Design and Delivery of a Novel Research-Based Undergraduate Curriculum: Proficiency in Ocean Data Science (PODS).

Lucie Maranda1, Robert A. Pockalny2, Bruce D Campbell3 and Christopher R Kincaid1, (1)University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI, United States, (2)University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography, Narragansett, RI, United States, (3)Brown University, Computer Science, Providence, RI, United States
With funding from the Office of Naval Research STEM education program, we designed and delivered a series of four undergraduate courses to provide students with authentic experiences in collecting, analyzing, and modeling various types of oceanographic data. The ultimate goals were to familiarize students with key forcing factors and to help them develop models of biogeochemical processes in a coastal environment. Our first course included collected environmental data from kayaks and moorings in one small estuary with the goal to identify potential sites for a fictional aquaculture facility. The second course used Jupyter Notebooks and Python code to analyze and visualize data collected in the initial course, as well as archived data from national repositories. In the third course, students developed a nutrient, phytoplankton, and zooplankton (NPZ) time-series model with Python code to study the relationships between NPZ and various environmental factors. The final course combined time-series and advection-diffusion models to identify the best depth and location for an effluent pipe. These PODS courses were first piloted with graduate students to troubleshoot topics and methods while providing graduate students with experience designing research-based courses. Two key positive aspects of the program include 1) faculty interest in developing novel curricula, and 2) student success in obtaining internships. The negative aspects stem from university administration priorities and the lack of an undergraduate degree in oceanography at our university. Overall, we are still encouraged about the potential of this approach and the possibility of porting these types of courses to other ocean- or land-based regions, as well as combining the courses toward a single graduate-level course. In addition, we believe that portions of the courses can be adjusted to fit high school science programs.