Date of Award
Master of Science
Global biodiversity has declined at an alarming rate over the past century as a result of many complex human-induced environmental changes. Standardized surveys have historically been used to identify drivers of species declines, but such studies are often resource-intensive, resulting in significant spatial and temporal data gaps when researchers lack the resources necessary to maintain such studies. One promising solution for overcoming gaps in standardized studies is the integration of species observations by community members (e.g., community science). Along with improving modeling techniques to address biodiversity declines, the education of future ecologists on the importance of Indigenous ecological knowledge, robust scientific research, and community engagement in addressing myriad environmental problems is also imperative in addressing ecological challenges. Thus, my goals are 1) determine the efficacy of integrating standardized survey data with community-sourced observations to create species distribution models (SDMs) for species with varying responses to human-mediated environmental change and 2) create a curriculum that synergizes Indigenous ecological knowledge, scientific research techniques, and community science to establish a more holistic learning experience. I used data from Snapshot USA, a standardized nation-wide camera trap survey, and iNaturalist, an online community science platform, to create species distribution models and hands-on ecology lessons. My results demonstrate that integrated SDMs do produce informative predictions of the environmental factors that influence species distributions and provide a scaffolded framework for creating a more holistic approach to ecological education.
Whipple, Laura, "Science, Community, and Culture: A Holistic Approach to Ecological Research and Education" (2023). All NMU Master's Theses. 744.