iDigBio PIs Drs. Pam Soltis and Bruce MacFadden, postdoctoral associate Dr. Germain-Aubrey, and a group of graduate and undergraduate students presented coursework to 10 middle and high school teachers in a recent CPET/Summer Science Institute Workshop entitled Advanced Topics in Evolution. The Center for Pre-collegiate Education and Training (CPET), together with UF faculty, post-docs, and graduate students, offers secondary teachers the opportunity to perform authentic research, visit laboratories and facilities, hear talks by research and industry leaders, share best practices, and develop classroom lesson plans aligned with new science standards.
The workshop ran from Sunday, June 29, to Thursday, July 3, 2014, on the UF campus. On Tuesday, July 1, Dr. Bruce MacFadden, Distinguished Professor and Curator, Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH), posed the question in his presentation to the science teachers: “What does the fossil record teach us about evolution?” The class began the search for answers with a VIP tour of the vertebrate paleontology collection at Dickinson Hall, where the teachers developed lesson plans using FLMNH's extensive fossil horse collection. The increasing importance of storing museum specimens digitally was also discussed. One example of a teaching aid could be the use of digital images of fossil horse teeth that could then be used to develop replica fossils for the lesson plans.
The behind-the-scenes exercise was followed by a visit to the FLMNH exhibits at Powell Hall. Here the fossil record is graphically and beautifully demonstrated in the exhibit "Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life and Land." The exhibit surrounds the visitor with life-size representations of ancient animals and plant life. The workshop attendees were impressed with the impact that these immersion presentations could have on secondary students as well as lifelong learners.
On Thursday, July 3, 2014, Dr. Pam Soltis, Distinguished Professor and Curator at FLMNH, led a workshop that focused on the use of museum specimens in studying biodiversity and the impact of climate change on ecosystems. The goals of the workshop were to explore how information contained in a specimen label can be used to model species distributions and to develop lesson plans to use specimen data and computer models to address global change and future ecosystems, topics that are encompassed in the new science standards.
The concept of georeferencing – assigning geographic coordinates to locality data – was introduced, along with computer programs to make these assignments. Other web-based resources for classroom activities were also presented. The teachers applied computer models to develop range maps for native Florida plant species and to predict where those species might occur under various models of climate change. The session concluded with a discussion led by Dr. Doug Soltis, Distinguished Professor, FLMNH and Department of Biology, on biodiversity and the Tree of Life. The teachers were mentored by Drs. Soltis and Germain-Aubrey, graduate students Blaine Marchant and Ryan Moraski (iDigBio RAs), and undergraduate Shawn Abrahams.