July 26, 2012

Collaboration Between Smithsonian and Bradley University Strengthens Through Participation in 2012 CTFS-SIGEO Workshop

In 2006, CTFS and Bradley University began a collaboration that has greatly improved the CTFS database, and has simultaneously produced significant learning outcomes for a select group of talented Bradley Capstone students. Now going into its seventh year, the alliance has engaged 27 students and owes its success to a strong partnership between CTFS-SIGEO Senior Scientist Richard Condit and Bradley University’s Professor Steven Dolins, who leads the Capstone Course. This summer, Dolins joins CTFS-SIGEO’s Dimensions of Biodiversity Workshop in Seattle, Washington, along with Research Assistant Anudeep Singh MS ‘09, and rising senior Steven McHenry, who will be taking Dr. Dolins’ Capstone Class in the 2012-2013 school year.

The outcomes of the partnership have been apparent each year that this course has been offered. In its first year, students focused on making basic improvements to the CTFS database design in order to better track and report the tree species found at BCI. In subsequent years, students worked to build and improve the database’s graphical user interface (GUI) for data entry, generalizing the database for all CTFS-SIGEO plots, and streamlining ways for scientists who aren’t well-versed in R to analyze data. Dr. Dolins said, “Each one of these projects have provided students with excellent real world, experiential learning opportunities. Students had to learn a new domain, interact with domain experts, and produce deliverables. They are much better prepared for their future careers in software and database development.”

Dr. Dolins is looking forward to sharing their current work with the 50 participants of the CTFS Workshop. His group will present its on-going work on data entry and the new user interface, with hopes of getting feedback directly from the users. They will also present future work ideas, such as visualization, data mining, and other analytical tools.

Database working group from left to right: Anudeep Singh, Steven McHenry, Richard Condit, and Steven Dolins