Although course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) are gaining popularity in biology, most are designed for benchwork-based laboratory courses while few focus on field-based skills. Many barriers to implementing field CUREs exist, including the difficulty in designing authentic research that can be accomplished in a limited lab timeframe, permitting and liability issues, and problems gathering sufficient data to meaningfully analyze. Squirrel-Net (http://squirrel-net.org) is a consortium of mammalogists from eight different institutions who have worked to overcome these limitations through four field-based CUREs focused on sciurid rodents (e.g., squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, prairie dogs). Each module is linked to a national dataset, allowing for broader and more complex hypotheses and analyses than would be possible from a single institution. Modules have been field tested at different institutions and are easily implemented and highly flexible for different courses, levels of inquiry, habitats, and focal species. Beyond the basic lesson plan, each module also provides suggestions for adaptation at different levels of inquiry and scaffolding across a course or an entire curriculum. Moreover, our website provides templates to help lower barriers to CURE implementation (e.g., selecting a field site and writing institutional animal care protocols). Here, we introduce Squirrel-Net and give an overview of the four CURE modules. Additionally, we demonstrate how the modules can be used singly or together to provide authentic research experiences to a diversity of undergraduates.
Dizney, Laurie; Connors, Patrice K.; Varner, Johanna; Duggan, Jennifer M.; Lanier, Hayley C.; Erb, Liesl P.; Flaherty, Elizabeth A.; Yahnke, Christopher J.; and Hanson, John D., "An Introduction to the Squirrel-Net Teaching Modules" (2020). AES Faculty Publications and Presentations. 8.