Fieldwork Across the Curriculum:
Update on ISEI
Faculty in biology, chemistry, geology, environmental studies, mathematics,
psychology and education launched the Integrated Science Education
Initiative (ISEI), a comprehensive project aimed at providing increased
opportunities for interdisciplinary field-based science education,
in 1998. ISEI began formally in Fall 2000, allowing faculty and students
to develop a series of geographically referenced field science sites
for ongoing study and data collection, and install permanent monitoring
equipment at selected points. Data collected will eventually form
a long-term, multidisciplinary Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
database that will represent the collection and study of a wide variety
of conditions, ecosystems and habitats over time.
is conducted largely on the Kip Tract, a 76-acre swath of mixed forest,
wetlands and riparian environments adjacent to campus.
The curriculum includes a watershed project under the direction of
Associate Professor of Biology Brad Baldwin, in which students ask, “How
is precipitation chemistry altered as (precipitation) passes through
the forest canopy?”; a paleoecology project (Chapin Professor
of Geology Mark Erickson; “Can you tell the past ecology of the
Kip Tract from the fossil record?”); and a biodiversity project
(Fippinger Assistant Professor of Biology Erika Barthelmess; “What
kinds of organisms inhabit the Kip Tract, and what factors influence
their distribution?”). Pedagogically, its goals are to give students
exposure to real-world science, and to create a natural history database
in the Spatial Analysis Lab (SAL) in Launders Library.
“The value of these projects is that they are integrated across the curriculum,” said
Barthelmess in a presentation on campus in November 2002. Projects ranged from
the use of GIS technology, to home range size in the North American porcupine,
to bird nesting patterns.
Nor is all of this limited to people in the sciences.
Science Librarian Eric Williams-Bergen ’91 points out that anthropology,
economics, environmental studies, history, the First-Year Program, global studies,
and sociology have all used GIS through the SAL.
And then there’s the Wachtmeister Field Station. Because the proposed
location, just across the Little River Bridge from the campus proper, is a
designated wetland, considerable site preparation and permitting is mandated—and
even this has become a learning opportunity, as students, with the aid of a
wetlands research grant funded through a local business, performed a site study
for the Army Corps of Engineers. Target completion date for the field station
is this coming August, in time for the 2003-04 academic year.