Current Projects

Development and Assessment of student self-guided field trips using Flyover Country

Field experiences are an integral and attractive part of an education in the geosciences, considered formative by many students, and are often cited as a key factor in attracting and retaining students in the earth and environmental sciences. However, at many institutions class sizes, transportation, and other barriers make field trips difficult to include in geoscience classes, particularly in lower-division coursework. This is especially true for students from underrepresented backgrounds, nontraditional students, and students from less economically advantaged backgrounds as they often have personal and financial barriers to field trips taken on weekends or after class hours. I’m currently developing local field trip content in Flyover Country (an NSF-funded, free to download app) as a technology bridge that allows students to have expert guidance at local field sites on their own time. My intention is that sending students on self-guided field outings can help to connect with a more diverse group of students and overcome some of these barriers, getting students from diverse backgrounds outside to experience on-the-ground investigation of local field sites in their coursework. Flyover Country is an excellent base to build from and test the benefits and opportunities in a rigorous way. Instructor designed field trips in Flyover Country allow students to easily locate sites chosen by the instructor using familiar phone/tablet map navigation. Instructors can attach text, figures, photos, links to external media, and guided questioning to provide geologic context to their observations, pointing out important aspects of the site or outcrop in real time, and leading students in their inquiry in a way that we hope can mimic in-person guidance from an instructor.  I’ll be working over the next several years to assess student choice in using the app as compared to attending a ‘traditional’ out-of-class trip as well as assessing their learning outcomes, motivations, and interest in the material.

Avery L.C. Shinneman, Amy Myrbo, Shane Loeffler (2018) Student choices, outcomes, and engagement with Self-guided introductory field experiences using the Flyover Country app.  National Association of Geoscience Teaching (NAGT) Lawrence, KS.

Avery L.C. Shinneman, Amy Myrbo, Shane Loeffler (2017) Self-guided Class Field Trips Using the Flyover Country Mobile App as an Avenue to Reach Under-Represented and Non-Traditional Students with Field Experiences.  Geological Society of America Meeting, Seattle, WA.

Avery Shinneman, Shane Loeffler, Amy Myrbo (2017) Taking Students into the Field on Their Own Time: Using the Free, NSF-Funded Flyover Country App to Design Student Self-Guided Field Experiences.  Short Course offered at Geological Society of America Meeting, Seattle, WA

Amy Myrbo, Shane Loeffler,  Avery Shinneman  (2017)  Self-Guided Class Field Trips Using the Flyover Country Mobile App Could Help Students with Restrictive Schedules See Rocks Anyway.  Joint 52nd Northeastern Annual Section / 51st North-Central Annual Section Meeting. Philadelphia, PA

Impact of Spirit Lake post-eruption habitat on phytoplankton diversity over time

Since the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, Spirit Lake has undergone significant changes in lake morphology and lake water chemistry, including the development and persistence of a floating log mat that still covers ~20% of the lake surface.  Both an increase in overall benthic habitat in the photic zone and the unique habitat of the floating logs have the potential to impact phytoplankton diversity as well as nutrient dynamics in the lake. Using routine plankton tows, collection of growth from artificial substrates on the log mats, and sediment cores, students working on this project will be comparing the diversity and community assemblage changes in phytoplankton from post-eruption to present with particular attention to the role of cyanobacteria in nitrogen inputs to the lake. Working with other research groups from UW-Tacoma and the University of Puget Sound, we hope to better characterize the nutrient flows and biodiversity at Spirit Lake.

Sierra Murdzia and Avery Shinneman (2018) Impact of Spirit Lake post-eruption habitat on diatom diversity over time. Undergraduate Research Symposium, University of Washington – Bothell.

Climate and Environment of the Mongol Empire (CEME): Water and climate are critical elements in the success of herders raising livestock on the Mongolian steppe.  This has been the case for thousands of years, and finding the balance between what the landscape can support and the desire for growth and production has always been a careful balance.  After previous work (see Past Projects) examining the impact that rapid increases in livestock population may be having on highly drought-stressed lakes in Mongolia, I am very excited to be starting a new project ( investigating how a similar situation thousands of years ago may have affected the environment.  I’ll be working with a great team of climate researchers, historians, modellers to understand how the rise and fall of the Mongolian Empire was linked to climate fluctuations and demands on water resources.  Read more about the team and the project at the blog above and in this great summary article from Science News:(