Teaching Module Overview
Undergraduate STEM students are graduating into professions that require them to manage and work with data at many points of a data management life cycle. Within ecology, students are presented not only with many opportunities to collect data themselves, but increasingly to access and use public data collected by others. This activity introduces the basic concept of data management from the field through to data analysis. The accompanying presentation materials mention the importance of considering long-term data storage and data analysis using public data.
This data set is a subset of small mammal trapping data from the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). The accompanying activity introduces students to proper data management practices including how data moves from collection to analysis. Students perform basic spreadsheet tasks to complete a Lincoln-Peterson mark-recapture calculation to estimate population size for a species of small mammal. Pairs of students will work on different sections of the datasets allowing for comparison between seasons or, if instructors download additional data, between sites and years. Data from six months at NEON’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) field site are included in the materials download. Data from other years or locations can be downloaded directly from the NEON data portal to tailor the activity to a specific location or ecological topic.
Learning objectives are achieved through a variety of tactics. By the end of this activity, students will be able to:
- explain the importance of data management in the scientific process. This is accomplished through discussion with faculty/class. Presentation slides are provided to guide this discussion.
- identify elements of a useful, organized data sheet. This is accomplished through inspection of the provided NEON data sheet and how the different data collected are entered into the data collection sheet.
- create a spreadsheet data table for transcription of field collected data. Students will accomplish this by creating and revising a spreadsheet data table and by comparing their version to the provided standardized spreadsheet data table. Faculty are provided with the example Excel workbook and presentation slides to facilitate this learning.
- explain how NEON small mammal data are collected and understand the format that the data are provided. To accomplish this students will read through the provided data collection protocol, view the .csv file containing NEON small mammal data, and view the variables data file to understand what data are contained in the data files. The NEON small mammal data set, protocols, and metadata are included.
- manipulate data in a spreadsheet program (example provided is Microsoft Excel). An example workbook and student handout are provided to show the steps.
- calculate plot-level species population abundance using the Lincoln-Peterson Mark-Recapture model. Presentation slides are provided to introduce the model, and an example workbook and student instructions are provided to show the analysis steps.
- interpret results in plot level species abundance based on temporal variation, geographic locations, or by species. Faculty are provided with notes to help guide this discussion.
This activity was developed while the NEON project was still in construction. There may be future changes to the format of collected and downloaded data. If using data directly from the NEON Data Portal instead of using the data sets accompanying this activity, we recommend testing out the data each year prior to implementing this activity in the classroom.
This module was originally taught starting with a field component where students accompanied NEON technicians during the small mammal trapping. The rest of the activity was implemented in a classroom with students using personal computers. As a field component is not a possibility for most courses, the initial part of the activity has been modified to include optional videos that instructors can use to show how small mammal trapping is conducted. Instructors are also encouraged to bring small mammal traps and small mammal specimens into the classroom when available. Students will need access to computer to complete this activity, however, we recommend they complete the activity in pairs. This could be presented in a computer lab or in a classroom where student have access to personal computers.
This teaching module was originally published as Jim McNeil and Megan A. Jones. April 2018, posting date. Data Management using National Ecological Observatory Network’s (NEON) Small Mammal Data with Accompanying Lesson on Mark Recapture Analysis. Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology, Vol. 13: Practice #9 [online]. http://tiee.esa.org/vol/v13/issues/data_sets/mcneil/abstract.html
This teaching module, along with modifications of it by other faculty, can also be found on QUBESHub: Data Management using National Ecological Observatory Network's (NEON) Small Mammal Data with Accompanying Lesson on Mark Recapture Analysis.
Estimated Duration: 50 minutes
Themes: Data Management, Organismal Data
Audience: Undergraduate courses
Class size: Any (adapt the Q&A/Discussion questions to small group discussions or instructor-led introductions as needed)
- Internet access: if presenting, live from the website or accessing videos.
- Computer & projector: if presenting, live from the website or accessing videos.
- Optional: audio capabilities for videos
- Computer with a spreadsheet program (Excel, Google Sheets)
- Internet access for downloading data sets (or have them pre-downloaded)
- Optional: small mammal specimen/small mammal trapping equipment
- Handout with instructions & questions
This lesson introduces the basic concept of data management from the field through to data analysis while teaching students about a core ecological field data practice of small mammal trapping.
Science Content Objectives
After the lesson, students will be able to:
- Explain a basic process of data management from collection through analysis and archiving
- Calculate population size estimates using the Lincoln-Peterson Method
Data Skills Objectives
After the lesson, students will be able to:
- Create a well layed out spreadsheet
- Describe data management practices for
All Teaching Module components are available for download under the Detailed Lesson Plan tab in the sidebar menu.
The Data Sets
The National Ecological Observatory Network is a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation and operated under cooperative agreement by Battelle Memorial Institute. This material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the NEON Program. The associated datasets are posted for educational purposes only. Data for research purposes should be obtained directly from the National Ecological Observatory Network.
Data Citation: National Ecological Observatory Network. 2017. Data Product: NEON.DP1.10072.001. Provisional data downloaded from http://data.neonscience.org. Battelle, Boulder, CO, USA
The materials for this lesson are presented as both a single webpage with the primary content and as downloadable materials that can be used in the classroom.
Use of NEON Teaching Modules
All lessons developed for the National Ecological Observatory Network data are open-access (CC-BY) and designed as a resource for the greater community. General feedback on the lesson is welcomed in the comments section on each page. If you develop additional materials related to or supporting this lesson, and are willing to share them, we provide the opportunity for you
to share them with other instructors. Please contact NEON Data Skills or, if familiar with GitHub, submit an issue or pull request with new materials in the NEON Data Skills repo (tutorials are on master branch). All materials will be reviewed by staff prior to inclusion in or linking from the NEON Data Skills materials.