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National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Distributed Graduate Seminars were a program to cultivate a new generation of scientists with skills in ecological synthesis and collaboration.

They connected graduate students from multiple universities across the country and world, and combined elements of traditional and distributed learning, a model in which resources and instruction are independent of time and place, and built upon the collaborative approach that is a hallmark of our research.

The concept of a distributed graduate seminar emerged directly out of our working group activities, and NCEAS sponsored its last one in 2012.

How it Worked

Principal investigators would propose a research question with data needs too large for one group to tackle independently. Faculty members at participating universities would then conduct graduate seminars that addressed this question. 

Graduate students participating in the individual seminars used previously existing data from their regions, learning to assemble, synthesize, and analyze the data using ecoinformatics tools. At the end of the seminar, faculty leaders and two students from each university would come to NCEAS to participate in a cross-site analysis and synthesis, comparing patterns and results from the various locations.

The seminars provided students with valuable experience in collaborative research, as well as training in available techniques and tools to acquire, manage, and synthesize multi-scale data. They also demonstrated to the next generation of investigators the importance of shared data and benefits of its availability, as well as the importance of ecological synthesis for scientific discovery.

Faculty leaders benefited from the opportunity to collaborate with their colleagues at widely distributed universities, while engaging in meaningful and creative pedagogy at their home institutions.

Seminars Conducted

Publications About this Program

Andelman, S.J., C.M Bowles, M.R. Willig and R.B. Waide. 2004. Understanding environmental complexity through a distributed knowledge network. BioScience 54(3):240-246. 

Boersma, P. Dee and DeWeerdt, Sarah. 2001. Tapping the ivory tower; how academic-agency partnerships can advance conservation. Conservation Biology in Practice 2(3): 28-32.

Savage, Lisa T. 1998. Innovative national graduate student seminar analyzes habitat conservation plans. Integrative Biology: Issues, News and Reviews 1(2): Pages 45-48.