Teaching: Lab tour!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, our soils class has done some plant and soil sampling in nearby protected wetlands. We’re onto nutrient cycling in the class, so I prepped and ran the students’ samples on the EA to get C:N data. The goal of this lab was for them to see which major ions correlated with C, N, and C:N, and make some basic environmental interpretations.

The students weren’t able to process the samples themselves (I offered for them to help grind up plants, but none seemed very interested in spending their Friday afternoons or Monday mornings getting up close and personal with a good old mortar & pestle), so I gave them a lab tour and we discussed how the EA works and what you can do with C:N data.

We’ve been using real data for the lab portion of this class, which was been interesting. On one hand, it’s good (and more fun) for the students to see and work with their actual data… but on the other, it means a smaller dataset that might not always “behave,” making it more difficult for them to interpret. I think it’s been a pretty good experience overall, though I’m not sure how/if we’ll change it for next year. (We can at least incorporate/compare to this year’s data! Plus whatever I collect on my own with my undergraduate lab colleague.)

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