The MBDH Learning Innovation Fellows Program, housed at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, enables teams to form for work toward better understanding of the intersections of the Hub’s “Cyberinfrastructure and Data Sharing” and “Data Science Education and Workforce Development” themes. The program brings together data science and sustainability, delivering open-access, data-enriched learning tools on a science learning platform, along with experiences and mentoring for student fellows from a range of midwestern institutions. The program emerged from an NSF-funded Research Coordination Network In Undergraduate Biology Education called “OCELOTS (Online Content for Experiential Learning of Tropical Systems)” and has contributed to the impact of OCELOTS.
The fellows work with faculty and teaching staff to create innovative interactive data analysis activities that can nest within sustainability science case studies. They design, prototype, and pilot these features in classrooms within the MBDH network. The program leverages talent and resources from two existing, open-source science learning environments: Gala and QUBESHub (or Qu).
Testimonials from the MBDH Learning Innovation Fellows Program:
Jeffrey Klemens, Assistant Professor of Biology and Program Director for Undergraduate Biology, Thomas Jefferson University, Pennsylvania [mentor in the MBDH Community Development and Engagement (CDE) Learning Innovation Fellows Program]—from a presentation at a webinar on the Midwest Big Data Innovation Hub’s Learning Innovation Fellows Program on August 24, 2021
“I just want to congratulate the program overall and the organizers . . . I have literally never seen a short-term collaboration like this where a student came onto a project for the limited amount of time that we worked result in something this foundational and transform what we’re trying to do—I mean, this is the single most effective program like this I’ve ever been involved with.”
Rebecca Hardin, Associate Professor, School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan—when referring to the MBDH Learning Innovation Fellows Program, Gala platform, and NSF-funded OCELOTS Research Coordination Network (RCN) in a July 2022 email
“. . . the MBDH Fellows Program both emerged from and contributed to that RCN’s ‘impact.’ . . . these imbricated networks have given rise to unique models for linked mentorship of underrepresented data innovation learners and curricular innovation for the fields of tropical ecology and sustainability.”
Rahul Agrawal Bejarano, 2nd-year master’s student in the School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan—from a presentation at a webinar on the Midwest Big Data Innovation Hub’s Learning Innovation Fellows Program on August 24, 2021
“I love the work that I’ve been doing with MBDH—it’s been really amazing to be able to have that intersection between computer science and sustainability and ride this wave of ‘let’s create these really cool data narratives and really innovate,’ at least within the sustainability context. . . . When I was in Computer Science, I actually did a lot with computer science education and this is where I really started to understand the connections between developing a tool that’s made for a very specific audience for people who are ready within Data Science or ready within a financial firm that have all this high level of expertise, and the difference between developing a tool that’s meant to guide students through and really deliver that kind of passion . . . how do you balance guiding a student through this level of analysis and really giving them the freedom to explore as much as possible and kind of delve into their passion . . . the Midwest Big Data Hub program just seemed like a perfect combination of these two.”
“I’d just like to say thank you so much to the Midwest Big Data Hub. It was an amazing experience to be able to work with first Jeff and Charlie and then to be able to work with Ed and Rebecca and now to be able to showcase all this work. It’s been an absolute excellent experience and I hope to see more and more Fellows come in and see all the progress they’ll be making on all the case studies.”
Ann Russell, Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Natural Resource Ecology & Management, Iowa State University [PI of the NSF-funded OCELOTS Research Coordination Network (RCN) and mentor in the MBDH Learning Innovation Fellows (LIF) Program]
“The LIF Program enabled our OCELOTS project to bridge an important gap, thanks to Ed Waisanen, Rebecca Hardin, and John MacMullen’s amazing work in finding undergraduate and Masters students with the data science skills that matched the needs for interactive data tools of our module authors, and following through with appropriate mentorship of the Fellows. Their concept of creating a program designed to advance the needs of all concerned was fundamental to its success. As such, a diverse group of participants, including undergraduates and faculty from a diverse array of institutions, benefitted individually, while producing modules that will enhance quantitative skills for a broad audience of undergraduate students through Gala, this open-access resource that our project advertises globally.”
The projects below were established by the first and second cohorts of Learning Innovation Fellows in 2020 and 2021 and developed during 2021 and 2022.
Fellow: Rahul Agrawal Bejarano, School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan
Faculty Advisors: Charles Willis, Teaching Assistant Professor, Biology Teaching and Learning, University of Minnesota; Jeffrey A. Klemens, Assistant Professor of Biology, Thomas Jefferson University
The Rouge River: Redlining, riverbanks, and restoration in Metro Detroit: What actions would be necessary to ensure a just distribution of the Rouge River’s ecosystem services?
Fellow: Julie Arbit, Environmental Policy and Planning, School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan
Faculty Advisor: Perrin Selcer, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of History, University of Michigan
Fellow: Ghalia Ezzedine, Health Informatics, University of Michigan
Faculty Advisor: Josh Newell, Associate Professor, School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan
Restoring tropical forests: Is planting clusters of trees a cost-effective and ecologically-sound strategy to restore tropical forest?
Fellow: Kyra Hull, Biostatistics, Grand Valley State University
Faculty Advisor: Karen Holl, Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz
Fellow: Saba Ibraheem, Health Informatics, University of Michigan
Faculty Advisors: Rita Loch-Caruso, Toxicologist, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan; Alan Burton, Professor, School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan
Profits vs. preservation: How can shepherds balance the social and ecological costs of livestock grazing on Naxos?
Fellow: Daniel Iddrisu, International and Regional Studies, University of Michigan
Faculty Advisor: Johannes Foufopoulos, Associate Professor, School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan
Assembling our transportation future: How could policies in the early 20th century have shaped more sustainable transportation systems?
Fellow: Shanshan (Shirley) Liu, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Faculty Advisor: Shelie Miller, Professor, School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan
Fellow: Thien Nguyen, Computer Science, University of University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Faculty Advisor: Lutgarde Raskin, Professor, School for Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Michigan
Fellow: Anneke van Oosterom, Biology and Data Science, St. Catherine University
Faculty Advisor: Ann Russell, Terrestrial Ecosystems Ecologist, Iowa State University