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Education Report for January/February 2008

The AIBS Education Office provides analysis and communication for the AIBS Board, Headquarters Office, and Education Committee on issues of import to the AIBS membership and the larger scientific community. Reports are broadly disseminated by email every few months to AIBS membership leaders and contacts. Special reports are sent more frequently as needed. We have archived these reports here for your information and attention. Read about each report's contents below, then click to read the complete text.

2008 AIBS meeting on Climate, Environment, and Infectious Diseases adds teacher workshop, Ira Flatow of NPR's Science Friday

The AIBS Annual Meeting will be held May 12-13, 2008, on the theme of “Climate, Environment, and Infectious Diseases.” The location is the Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel, Arlington, Virginia, which is very close to the National Science Foundation. The meeting website is at , where you can register and submit a poster online.

Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, will be the keynote speaker, to talk about “A Contract with the Earth”. Plenary speakers include Jim Hansen (NASA) on global warming: the threat to life; Durland Fish (Yale University) on environmental determinants of Lyme Disease risk; Howard Frumkin (NCEH/CDC) on public health response to climate change; David Rogers (University of Oxford) on infectious diseases and the environment; Stephen Morse (Columbia University) on climate change and Avian Influenza; and Rita Colwell (2008 AIBS President) will speak on cholera and the environment.

There will be a special session on communicating science with the public, chaired by Ira Flatow of NPR’s Science Friday. The other speakers in that session are Robert Morris, author of “The Blue Death: Disease, Disaster, and the Water We Drink: and Kim Stanley Robinson, author of “Sixty Days and Counting” and several other best selling science fiction books.

Plenary speakers on the second day include: Andrew Dobson (Princeton University) on disentangling the role of climate, immunity, and biotic interactions in the dynamics of infectious diseases; Duane Gubler (University of Hawaii) on emergence and spread of Dengue/Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever and whether climate or environmental change is responsible, and Stephen Hoffman (Sanaria, Inc.) on Malaria and its environmental source.

There will be a special session organized by the National Council for Science and The Environment on climate change and human health, developing collaborations with the public health community, and workshops organized by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the WGBH Educational Foundation, and the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science.

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AIBS and the Sloan Foundation Highlight Biologists

The AIBS Office of Education and Outreach is working with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to create a “Profiles in Biology” Web page, a resource that will highlight different career paths for students interested in pursuing careers in biology. The information will be on the Web sites of both AIBS ( and the Sloan Career Cornerstone Center ( Note that there are no profiles under “Biologists” on the Sloan Career Cornerstone Center’s site. For that reason, AIBS is seeking members who would be willing to have their profiles highlighted for this resource. AIBS members who agree to participate will receive a survey from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The foundation will work with interested members to complete a profile, and participants may review the profile before the site is launched. If you are willing to be profiled, or if you have any comments or questions, please contact Sheri Potter at

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AIBS Member Receives Teaching Award

Stephen D. Davis, distinguished professor of biology at Pepperdine University, is the 2008 recipient of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, the only national teaching award presented by a college or university to an individual for exceptional teaching. Davis received this award from Baylor University by impressing the judges with his “ability to integrate superior teaching with undergraduate research techniques in the classroom.” Read more about Davis’s accomplishments and about the Cherry Award at

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NSDL BEN Scholars Program

The National Science Digital Library (NSDL) Biological Sciences Pathway invites undergraduate faculty in the biological sciences to apply to become BiosciEdNet (BEN) Scholars. The BEN Scholars Program is one of the grassroots outreach activities of the BEN Collaborative. The goal of the BEN Scholars Program is to promote the use of digital library resources and student-centered teaching and learning methods in higher education, specifically in biological sciences lecture and laboratory courses, and in research training programs.

BEN Scholars will receive (i) training in leadership and effective use of digital libraries, (ii) resources to use in their own classrooms and to share with colleagues through presentations, workshops, and one-on-one mentoring, (iii) integration into the BEN Scholars Network, (iv) recognition from the participating organizations, and (v) travel support and a small stipend. The next NSDL BEN National Leadership Training Institute is scheduled for July 9-12, 2008 in Washington, D.C. Applications for the July Institute are due March 11, 2008.

After acceptance into the program, Scholars will be expected to complete pre and post-institute assignments and readings and to participate in an ongoing dialogue amongst the BEN Scholar community. For more information about the program, visit

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Girls Take Grand Prize at Science Competition

For the first time in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, female competitors won the top honors. The grand prize in the team category was awarded to Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff, high-school seniors in Plainview, New York, for their work on creating a molecule that helps block the reproduction of drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria. The individual grand prize went to Isha Jain, a senior from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for her research into bone growth. This year’s competition marks another first: female finalists outnumbered males. Of the 20 finalists, 11 were girls. Most of the finalists’ parents are scientists, and most attend public schools. To read the New York Times article about the competition, visit

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CHANCE Program Gives Teachers Unique Learning Experience

The CHANCE (Connecting Humans and Nature through Conservation Experiences) program is a partnership between Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania Department of Education that gives Pennsylvania high-school teachers valuable preparation and guidance for teaching environmental science and ecology. This program engages in-service and preservice high-school teachers in conservation science through hands-on field research in selected ecosystems in Costa Rica. By showing teachers how to integrate learning objects that embrace real-world science into the classroom, the CHANCE program gives them greater confidence. Personal field experiences combined with training in the use of technology-enriched pedagogical tools that bring scientific principles to life. To learn more about CHANCE, visit its Web site (

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HHMI Launches Innovative First-year Biology Course

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has selected 12 colleges and universities to participate in a nationwide genomics course that will involve first-year college students in authentic research. Beginning in the fall of 2008, first-year students at the six undergraduate institutions and six research-intensive institutions will take part in the year-long research course. Students will isolate bacterial viruses from their local soil, prepare the viral DNA for sequencing, and annotate and compare the sequenced genome. The goal of this course is to immerse students in the process of doing science, and to improve the critical thinking and communication skills that are critical for success in research careers. To read more about this program, visit

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Higher Education Funding Increases in 2008

A survey conducted by the Center for the Study of Education Policy has found that state appropriations for higher education have increased by 7.5 percent for 2008. Funding for higher education was greater in every state except one, with North Dakota experiencing the largest funding increase of 19.1 percent. The boost in state funding between 2007 and 2008 represents the fastest growth in decades. For more data from the study, visit

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National Academy Releases New Resource on Evolution

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released the third edition of Science, Evolution, and Creationism, a book that presents a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the scientific understanding of evolution and its importance in the science classroom. The book points out that science and religion are different ways of understanding the world, but the evidence for evolution can be compatible with religious faith and need not be placed in opposition. Science, Evolution, and Creationism may be downloaded at no cost online, or ordered through the NAS, at

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A New Publication Aims at Improving Doctoral Education

High attrition rates are a critical problem in doctoral education in the United States today, and students who do complete their doctoral program are often poorly prepared for the jobs they trained for. The authors of The Formation of Scholars: Rethinking Doctoral Education for the Twenty-First Century, a new publication by the Carnegie Foundation, urge educators to consider how graduate programs can constructively grapple with questions about what PhD holders do, why they do it, and with what success. For more information, visit

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Seminars on Science - Online courses for educators

The American Museum of Natural History is offering online courses on a variety of biology topics. The Seminars on Science are a collection of six-week courses that use cutting-edge research to cover subjects such as genetics, evolution, classification, and ecology. The courses can be taken for graduate credit for an additional cost through several institutions. For more information, go to

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Professional Development and Study Abroad Courses

“Environmental Science and Conservation Biology: A Field Study in the Biodiversity of Costa Rica” will take place from July 5—20, 2008. The purpose of this course is to immerse participants in the biodiversity of selected Costa Rican habitats using an experiential learning approach. The course will focus on the conservation and research programs of selected tropical rainforest ecosystems, as well as on the plight of endangered species such as sea turtles, corals, and jaguars. Special emphasis will be placed on how humans have affected the biodiversity of the environments studied, and the future sustainability of those environments. The students will also experience the biogeography, culture, politics, economics, and history of this region. More detailed information can be found on the course Web site (

“Environmental Concepts and Economic Principles: A Field Study in China” will take place from May 18—June 3, 2008. The purpose of this course is to allow the participant—a biology, business, or economics major—to experience some of the real-world environmental issues and hardships that confront modern China today. Basic biological concepts and economic principles will be taught in the field as students perform hands-on research at Nanjing University and sites such as Lake Tai, Three-Gorges Dam, and the Yantgze River. This course will foster better understanding between China and the United States, and will highlight the problems that both countries share, such as making the economy more efficient and dealing with environmental issues and energy needs. The program also aims to instill an environmental ethic in students that can be incorporated into their future studies, careers, and interactions with others. More detailed information can be found on the course Web site (

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Upcoming Conferences and Events

Below is a list of national biology education related conferences, for a more complete list visit the AIBS Education Events Calendar at

March 27-30, 2008 – NSTA: The National Science Teachers Association will hold its 2008 National Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. The conference theme is “Science: Bridge to the Future.” The program will focus on four strands of current significance: Using and Abusing Data, Sharpening the Edge in Science, Cutting-Edge Research: Foundation for the Future and Instructional Technology: Research and Applications for the Science Classroom.

March 29–April 2, 2008 - NARST: The National Association for Research in Science Teaching will host its 2008 Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. The conference will focus on local, regional, national, or international issues of policy related to science education including teacher licensure requirements, curriculum adoption, assessment regulations, and funding policy for science education.

May 12-13, 2008 - AIBS: The 2008 annual meeting of the American Institute of Biological Sciences on the theme of “Climate, Environment, and Infectious Diseases,” in Arlington, Virginia. The interplay of science and science policy in cross-cutting themes involving science, public policy, and education will also be addressed in a special session with plenary speakers featuring science communicators, including authors of popular books addressing various aspects of infectious disease, human health, climate, and the environment.

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