Understanding conservation as a human endeavor and improving evaluation of evidence
Conservation Values & Evaluation of Evidence
Conservation is ultimately a human endeavor guided by our own emotions and biases. My work with both students and management agencies highlights the misunderstandings surrounding genetic techniques and the reluctance to disrupt taxonomic integrity. I attribute this reluctance to our reliance on intuition and typological thinking, rather than evaluating evidence and accounting for the uncertainty inherent in biological inference. I use surveys of conservationists and students to consider how we can overcome cultural barriers to using active intervention tools such as genetic rescue. I plan on extending this research using interviews and surveys to probe the basis for this reluctance in agency and academic scientists. This work is valuable because it helps us understand the development of conservation ethics which will ultimately be responsible for the fate of species.
Mental Models & Evolutionary Thinking
Complementing my evolutionary and conservation research, I investigate how students learn about evolution and biology and develop conservation ethics. I use my own research and literature from my field as case studies and problem sets for investigating how students evaluate evidence to make decisions and how they approach uncertainty in biological data. Specifically, I am interested in …
- The accuracy and design of assessments for measuring student learning gains that are aligned with for authentic, “real-world” learning goals
I plan to use formative and summative assessments, metacognitive writing exercises, surveys, and focus groups to collect data. I will integrate the research of colleagues in the Department of Biology at Willamette University as case studies to engage students more deeply in the work around them. This data will be used to enhance my own teaching and to expand our general understanding of how students learn and evidence-based practices for achieving learning gains in both content and process skills.