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Biologist Jose-Luis Machado and Team Awarded NSF Grant

Biologist Jose-Luis Machado and
Team Awarded NSF Grant

by Mariam Zakhary '13

Jose-Luis Machado and students in Crum Woods
Students collect plant samples in the crum woods as part of their laboratory work for Fundamentals of Ecology, taught by Associate Professor Jose-Luis Machado.

Associate Professor of Biology Jose-Luis Machado is part of a team of ecologists that has received a grant of $494,980 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund the Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN). The Network's mission is to work collaboratively to incorporate long-term research experiences into undergraduate education and share research findings and curricular products with ecological researchers and educators at other undergraduate institutions.

Machado says that this grant fulfills "the need to do research as a means to educate students and facilitate their training."

Incorporating long-term ecological research into undergraduate education is not new to Swarthmore. Machado has been using this method of teaching since 2001, using the Crum Woods as a living laboratory for the ecology curriculum. There, his students collect plant samples, dig below ground, and sort and weigh plant species, using their research to quantify how each species functions and contributes to reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.

The NSF grant will offer all participating institutions the opportunity to work collaboratively implementing research projects to address ecological questions on a broader scale and to expand the integration of research into undergraduate education nationwide. "It will allow us to empower ecology teachers in smaller schools to participate in research that investigates questions at the continental scale level," Machado says. "It is about being part of a bigger ecological network, comparing pedagogical notes, and doing long-term research that requires similar methodology and large amounts of data for future use."

Members of the team include Laurel Anderson (Ohio Weslian University, OH), Tracy Gartner (Carthage College, Wis.), Karen Kuers (Sewanee: The University of the South, Tenn.), Erin Lindquist (Meredith College, N.C.), Bob Pohlad and Carolyn Thomas (Ferrum College, Va.), and Jeffrey Simmons, (Mount St. Mary's University, Md.). Others include faculty members from Elizabethtown College, Pa., Union College, N.Y., Mount Holyoke College, Mass., Bard College, N.Y., and St. Olaf College, Minn.

"This group is diverse," Machado says, "but they all have one thing in common - a passion for undergraduate research."