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Natural Sciences Education Abstract - Notes

Integrating Field-Based Research into the Classroom: An Environmental Sampling Exercise


This article in NSE

  1. Vol. 39 No. 1, p. 132-136
    Received: Dec 8, 2009

    * Corresponding author(s): thomas.desutter@ndsu.edu
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  1. T. DeSutter *,
  2. E. Viall,
  3. I. Rijal,
  4. M. Murdoff,
  5. A. Guy,
  6. X. Pang,
  7. S. Koltes,
  8. R. Luciano,
  9. X. Bai,
  10. K. Zitnick,
  11. S. Wang,
  12. F. Podrebarac,
  13. F. Casey and
  14. D. Hopkins
  1. Department of Soil Sci, North Dakota State Univ., 214 Walster Hall, P.O. Box 7680, Fargo, ND 58108-6050 (E. Viall, I. Rijal, M. Murdoff, A. Guy, X. Pang, S. Koltes, R. Luciano, X. Bai, K. Zitnick, S. Wang, and F. Podrebarac are Environmental Field Instrumentation and Sampling students at North Dakota State Univ., Fargo)


A field-based, soil methods, and instrumentation course was developed to expose graduate students to numerous strategies for measuring soil parameters. Given the northern latitude of North Dakota State University and the rapid onset of winter, this course met once per week for the first 8 weeks of the fall semester and centered on the field as a classroom, allowing the students to learn through hands-on participation. The major focus of the course was providing a real-life example where the scientific method was used to answer a testable hypothesis. Students developed testable hypotheses, designed an experiment, determined sampling protocol and sample analysis, conducted statistical analysis, and wrote results in a peer-reviewed format. The research question for this course was, “What is the concentration of total mercury (Hg) in roadside soils of North Dakota?” The results from the student project indicated that total soil Hg concentration increased with increasing distance from the roadside shoulder and that total soil Hg concentration was not statistically different between high-traffic and low-traffic areas. Field-based courses and student-driven research projects are excellent ways to introduce research methods to graduate students. Student learning was enhanced during the experiential learning process by allowing the students to follow the scientific method starting from the formulation of ideas (research question and testable hypotheses) to the preparation of a manuscript.

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