Experience, engage, empower: Utilizing course-based coastal undergraduate research while developing content knowledge and research skills.

Kimberly Takagi, College of Coastal Georgia, Department of Natural Sciences, Brunswick, United States and James Deemy, College of Coastal Georgia, Department of Natural Sciences, Brunswick, GA, United States
Understanding the research process from idea conception to experimental design, data analysis, interpretation, and publication is difficult to teach in a lecture-based setting. This course-format concurrently allows students to be an integral part of the research process while providing a space for them to develop their: content knowledge, scientific thinking, and experimental design skills. As part of the Environmental Science Degree at the College of Coastal Georgia, students are expected to take part in a combined lecture/ lab course. In Aquatic Biology and Ecology, the students are introduced to the class research project (assessing the nutrient and water quality dynamics in St. Simon’s Sound). Each group is tasked with traveling to the field to collect and analyze samples on a weekly basis (during class time). Throughout the semester, course content is gradually introduced with a focus on saltmarsh ecosystem dynamics to build student understanding of the local ecosystem. Based on initial observations and sampling times, the students are asked to preliminarily assess the class data and form a research question. This is either based on their own sampling site or all six of the sampling sites sampled by the class. The course culminates into an individual research paper that is written and peer-reviewed (in parts) by classmates with the ultimate goal of publishing the class-data collected in a regional journal. This approach to undergraduate teaching allows students to dive into the research process, discuss and analyze the results as a mini “research community,” while furthering their understanding of the coastal marine ecosystem.