Collaborative Research: Implementing Multi-institutional Classroom-based Undergraduate Research Experiences to Study the Impact of Environmental Changes on Salamander Populations

Project: Research project

Project Details


With support from the NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education Program: Education and Human Resources (IUSE: EHR), this project aims to serve the national interest by developing and implementing multi-institutional Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs). Evidence demonstrates that CUREs can be highly effective for engaging large numbers of students in authentic research. In addition, participation in CUREs can result in increased persistence of students in STEM disciplines, as well as generate new scientific data. This project is a collaboration between Michigan State University, Bridgewater State University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Pennsylvania State University Park, and the University of Richmond. The team will leverage the Salamander Population Adaptation Research Collaboration network (SPARCnet) to develop and support CUREs at the collaborating institutions. SPARCnet is a research and education collaboration that coordinates research about salamander responses to environmental conditions. In the CUREs developed by this project, students will study individual- and population-level responses of the red-backed salamander to environmental variation and changes. This salamander has important ecosystem roles in northeastern and mid-west U.S. forests. The students will collect and analyze data from a wide geographic range, emphasizing ecology and evolutionary processes. The specific CURE modules will be developed and implemented collaboratively in different science courses across the five institutions. The project expects that the CURES will increase students' understanding of the collaborative nature of science, as well as develop the quantitative skills needed to work with large data sets.

This project will develop and test CURE modules that include unique field-based research and multi-institutional collaborations within a single research system. The CURE modules will go beyond the single-campus structure of most CUREs by creating a framework that integrates students into an intellectually diverse and established research network, SPARCnet. The instructors will facilitate student collaboration and data sharing by pairing classrooms across institutions during the research experience. The education research component of the project will investigate three pedagogical questions that examine how the CURE model may contribute to improvements in students' quantitative and scientific literacy, self-efficacy, and science identity and sense of belonging. Using the recently developed CURE model framework applied across a multi-institutional network, the results of this study have the potential to advance knowledge about how CUREs promote student learning outcomes and perspectives. Finally, the project will increase understanding of the CURE model itself by examining the impacts of this CURE on quantitative and scientific literacy. The NSF IUSE: EHR Program supports research and development projects to improve the effectiveness of STEM education for all students. Through the Engaged Student Learning track, the program supports the creation, exploration, and implementation of promising practices and tools.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date10/1/199/30/23


  • National Science Foundation: $64,000.00


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