Simulation Modeling of Lakes in Undergraduate and Graduate Classrooms Increases Comprehension of Climate Change Concepts and Experience with Computational Tools
Carey, Cayelan C.
Gougis, Rebekka Darner
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Ecosystem modeling is a critically important tool for environmental scientists, yet is rarely taught in undergraduate and graduate classrooms. To address this gap, we developed a teaching module that exposes students to a suite of modeling skills and tools (including computer programming, numerical simulation modeling, and distributed computing) that students apply to study how lakes around the globe are experiencing the effects of climate change. In the module, students develop hypotheses about the effects of different climate scenarios on lakes and then test their hypotheses using hundreds of model simulations. We taught the module in a 4-hour workshop and found that participation in the module significantly increased both undergraduate and graduate students' understanding about climate change effects on lakes. Moreover, participation in the module also significantly increased students' perceived experience level in using different software, technologies, and modeling tools. By embedding modeling in an environmental science context, non-computer science students were able to successfully use and master technologies that they had previously never been exposed to. Overall, our findings suggest that modeling is a powerful tool for catalyzing student learning on the effects of climate change.