Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Radiocarbon conference at QUB August 2014

QUB is hosting a conference this summer - Radiocarbon in the Environment. My QUB sponsor, Dr. Paula Reimer, and my QUB office-mate, Dr. Evelyn Keaveney, are two of the conference organizers and are busy getting the word out! Check out more info here: http://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/14C/

I'll have just returned to the US, but I highly recommend you attend August 18-22, 2014!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Speaking at QUB EEBEE

I was invited to give a talk to the School of Biological Sciences (http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofBiologicalSciences/) at Queen's this week. My seminar was part of the Ecology, Evolution, Behaviour and Environmental Economics Seminar Series (http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofBiologicalSciences/OurResearch/EcologyEvolutionBehaviourandEnvironmentalEconomics/), which is attended by mainly students and some faculty. During the past 6 months, I have gone to a few of the other seminars in this series (e.g., Drs. Catherine McGavigan and Dmitry Kishkiniev speaking about aquatic plants and migrating birds, respectively) and it seems like a dynamic group.

My talk, titled "Landscape Limnology: Understanding multi-scaled cause-effect relationships between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems" was in the Medical Biology Center, about a block from the building my office is in. My talk was a bit sparsely attended, but well-received. I had some interesting questions after the talk and look forward to continued interactions with EEBEE at QUB.

It is interesting to experience the differences in culture across Universities and Schools. For example, there is no preceding or following social for this seminar series. Instead, the group gathers every Thursday morning for coffee and cake. I plan to attend one of the coffee hours soon to engage further with people from this cluster.

Special thanks to Dr. Christine Maggs, Head of School, for hosting me

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Science teams make the news!

I think that many professors would say that their research informs their classrooms - that they bring their research methods and results into the classroom to help their students learn. However, I'm not sure how many professors think that there is a mutualistic relationship between their research labs and teaching classrooms. I do, and my new paper published this week is a great example of this relationship --
Creating and maintaining high-performing collaborative research teams: the importance of diversity and interpersonal skills by Kendra S Cheruvelil, Patricia A Soranno, Kathleen C Weathers, Paul C Hanson, Simon J Goring, Christopher T Filstrup, Emily K Read (http://www.esajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1890/130001). Check out MSU's press release about my paper here: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/research-its-more-than-just-the-science/, which has also been picked up by Science Daily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140204123732.htm and Phys.org: http://phys.org/news/2014-02-science.html.
JUNE UPDATE: the Archbold Biological Station included CSI Limnology and highlighted my teamwork paper in their newsletter:
Very fun!

You might be asking how this mutualistic relationship works...well, there are three parts to the story:

First, over a decade ago, I began working with three amazing ecologists: Drs. Patricia Soranno, Mary Tate Bremigan, and Katherine Webster. We got a grant from the US EPA to fund some of our Landscape Limnology research (www.fw.msu.edu/~llrg) and were able to do a LOT of great science with a relatively small number of tax-payer dollars. We have since expanded our research team in multiple directions (e.g., CSI Limnology and Lakes as Socio-Ecological Systems), and have continued to work really well together. I don't take these great research teams for granted because to work productively together is not a given in science. In fact, high-performing science teams take a lot of work to create and maintain! But,  I am committed to these teams that keep me passionate about science.
The Landscape Limnology Research Group (L to R):
Patricia Soranno, Kendra Spence Cheruvelil, Katherine Webster, Mary Tate Bremigan
Second, I began teaching introductory organismal biology in MSU's Lyman Briggs College (www.lbc.msu.edu). Right away, I noticed that my students struggled to work effectively in their lab teams and that those struggles negatively affected their science learning and their attitudes about biology. I began attending teaching seminars and reading the education literature about how to facilitate effective student teams. In fact, when I was an MSU Lilly Teaching Fellow (http://www.fod.msu.edu/opportunities/lilly-teaching-fellows-program), I designed a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning project that asked: How do diverse base groups impact student learning and attitudes in introductory biology? Over the past eight years, I have learned a lot about how to help students working in teams do so in better, more satisfying, and more scientifically productive ways.

Third, I began working with some of my LBC colleagues to increase awareness and appreciation of diversity in its many forms. With Drs. Georgina Montgomery, Cheryl Murphy, and Cori Fata-Hartley, I formed a new standing committee, LBC Inc, which has the goal of promoting and fostering an inclusive environment and equal opportunities for all LBC students, faculty, and staff through educationresearch, and service (http://lymanbriggs.msu.edu/faculty/standing.cfm); with Drs. Georgina Montgomery, Cori Fata-Hartley, and Aaron McCright, I developed a senior capstone course that used service learning and student research to explore issues of diversity in science; and with Dr. Cori Fata-Hartley, I developed and implemented a seminars and workshops about the importance of diversity for science teaching and learning (e.g., Creating an Inclusive Classroom). I found all of these experiences extremely rewarding, and at the same time was continuously reminded of how challenging it is to think and talk about "diversity", no matter the context.

So, how did these three different aspects of my job come together to create this Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment paper about science teams? Over the course of the last 10+ years, I have been experiencing and observing a huge number of teams at work - in the classroom, in my lab, and beyond. The teamwork skills I learned in order to help my students and the literature I read about the importance of diversity for teaching and learning began informing my research teams. I began to lead my research teams through teamwork exercises about negotiating conflict and time management. I designed an online survey for CSI Limnology to assess team functioning. I started raising other scientists' awareness about the importance of diversity and interpersonal skills for science teams. And then, word got out -- I began getting emails from colleagues around the world asking me for my teamwork materials so that their research teams could increase their level of productivity as well. Thus, this paper was born!

I wrote this paper with some amazing co-authors: Patricia Soranno, Kathleen Weathers, Paul Hanson, Simon Goring, Chris Filstrup, and Emily Read. We wrote the paper to provide scientists with a strong rationale for why they need to very carefully create diverse research teams, teach scientists teamwork and leadership skills, and value such training and its outputs. In addition, our paper provides many concrete examples of how to create and maintain high-performing collaborative research teams (check out the online supplemental documents: http://www.esajournals.org/doi/suppl/10.1890/130001/suppl_file/i1540-9295-12-1-31.s01.pdf). We wrote the paper based on our own experiences working in teams (not all of which have been high-performing) as well as using research published mainly in the fields of education and business. Finally, our paper was informed by the really cool new discipline called the science of team science (http://sites.nationalacademies.org/DBASSE/BBCSS/CurrentProjects/DBASSE_080231). We hope that our paper is helpful for science teams that want to improve, scientists in training who want to learn teamwork and leadership skills, and administrators who are thinking about how to evaluate and reward scientists who work in teams. The end result of high-performing science teams is better science being conducted, which is a win for everyone!

This special issue  (http://www.esajournals.org/toc/fron/12/1) was partly the result of a two-day meeting held during February of 2012 in Boulder, CO. Researchers funded through the NSF-MacroSysytems Biology Program (http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503425), including me, got together to share ideas and tools and talked a lot about what it is that makes macrosystems ecology tick, including effective interdisciplinary teams. You can check out the NSF's press releases here: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=130218&org=NSF&from=news and http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_images.jsp?cntn_id=130218&org=NSF.

A special shout out to my long-time LLRG, my LBC students and teaching assistants, and to Cori Fata-Hartley!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Macrosystems ecology making a splash

One of my research projects that I've written about here before, CSI-Limnology (www.csilimnology.org),  is about understanding and explaining variation among lakes at large geographic scales and through time. This research focus puts us on the front edge of an emerging new subdiscipline of ecology called macrosystems ecology. This new field of study is the focus of a special issue this month in the Ecological Society of America's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Check out MSU's press release about the special issue, including a short animation, here: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/new-scientific-field-looks-at-the-big-picture/.

In this special issue, I am lead-author on a paper about how to create and maintain the best possible scientific collaborations (see my next post for details), as well as co-author on three of the other papers. CSI Limnology's lead-PI, Patricia Soranno, was the co-editor of the issue. She was also co-lead author on the opening editorial and the opening paper that describes this new field of science, and was lead author on our CSI-Limnology paper that describes how important cross-scale interactions are for understanding variation among ecosystems at large scales and for predicting their likely responses to stressors such as land use and climate changes. Many of my CSI Limnology colleagues are also co-authors on various papers in the special issue (listed in alpha order): Ed BissellMary Tate Bremigan, John DowningEmi FergusChris Filstrup, Emily Norton HenryNoah Lottig, Craig Stow, Emily StanleyPang-Ning TanTy Wagner, and Katherine Webster. 

All of the papers are available online for free at: http://www.esajournals.org/toc/fron/12/1 -- thanks to the US NSF. As an aside, did you know that scientists do not get paid to publish their work, but instead have to pay to have their research published? And, if they want it to be accessible by everyone (which I do), then it is even more expensive to publish your work!

The projects highlighted in this issue are funded through the US NSF MacroSystems Biology (MSB) Program. This special issue was the result of MSB project participants (including Pat and me) meeting in Boulder, CO for an NSF-funded workshop during February of 2011. Check out the NSF's press releases here: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=130218&org=NSF&from=news and http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_images.jsp?cntn_id=130218&org=NSF.