Skip to main content Accessibility help

Engaging Paleontology Undergraduates in Collaborative Research Experiences

  • Michael Savarese (a1) and Diane Schmidt (a2)


Undergraduate research is rightfully viewed as a valuable educational endeavor, yet few students have the time or incentive to avail themselves of the opportunity. Those students who do obtain research experience typically do so during their senior year, at a time too late to best benefit from the experience. Finally, requiring students to conduct independent research can be unsustainable, drawing on limited resources and faculty time. We have developed a collaborative undergraduate research model that unites students as a research team in their standard courses. The method is applicable to all course levels, from introductory science courses to upper-division, discipline-specific courses. At the introductory level, students work on longer-term research problems that require regular monitoring, with each successive class adding to an iterative database. Students in upper-division classes design group projects that are completed in the course of the semester. The benefits of the model are numerous. Students develop a sense of ownership and stewardship; they obtain a thorough experience practicing science while their curriculum is applied to real problems; and students learn to work cooperatively. Results from many of these experiences are of a high enough quality to be presented at scientific meetings and eventually published. Projects often help students focus their discipline-based interests and spawn senior theses, and faculty members have a vehicle to vicariously increase their research productivity. Examples from an upper division paleobiology course are presented. Overall, this model has been highly successful, especially when employed at the upper-division levels.



Hide All
Agobian, J. N., Bridges, A. C., Coventry-Payne, L., Markley, L. R., Dafrota, J. K., Ercolani, C. P., Erickson, A. R., Shah, B. B., Woodruff, A. J., and Savarese, M. 2005. Variation in taphonomic signatures among modern oyster reefs across an estuarine environmental gradient: implications for interpreting sea-level rise history. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, 37(2):12.
Barrell, J. 2003. Developing More Curious Minds. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, Virginia.
Brandt, D. S. 1989. Taphonomic grades as a classification for fossiliferous assemblages and implications for paleoecology. Palaios, 4:303309.
Cartwright, F. B., Roop, K. B., Abeels, H., Denkert, B. A., Maguire, E., King, J., Danay, H. M., Branciforte, K. A., Faulkner, C. L., and Savarese, M. 2009. Estuarine history as interpreted from a 900-year old oyster reef from the mouth of Broad River: implications for water flow management of Everglades National Park. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, 41(1):5354.
Cranton, P. 2002. Teaching for transformation. New Directions of Adult and Continuing Education, 93:6371.
Daggett, W. R. 2008. Rigor and Relevance From Concept to Reality. International Center for Leadership in Education, Rexford, New York.
Dewey, J. 1938. Experience and Education. The Macmillan Company, New York.
Dietl, G. P., and Flessa, K. W. (eds.). 2009. Conservation paleobiology: using the past to manage for the future. The Paleontological Society Papers, 15.
Hoye, B. R. 2009. Holocene history of the coastal geomorphology of Everglades National Park: the roles of reef development, tidal pond formation, and sea-level rise. , Florida Gulf Coast University, 210 p.
Hunter, A.-B., Laursen, S. L., and Seymour, E. 2006. Becoming a scientist: the role of undergraduate research in students' cognitive, personal, and professional development. Science Education, 91:3674.
Johnson, D. W., and Johnson, R. T. 1984. Circles of Learning: Cooperation in the Classroom. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Washington, D. C.
Johnson, D. W., and Johnson, R. T. 1989. Leading the Cooperative School. Interaction Book Company, Edina, Minnesota.
Kagan, S. 1989. The structural approach to cooperative learning. Educational Leadership, 47:1215.
Karukstis, K. K., and Wenzel, T. J. 2004. Enhancing research in the chemical sciences at pre-dominantly undergraduate institutions: recommendations of a recent undergraduate research summit. Journal of Chemical Education, 81:468469.
Kowalewski, M., Goodfriend, G. A., and Flessa, K. W. 1998. High-resolution estimates of temporal mixing within shell beds: the evils and virtues of time-averaging. Paleobiology, 24:287304.
Kuhn, T. S. 1996. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois.
Lopatto, D. 2004. Survey of undergraduate research experiences (SURE): first findings. Cell Biology Education, 3:270277.
Lopatto, D. 2009. Science in Solution: The Impact of Undergraduate Research on Student Learning., Research Corporation for Science Advancement, Tucson, Arizona. [Retrieved from].
Meers, M. B., Demers, N. E., and Savarese, M. 2003. Integrating scientific philosophy, theory, methods, and ethics in undergraduate science curricula. Journal of College Science Teaching, 33:3439.
Piaget, J. 1969. The Child's Conception of the World. Littlefield, Adams and Company, Totowa, New Jersey, 397 p.
Russell, S. H., Hancock, M. P., and McCullough, J. 2007. Benefits of undergraduate research experiences. Education Forum, 316:548549.
Seymour, E., Hunter, A.-B., Laursen, S. L., and Deantoni, T. 2004. Establishing the benefits of research experiences for undergraduates in the sciences: first findings from a three-year study. Science Education, 88:493534.
Slavin, R. E. 1995. Cooperative Learning: Theory, Research, and Practice. Allyn and Bacon, Boston, Massachusetts.
Vygotsky, L. S. 1978. Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Wayment, H. A., and Dickson, K. L. 2008. Increasing student participation in undergraduate research benefits students, faculty, and department. Teaching of Psychology, 35:194197.
Westphal, M. J., Linsin, S. R., Andresen, M. M., Harris, R. J., Hoye, B. R., Kline, H. E., Linardich, C. M., Mabe, A. C., McConnell, M. N., and Savarese, M. 2007. Ecological succession within a Holocene oyster reef: an indicator of estuary development in Southwest Florida. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, 39(2):95.
Wohlpart, S. L., and Savarese, M. 2010. A team mentorship approach to undergraduate research in geoscience: uniting non-majors and majors with graduate students and faculty. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, 42(1):83.
Zydney, A. L., Bennett, J. S., Shahid, A., and Bauer, K. W. 2002. Faculty perspectives regarding the undergraduate research experience in science and engineering. Journal of Engineering Education, 91:291297.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Engaging Paleontology Undergraduates in Collaborative Research Experiences

  • Michael Savarese (a1) and Diane Schmidt (a2)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.