How to get to know your students: supporting student-centered undergraduate field experiences

August 10th at 10 AM PST

Students’ experiences in undergraduate field experiences, and ultimately, the outcomes they attain, are shaped by who they are, why they participate, what they’ve done before, what they know, what they feel and are able to do, and their individual needs and constraints. Student-centered, responsive pedagogy and inclusive program design require understanding students in all these dimensions. Join us for some examples of how faculty, instructors, and program coordinators are getting to know students and using this information for the design and implementation of student-centered inclusive undergraduate field experiences. This first UFERN Community Conversation will feature three panelists: Fred Abbott from the Ecological Society of America, Andrew McDevitt from the University of Colorado Denver, and Kira Treibergs from Cornell University. They will share brief examples from their own experience. Their short presentations will be followed by a facilitated conversation.

Click here for more info>>

Upcoming Presentations

Hello UFERN Network,

We wanted to share some upcoming UFERN related presentations we think you might be interested in:

SABER Meeting 

Research Experiences – Field Work

How do field experiences in the natural sciences affect undergraduate outcomes? Xoco A Shinbrot, Kira Treibergs, Lina M Arcila-Hernandez, David Esparza, and Kate Ghezzi-Kopel will be giving a talk at the upcoming SABER meeting about the results from a scoping review on this topic. Their talk will take place on Friday, July 30th from 2:30 – 2:50 EDT.

The meeting will also have a whole section of talks on field courses taking place in the same session (that runs from 2:30 – 5pm EDT), click below to see the full schedule.

Click here for full schedule>>

ESA Annual Meeting

Expanding the Field in Fieldwork: Connecting the Practice of Fieldwork with the Human Dimensions of the 4DEE Framework

This organized oral session is being facilitated by UFERN members and will take place on Wednesday, August 4th from 1:30 – 2:30 PM PST.

Inspire 4: Building Belonging in Ecology: Networks as Connectors; Networks as Disruptors

Join this Inspire Session to hear about how belonging in a network inspires research about how students’ sense of belonging impacts science learning in field courses. The talk will be given by Kari O’Connell (STEM Research Center, Oregon State University), Stephanie Shaulskiy (University of Michigan Biological Station), and Alison Jolley (Centre for Tertiary Teaching and Learning, University of Waikato). The recorded talk will be available on the ESA meeting event page and a discussion with all presenters will take place on Monday, August 2 from 2:30 – 3:30 PM PST

Click here for ESA meeting details>>

2021 UFERN Network Meeting

The 2021 Annual Network meeting took place virtually on March 1st, 2nd, and 5th. 126 people attended at least one of the sessions, our largest meeting yet! Session topics included the future of UFERN, virtual field learning experiences, interdisciplinary research related to affective outcomes of undergraduate field experiences, invited panel discussion “What is the Field is and Who is in It?”, and workshops related to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access (DEIA) in undergraduate field experiences. In a post-meeting survey, participants reported that they found the interdisciplinary networking and collaboration valuable and appreciated the inclusive atmosphere and genuine focus on DEIA.

If you would like to get involved in UFERN please sign up for our listserv.

Many helpful resources were shared during the UFERN Network Meeting, including presentations, articles, and other resources suggested by participants. They are available here.

Special thanks go out to all the UFERN members who helped make the meeting a big success, especially the volunteer organizing committee: Itchung Cheung, Susan Flowers, Paul Foster, and Alexandra Race.

Invitation to participate in UFERN Framework Initiative

You are invited to join a cross-disciplinary learning community of 15 undergraduate field educators interested in designing inclusive student-centered Undergraduate Field Experiences (UFEs). In this group, we will explore how to apply the recently-developed UFERN Framework to design, implement, and assess student-centered Undergraduate Field Experiences (UFEs). 

Selected undergraduate field educators will:

  • Participate in a professional learning community focused on using the newly developed UFERN Framework in program design, implementation and assessment.
  • Participate and fully engage in six hours of synchronous virtual workshops and asynchronous informal discussions between January 25th and April 2021, and two additional follow-up sessions in the summer and fall of 2021. First meeting is January 27th, 10 -11:30 pacific (1 – 2:30 eastern). 
  • Use the UFERN Framework to guide the planning of new or revised program elements in their UFE.
  • Implement their modified UFE in the spring or summer of 2021 and reflect on the implementation and student experience.
  • Reflect and share about their experiences with the UFERN Framework to support effective use of the UFERN Framework in future efforts.

To support time and effort, participants will receive a $1,000 stipend for meeting the expectations listed above.

To apply, please complete the short application found HERE. We will start reviewing applications on January 6th, 2021 and make final notifications about selections by January 11th. We invite applications from faculty and program directors teaching and guiding a range of disciplines and UFE formats (e.g., Undergraduate Research Experiences, residential field courses, campus-based field courses).

The goals of the UFERN Framework Initiative are to:

  1. Support a small group of field educators in intentional design, implementation and assessment of student-centered undergraduate field experiences in a range of field learning contexts.
  2. Develop effective strategies for supporting undergraduate field educators in using the UFERN Framework as an aid for designing, implementing, and assessing student-centered Undergraduate Field Experience programs. 
  3. Assemble vignettes featuring applications of the UFERN Framework in a range of program contexts.
  4. Expand the community of field educators interested in designing, implementing, and assessing student-centered undergraduate field learning experiences.

The UFERN Framework initiative is supplemental funding for Award No. 1730756 RCN-UBE Building capacity for evidence-based undergraduate field experiences. Visit our website for more information about UFERN. Please direct any questions to and

UFERN Network Meeting: Save the Date

Image of roads

Meeting theme: Envisioning the Future of Undergraduate Field Education
Meeting goal: To advance research and practice of undergraduate field education through interdisciplinary collaborations
Dates: March 1-5*
*half-day sessions on March 1, 2, and 5 with networking opportunities in between

We will be inviting lightning talks and workshop proposals from the community. Stay tuned for more details!

Live from the Field: Nutrient Cycling in Grasslands

Are you looking for virtual teaching materials to give your students field experiences during the 2020-2021 school year?

Bring your class to “Live from the Field: Nutrient Cycling in Grasslands” on November 9th to meet researchers from around the world.

The Virtual Field project, a coalition of 50+ field stations and marine laboratories around the globe, is creating teaching materials and events to bring the field to your students through this portal: Materials and events are free and come with instructor guides and recommended assignments. Concepts focus on human-environment interactions and are applicable to a wide range of disciplines.

Virtual Field Teaching Materials

In May, a coalition of 50+ FSMLs received an NSF RAPID grant to create a suite of virtual teaching materials and events that provide opportunities for university students to engage virtually with field stations and marine labs during the pandemic. Now, the first round of virtual field teaching materials (attached flyer) is available. We thank the efforts of so many people have made this possible.
The attached flyer provides links to Ecosystem Exploration videos and the accompanying instructors guide, registration and information for upcoming and recorded Live from the Field events, and videography support for instructors who want to create their own video. The first Live from the Field event for the fall is just around the corner on September 23rd, and we encourage you and your students to register.

Download the flyer here

New Publications!

Check out the following recent UFERN publications:

UFERN has been busy this month! Check out all of the newly published papers below:

The Undergraduate learning in the field: Designing experiences, assessing outcomes, and exploring future opportunities article addresses results from the Landscape Study conducted in 2018 to better understand the diversity of program types as well as the value and impact of undergraduate field experiences for students.

UFERN also published Promoting a Sense of Place Virtually: A Review of the ESA Weekly Water Cooler Chat Focused on Virtual Sense of Place, a review of an Ecological Society of America Water Cooler Chat that UFERN co-hosted. The chat focused on ways to help students develop a virtual sense of place in an undergraduate field course that has been moved online. 

The Promoting inclusion in ecological field experiences: Examining and overcoming barriers to a professional rite of passage explores some benefits and barriers presented by field learning experiences as well as some challenges and potential strategies to broaden inclusivity in field experiences.

ESA Education Workshops before the meeting!

Join ESA on July 20th for the ESA Four-Dimensional Ecology Education Extravaganza: A day of workshops to energize your Ecology teaching. Join for one or all three workshops.

11:30-12:30 EDT Syllabus workshop: Aligning Your Teaching with the 4DEE Framework.
1-2:30 EDT Lesson workshop: 12th REEFS: Resources for Ecology Education, Fair and Share
3-430 EDT Assessment
workshop: Assess What’s Important: Creating 4DEE Aligned Assessments That Show How Students Use Their Ecological Knowledge

There is no fee for participating.

ESA Education Section Paper Award
The ESA Education Paper Award is back!  ESA will offer an award (monetary – $100) for the best recently published paper on ecology education.  They encourage submissions that use the 4DEE Framework, but any education focused paper is welcome.  The goal is to highlight new ideas that enhance the teaching of ecology.  Papers will be reviewed by the officers of the Education Section and the Award announced at the Annual Meeting.  Please submit by July 17, 2020.

Elections for the next chair of the ESA Education Section!
ESA is asking for people to volunteer to serve the Education Section as Chair-Elect for the year starting after the annual meeting in August 2020.  The Chair-Elect becomes the Chair the following year and serves as the Past-Chair the year after that.  If you are interested in serving, write a couple of sentences about yourself and send them to  Electronic ballots will be sent to the section membership shortly after July 17. Officers should plan to attend the annual meeting in 2021 (ESA does note reimburse officers for attending).  If you have questions please contact Jennifer Doherty, (Chair) or Tracy Gartner, (Chair-Elect). 

ESA Virtual Annual Meeting
The annual meeting will be virtual August 3-6.

New Project! The Virtual Field: A Mitigation Strategy for the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing massive disruptions in higher education. Faculty across disciplines are struggling to quickly transition to virtual classrooms. Nowhere has this been more difficult than in the field sciences, where first-hand experience with the complexity of the natural world is essential for applying classroom learning to authentic settings, developing deep content knowledge and skills, and fostering identity as a field scientist.

Supported by a National Science Foundation RAPID-grant (NSF # 2031815), a team of 50 field stations in 26 states and 6 countries has launched the “Virtual Field Project” this summer to:

  1. Create ecosystem exploration videos to teach students to find and observe evidence of key ecological concepts.
  2. Host live-streaming cross-site events with researchers to discuss the process of field research with students.
  3. Share existing virtual materials and events with faculty at universities across the U.S. produced by a variety of organizations. A virtual field portal will act as a signpost, catalog, and calendar for faculty, students and community.
  4. Evaluate the efficacy of virtual field materials to set the stage for further cross-site virtual field learning initiatives

The project emerged from a grassroots effort by the Organization of Biological Field Stations, and is led by Claudia Luke Center for Environmental Inquiry at Sonoma State University, along with Hilary Swain at Archbold Biological Station, and Kari O’Connell of the STEM Research Center at Oregon State University. Through Kari O’Connell’s leadership, UFERN is an important partner on the project.

The Virtual Field Project will continue far beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Multi-site field courses are out-of-reach for many faculty and undergraduates due to logistics, cost and administrative barriers. Field trips created and shared by the Virtual Field Project will give students experience with a diversity of ecosystems around the world, encourage participation by a broader diversity of university courses, and expand opportunities for students with disabilities. The project will also contribute to a vision for effective and meaningful field learning at Field Stations and Marine Labs that includes both virtual and in-person learning strategies. The project is highly collaborative and is seeking to share approaches, resources and ideas with field sites, institutions and initiatives interested in enhancing research, education and connection to the earth. Contact: Claudia Luke, Director, Center for Environmental Inquiry, Sonoma State University for more information and to get involved.