Discussion group about the First Year Research Experience

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I attended an information and sharing session this afternoon on the Undergraduate research Initiative at the University of Saskatchewan. This project started a few years back but has moved into the implementation phase. AgBio was invited to be a test college for implementing a first year research experience into our classes. Of course, we went for it enthusiastically.

When I say we, the instructors of all 3 AgBio first term courses also embraced the idea and have implemented it in their classes. Fran Walley and Krista Wilde have been teaching research skills all along in their class, AGRC 111: Sustainable plant and soil management for several years now. They incorporated the FYRE project into their course very easily. Colin Laroque is teaching EVSC 110 (Renewable resources and the environment) for the first time this year. He bravely agreed incorporate the FYRE project into his class.

Of course, I am part of FYRE as the primary instructor of ANBI 110: Introduction to domestic animal biology. It’s only the second year I have taught it so I don’t have much to compare this year to. However, I have been amazed at how well the FYRE activities have worked out thus far. The students seem engaged and have improved their writing and numeracy skills greatly. We still have our big poster event on Dec 3. That should tell us how successful we have been. I know we have started something new and valuable. At the very least, a foundation we can build on.

The most exciting thing was a discussion at the end of the meeting about SOTL—the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. I have heard the term but have not really paid any attention. It sounds like something we need to bring to the assessment of the FYRE program. Yet another thing to learn…how exciting.

Any students reading this, I would love any comments you have on your experience thus far.

The science of poo

One of my favourite topics to teach is gut microbiology. There are so many fun and gross facts. Feces is 50% bacteria by weight. The average human has about 2 kg of bacteria associated with them and there are more bacterial cells in your gut than cells in your body. I will be using this cartoon next year.

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via: http://buttpoems.tumblr.com/post/100192532859

Sunlight glints off Saturn moon’s seas in dazzling NASA image

Black_Hole_Memories___Photo via: http://utcjonesobservatory.tumblr.com Cassini has seen some things, man. NASA’s intrepid spacecraft left to investigate Saturn way back in 1997 and it’s still surprising us back here on Earth with fascinating images. The latest to wow humans is a color mosaic showing sunlight shining off the moon’s hydrocarbon seas near the north pole. The image was captured in near-infrared light and the result is a greenish Titan with glowing highlights where the seas are located. Cassini has captured the polar seas before. It’s also nabbed some vague views of the sun glinting off them, but this new mosaic is the first time they’ve been caught together in the same view, and it’s breathtaking. The official term for what’s happening in the image is a “sunglint.” There’s more going on here than just a pretty picture. The image also shows bright methane clouds near the north pole. NASA notes that the clouds could be actively refilling the lakes with rainfall, so be sure to take an umbrella if you ever join a manned mission to Titan. Kraken Mare, the sea showing the sunglint, has what NASA describes as a “bathtub ring” around it. This indicates the process of evaporation has caused the sea to get smaller over time. Titan’s seas are primarily composed of liquid methane and ethane, not exactly the sort of place you would want to go for a beach vacation. The moon has been a source of extra fascination recently thanks to a strange phenomenon where a “magic island” has been spotted disappearing and reappearing on the surface. There have been proposals to send more advanced missions to Titan, which may help answer many of the questions scientists have about what exactly is happening on the heavenly body. In the meantime, we’ll have to make due with images and data sent back by the ever-helpful Cassini.

Astrophysicist Jedidah Isler

My ANBI 110 class is almost 90% women this year. However, if I look at the number of women faculty and researchers in my department (8 out of 21), this is not reflected. It is slowly getting better but more women need to be encouraged to become faculty and researchers. I will try to post articles about women in science regularly in this blog. There are lots of great examples out there.

Here is one that caught my attention this week.

Jedidah Isler

Jedidah Isler Full story

Jedidah Isler was interested in the heavens from the time she was 11 or 12. She had a telescope as a kid, which her sister bought her for her birthday one year. But she didn’t get a chance to pursue astronomy formally until she was in her doctoral program, although she had a number of summer internships and research projects in astronomy starting when she was an undergrad.