Assessing opportunities and inequities in undergraduate ecological forecasting education

Conceptual representation of methodology. Data collection and analysis at each of our three curriculum levels. From left to right, dark blue represents the process of data collection and analysis for online resources, teal represents the process for forecasting course lessons, and light blue represents the process for forecasting-adjacent courses.


Conducting ecological research in a way that addresses complex, real-world problems requires a diverse, interdisciplinary and quantitatively trained ecology and environmental science workforce. This begins with equitably training students in ecology, interdisciplinary science, and quantitative skills at the undergraduate level. Understanding the current undergraduate curriculum landscape in ecology and environmental sciences allows for targeted interventions to improve equitable educational opportunities. Ecological forecasting is a sub-discipline of ecology with roots in interdisciplinary and quantitative science. We use ecological forecasting to show how ecology and environmental science undergraduate curriculum could be evaluated and ultimately restructured to address the needs of the 21st century workforce. To characterize the current state of ecological forecasting education, we compiled existing resources for teaching and learning ecological forecasting at three curriculum levels; online resources; US university courses on ecological forecasting; and US university courses on topics related to ecological forecasting. We found persistent patterns (1) in what topics are taught to US undergraduate students at each of the curriculum levels; and (2) in the accessibility of resources, in terms of course availability at higher education institutions in the United States. We developed and implemented programs to increase the accessibility and comprehensiveness of ecological forecasting undergraduate education, including initiatives to engage specifically with Native American undergraduates and online resources for learning quantitative concepts at the undergraduate level. Such steps enhance the capacity of ecological forecasting to be more inclusive to undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds and expose more students to quantitative training.

Academic Practice in Ecology and Evolution (4)
Tadhg N. Moore
Tadhg N. Moore
Senior Lake Scientist

My research interests include environmental data analysis, lake modelling and water education.