Breakout session B:
Quantitative Life Science Education: Preparing Fearless Biologists

Breakout session B
Quantitative Life Science Education: Preparing Fearless Biologists

Saturday, November 22, 2003
2:30 - 4:00 pm

Louis J. Gross, Professor and Director, Institute for Environmental Modeling, Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Mathematics- University of Tennessee, Knoxville

This workshop will focus on a variety of methods, amenable for use in both math and biology courses, which can help students to become “fearless users” of the new technologies which have allowed us to much more readily carry out quantitative analysis in biology. The emphasis will be on methods to ease the math anxiety often expressed by biology students, by directly relating each quantitative concept to biological examples. At the entry-level we will go through several modules which compose part of a Primer of Quantitative Biology, designed to accompany a General Biology sequence. We will also have a hands-on session using a computer simulation package, Ecobeaker, demonstrating how it can be used to enhance comprehension of basic quantitative notions of dynamics, probability and descriptive statistics, as well as introduce students to new methods to analyze ecological problems. EcoBeaker is a tool for teaching basic ecological concepts using a spatially-explicit framework. This allows students and researchers to investigate the implications of models that take account of spatial heterogeneity in underlying habitats and how these interact with the actions and interactions between individual organisms. Such individual based modeling methods have become an important tool in environmental research and have been applied to various problems in applied ecology. As time allows we will discuss applications of modeling methods such as this to major environmental projects such as Everglades restoration.