Project FUTURE (Fostering Undergraduate Training Using Research Experiences) allows college students to have real world learning experiences related to plant ecology and the environmental consequences of global change. Dr. Hormoz BassiriRad and Dr. Darrel Murray, Professors of Biology at UIC, have developed a series of inquiry-based laboratory exercises, based on Dr. BassiriRad’s research on the impact of anthropogenic nitrogen deposition on natural plant communities. The lab exercises provide students hands-on experience to address issues that are major current concerns in ecology and conservation biology. Students test their hypotheses regarding these issues by collecting data at field sites, analyzing their results, and writing scientific reports on their findings.
To determine the effectiveness of these new lab exercises we have developed assessment tests to compare the undergraduate classes using the new labs against classes that are not yet using them. We hope to find that students not only learn about nitrogen deposition, plant ecology and how science is typically conducted by researchers, but that the project will also foster a greater interest in science.