OOI Data Explorations: A Collection of Online Data Visualization Activities to Engage Introductory Undergraduate Students

Charles Sage Lichtenwalner, Rutgers University New Brunswick, New Brunswick, NJ, United States, Janice D McDonnell, Rutgers University New Brunswick, Department of Youth Development, New Brunswick, NJ, United States, Catherine Halversen, University of California Berkeley, Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley, CA, United States, Dax Christian Soule, CUNY Queens College, Flushing, NY, United States, Anna Pfeiffer-Herbert, Stockton University, Pomona, United States and Kristin I Hunter-thomson, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, United States
The Ocean Observatories Initiative collects a wealth of data from over 830 instruments at 6 different locations in the Western hemisphere. The OOI dataset comprises 35 different instrument types, including CTDs, DO sensors, fluorometers, bulk meteorology, air/water pCO2, pH, seafloor pressure and seismometers, which makes it a ripe resource to engage students in a cutting-edge collection of authentic data. However, given the amount and complexity of data available, it is a challenge to make the data easily accessible to undergraduate students.

In 2016, a collection of prototype “Data Explorations” were created to explore how OOI data could be incorporated in lecture-based introductory courses as in-class activities. These explorations feature web-based interactive “widgets” that allow students to interact with pre-selected data from the OOI. Based on this initial work, the 2019 OOI Ocean Data Labs project brought together 56 university, college, and community college faculty to expand the collection with 19 additional explorations.

Each exploration was developed by a collaborative team of professors, an interactive data designer, and pedagogical consultants. In designing each educational interactive, faculty were first asked to identify the scientific concepts they wanted students to address. From this, faculty identified relevant and available datasets from the OOI collection, which were then downloaded and processed using Python notebooks. Customized interactive visualization tools that allow students to engage and explore the dataset, were then iteratively developed with the faculty team. Finally, appropriate contextual supports were added to the exploration to achieve the educational goal, including a challenge question, guiding questions, and background information.

All of the activities are available at https://datalab.marine.rutgers.edu/explorations/ for any interested faculty to use in their courses.