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FOR 496/796 Research Experience

General Description

FOR 496 Research Experience in Forest Ecosystem Science [3 credit hours]

FOR 796 Research Experience in Forest Ecosystem Science [3 credit hours]

Students will participate in current research projects in various stages of development.  Students can thus participate in all aspects of the research process, from experimental design through data collection and analysis, although the individual projects will not be completed within the space of one semester.  Having multiple projects also allows students to be exposed to several disciplines within forest ecosystem science, such as forest ecology, nutrient cycling, and silviculture.

The course will meet for two hours per week of lecture and discussion and three hours of laboratory.  Weekend field trips may substitute for lab sessions, as dictated by the research projects selected.


After completing this course the student should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate skill in using a set of field and laboratory tools
  2. Visualize, analyze, and interpret ecological data
  3. Search for relevant published scientific literature and critically analyze it


What additional content and evaluation are required of the graduate-level offering?

Graduate students will be able to, in addition to the above:

  1. Develop a research proposal with reference to current literature, including objectives and hypothesis tests.

Graduate students will be assigned tasks that require more knowledge, skill, and responsibility than the undergraduate students.  The performance standards on assignments will be higher for graduate students to achieve the same grade in the course.


Read and critique research proposals.  What makes a good research proposal?  Proposals studied will include but will not be limited to the proposals responsible for funding the research projects to be addressed in the class in the current semester. 

Develop detailed implementation plans for the field or laboratory efforts.  Write these in the form of the methods section of a proposal.  Make other necessary preparations, such as collecting equipment and developing data management systems.

During “laboratory” sessions, implement these methods.  Studies should include a variety of research types, such as field measurements, sample collection and processing, and laboratory analysis.  Weekend field trips may substitute for afternoon labs.

In class sessions, take turns presenting findings from the research projects.   Students will present their plans for the next stage of research and practice delivering and receiving peer reviews.

Read and critique journal articles relevant to the selected projects.  What makes a good journal article?  The results of our research efforts should ultimately be reported in the peer-reviewed literature.  How will this goal affect decisions made in the course of the research process?

Develop and practice other skills, such as data visualization, data processing, geographic information systems, and statistical analysis, depending on the needs of the research projects and the existing skills of the students.  Graduate students will likely mentor undergraduate students in acquiring these skills.  Meeting in a computer cluster is a good way to assess and improve skill levels.

Evaluation will be based on a series of assignments, using grading rubrics specific to each of the types of assignments.  Assignments will include classroom presentations, field or laboratory notes, and final reports.  Some of these products will be individually produced; others will be group projects.  Graduate students will additionally produce written portions of proposals and written peer reviews.