Linking Marine Science with Biology Education using Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CURE) in a Sea Anemone Model System

Jay J Lunden, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, United States, Mary Ellen Kelly, Haverford College, Psychology, Haverford, PA, United States and Rachel Hoang, Haverford College, Biology, Haverford, PA, United States
Inquiry-based learning in STEM aims to promote individual investment in the learning process and enables students to identify themselves as researchers through ownership of a project. Through the use of this teaching approach, linkages between teaching and research are strengthened while also supporting retention of students within STEM disciplines. Furthermore, retention and student success in STEM can also be enhanced by exposing students to diverse scientific fields by promoting interdisciplinary questions, teaching relevant methods to address them, and working hands-on with students to troubleshoot techniques and analyze and interpret data. Here, we describe our experiences conducting such an interdisciplinary, inquiry-based Biology course at a small liberal arts college during the Spring 2019 semester. The course was taught by three faculty from different academic backgrounds, including marine biology, developmental biology, and neurobiology. Over the 14 weeks of instruction, students were tasked to use the sea anemone model system, Nematostella vectensis, to explore the effects of an ecologically-relevant marine stressor on a cell type or gene of their own choice. Within this framework, 17 student projects explored the impacts of various stressors such as oil and heavy metal contamination, temperature shock, and ocean acidification on major biological processes including heat shock protein expression, neurogenesis, and the expression of transcription factors such as NF-κB. The success of this integrative approach relied heavily on the interdisciplinary bridges formed by the instructional staff, and we aim to share our experiences with the community for use at other institutions of higher learning focused on student-centered teaching approaches and Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CURE).