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Journal Article

Evaluating Students' Ecological Footprints: Big Data on a Budget

Blair D. Page
Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America
Vol. 96, No. 4 (October 2015), pp. 670-687
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Ecological Society of America
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Page Count: 18
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Evaluating Students' Ecological Footprints: Big Data on a Budget
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Abstract This article describes a project I developed as part of an environmental science course for second- and third-year undergraduate science majors. Students quantitatively evaluated their use of major resources (food, water, electricity, and waste/recycling generation) to assess their personal ecological footprints. To do so, students used inexpensive equipment and collected data throughout the day over several weeks. They compared data, which helped them appreciate the importance of standardized procedures. For a final report students managed, graphed, and interpreted data from a relatively large data set they generated in collaboration with each other. The data were shared anonymously, which allowed discussions about the ecological relevance of our resource use decisions. Based on feedback from student surveys, notable improvement in their graphing skills, and conversations with students, I regard the project as a success.

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