIANR Travel Grants


Grant TitleWorking with Rural Students to Document Swift Fox on Nebraska Ranches
Starting Date06/09/2015


Ending Date06/30/2018
Funding Level$258,757.00
Funding AgencyNebraska Environmental Trust



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
SCIL 101 Science and Decision-Making for a Complex WorldXXXX
SCIL 488/888Teaching Undergraduate ScienceXXAGRI 488/888