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MSMS 6024 & 6025 : Transdisciplinary Approaches to Coral Reef Science - Field Course & Quantitative and Communication Skills

This course is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Studies Institute (ASI) to explore the coral reefs of Australia, through the NSF International Research Experiences for Students Track II program.

Course Info & Textbooks

Transdisciplinary Approaches to Coral Reef Science
MSMS 6024: Australia Field Course

MSMS 6025: Quantitative and Communication Skills
Summer 2022

MSMS 6024 (Summer I): Tropical coral reef ecosystems and the communities that depend on them face unprecedented pressure from climate change and other anthropogenic stressors. Proactive management and novel techniques are urgently needed to counteract the degradation of these ecosystems. As a response to the shortage of broadly trained, transdisciplinary coral reef scientists, this advanced science experience in far-north Queensland, Australia will develop a systems-based approach to target student training in a range of disciplines related to coral reef science and conservation. The field portion of this class will last for 3 weeks in Queensland, Australia, where students will have the unique opportunity to interact with experts in a range of fields, including, but not limited to, ecology, biogeochemistry, physiology, animal behavior, molecular biology, and environmental social science. Students will first learn about socio-ecological resilience and anthropogenic impacts on natural systems at the School for Field Studies (SFS), Centre for Rainforest Studies (CRS) in the Atherton Tablelands (7 days), the only place in the world where two UNESCO World Heritage Sites meet (Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef). The group will then travel to the Lizard Island Research Station (LIRS), a state-of-the-art, island-based research facility in the northern Great Barrier Reef (14 days), where students will learn from and be guided through independent research projects by a diverse group of American and Australian coral reef scientists. Through lectures, class work, field immersions, and independent projects, these ASIs will engage students in hands-on research that fosters a transdisciplinary understanding of coral reef ecosystems. Students will engage in predeparture activities related to coral reef science in Australia, cultural history and current socio-economic challenges facing coral reefs, science communication, and developing the independent study topic.

MSMS 6025 (Summer II): Coral reefs are iconic ecosystems that provide goods and services to millions of people worldwide and support tremendous biodiversity. Modern coral reef science encompasses broad scientific fields, including biology, geology, chemistry, and physics. This wide-ranging research field requires a transdisciplinary effort to understand these complex ecosystems, especially in the context of local and global anthropogenic change. Cross-disciplinary training and collaboration is key to the success of coral reef science and conservation efforts. This pioneering program will teach students how holistic approaches are critical to addressing human impacts on ecosystems while preparing them to address the next big-picture scientific problems. Following students’ return from the Australia field trip, this course will focus on statistical analyses, data interpretation, scientific writing, and presentation skills. This course will culminate in a Virtual Student Research Symposium attended by scientists from across the USA and collaborators in Australia, providing a public platform for students to showcase their ideas and research.

Required Textbooks:

Materials & Resources:

  • MSMS 6024 (Summer I):
    1. Understand the role of social-ecological factors in coral reef conservation;
    2. Develop an inter- and transdisciplinary understanding of coral reef science through field-based training and lectures in a range of disciplines, including biogeochemistry, behavioral ecology, ecophysiology, molecular biology, environmental social science, population & community ecology, virology, climate change ecology, and chemical sensor technology; and
    3. Obtain practical scientific skills and expand the scientific network through the implementation of independent field projects.
  • MSMS 6025 (Summer II):
    1. Apply skills in data management, statistical analysis, and data interpretation to data collected for the independent project during the field course;
    2. Gain scientific communication skills in a range of modalities by writing a report summarizing research findings and presenting the project during a presentation at the end of each ASI during a student symposium.

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