A post from Wild Wet Coast, where I feature some of my fall photos.

Wild Wet Coast

November is here again. Here are a few photos from the autumn so far. Days are getting shorter but when the sun peeks through the clouds for a short moment, the light can be incredible.

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Wild Wet Coast

Dave and I took a short trip out to the Sarita River to have a look at who would be eating the last of the salmon carcasses. We were expecting eagles, but also got a wonderful surprise – a juvenile trumpeter swan! (It may be a tundra swan… can any birders out there confirm?)

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The student blog projects are going well. Today, there was buzz among the students because a real scientist(!) commented on a student’s blog. It has been wonderful that people outside of the course have been finding and commenting on the students’ work. I appreciate it, and so do the students.

It is about time that I aggregated all of the blogs to make them easily accessible to anyone who wants to see what the students are up to.

Below is a list, in alphabetical order by blog title. (On a side note, below is also what I consider a true test of my instructorship: I attempt to accurately summarize each student’s project in a single sentence.) I only list student names for those who have explicitly listed their name in the About or URL of their blog.

Adventures in the Intertidal. Kelsey is an Honours student interested in if (or perhaps how) brittle stars perceive light.

AliceinCanada. Alice is working with Maia (her own link also appears in the list, below) to investigate how hermit crabs perceive the “virtual bodies” that are their shells.

The Aquaculturist. This student is comparing feeding preference of Northern Abalone for two kelp species.

biologistblair. Blair and another student (link also below) are studying habitat preference of Northern Abalone, and how bacteria may moderate this.

darwinsdisciples. Davis (and Clara, again see below) are comparing arm regeneration rate in two brittle star species.

D’une goutte à l’autre. This student is part of a team of three who are interested in how nudibranch feeding preference is affected by predators and if this is mediated by nudibranch size.

fortunate adventures This student (and Lee) are working to compare (by growth and productivity) two species of kelp as potential candidates for integrated multi-trophic aquaculture.

From Land to Sea Maia is working with Alice to investigate how hermit crabs perceive the “virtual bodies” that are their shells.

Getting my Sea Legs. This student is interested in how seaweed species (particularly invasives) disperse.

Life in the tide pool. Tim is working with Dom to measure how biodiversity of animals living in kelp holdfasts changes with wave exposure.

Life is much better where it’s wetter. This student is part of the team investigating how nudibranch feeding preference is affected by predators and if this is mediated by nudibranch size.

The Little Biologist. Stephanie is an Honours student comparing the effects of different anti-fouling paints on larval settlement of an invasive tunicate.

Marine Science – back to front. Dom is working with Tim to measure how biodiversity of animals living in kelp holdfasts changes with wave exposure.

rainorshine-marine biology time. Rihana is interested in habituation and is studying how marine tube worms balance the trade-off between feeding opportunity and vulnerability to predation.

ScienceDoo. Clara is working with Davis to compare arm regeneration rate in two brittle star species.

she sees sea shells. Sophie is the third student in the nudibranch team and is interested in how nudibranch feeding preference is affected by predators and if this is mediated by nudibranch size.

soulfulsealover. This student is interested in how wave forces shape the ecology and evolution of intertidal organisms and is working with Christina to measure the force needed to dislodge isopods from different species of seaweeds.

Sun Sand Surf…and Science! Lee is working with another student to compare (using growth and productivity) two species of kelp as potential candidates for integrated multi-trophic aquaculture.

teaghanmayers. Teaghan is testing whether black turban snails prefer to eat upright or crustose forms of a single algal species.

The Transient Biologist. Christina is working with soulfulsealover to measure the force needed to dislodge isopods from different species of seaweeds.

Under the Sea. Jamie is an Honours student interested in potential ecological drivers for colour polymorphism in ochre sea stars.

whale of fortune. This student is working with biologistblair to study habitat preference of Northern Abalone, and how bacteria may moderate this.

whitewaterocean. Joel is measuring the magnitude of the flight response of Northern Abalone that are threatened by a predator.

This is my third year of teaching a hands-on university course in which students propose, carry out and communicate about their own independent research. In the past two years, the communication aspect has consisted of formal oral presentations and written reports in the form of proposals and final papers. This year, I have added scientific blogging.

When I was preparing for this year, I wanted to find out if other instructors had used blogging in their university courses, how they had evaluated the blogs, and what they would advise to someone trying it for the first time. I was surprised to find that there was not much online writing about this. There is, luckily, the primary literature. I’ll summarize what I’ve found and report how things go over the semester.

But first: how should students blog?

What should they about? In what style? Pictures of kittens? No! “The oatmeal I had for breakfast was terrible?” No! They have facebook and twitter for that. (And we could of course look at those as pedagogical tools, but that’s another story.) Student science blogs in my class are expected to produce science writing that summarizes scientific knowledge, ideas, and research such that a non-expert can understand. Established scientific blogs already do this, and a recent paper in PLOS One discusses what scientific bloggers are already doing and who scientific bloggers are (education level, gender, etc.). Having experts translate scientific literature for the non-experts is of obvious benefit to the general public, but what are the benefits of students (who fall somewhere in the middle on the scale of novice to expert scientists) writing scientific blogs?

Blogging as constructivist, interactive learning.

Blogging allows students to comment on each others’ work and allows students who prefer to contribute in forums that do not involve group discussion to voice their thoughts (e.g., some introverted people prefer may written communication). Some interesting findings on the collaborative nature of learning through blogs and comments on blogs are here. Blogs are now being used in various ways to teach medical students. Here is one example where large lecture style classes were replaced with automatic response systems (clickers) and blogs. The students collaborated to submit responses either through the ARS or on a blog, and this lead to interactive and supportive learning. This study from Korea is a particularly good summary of the social constructivist benefits to learning offered by blogging.

So beyond the traditional motivator for science blogs as a way to make science accessible, blogging can be used as a tool for undergraduate students to better understand their own research, discuss it with their peers and get feedback from a wider audience.

On a more individual level, one study has shown that blogging leads students to report an enhancement of their own learning and reflection on course material outside of class, as well as to an increased sense of community among students. I am intrigued that this study showed that commenting on each other’s blogs, and in particular, reading the comments of peers did not enhance learning. I will be interested to survey my own students about their perceptions of the blog assignment.

In my next post, I’ll share links to my students’ blogs.

After a 2 year hiatus, I will once again use this space to share my teaching and learning experiences. Coming up are a few posts about my undergraduate course this semester, specifically about the blogs that are a part of the course this year.