U-FERN seeks to build a vibrant, supportive, and sustainable collaborative network that fosters effective undergraduate field experiences by:

  1. identifying and sharing evidence-based models and practices for engaging a diverse range of undergraduates in effective field and marine learning experiences,
  2. identifying, modifying, developing, and sharing assessment tools for understanding the impact of field and marine learning experiences on undergraduate student learning, STEM identity, and career trajectories,
  3. investigating how undergraduate field experiences may help broaden the participation and retention of underrepresented and underserved students in field-based sciences such as marine ecology, ecology and geosciences, and
  4. establishing undergraduate learning experiences at field stations and marine labs as "interdisciplinary laboratories" for researching evidence-based practices in undergraduate research, service learning, and place-based education.

U-FERN will build the capacity of field station and marine labs (FSMLs) and others including undergraduates in field experiences while engaging new collaborators from the social and learning sciences in program assessment and research into student learning, effective practices, and broad engagement. The wide diversity of practices implemented at field stations and marine labs creates a unique opportunity to test models of effective training in order to generate insights that can inform educational practices beyond the FSML community. The proposed network will explore how insights from undergraduate experiences at field stations and marine labs can help improve undergraduate STEM teaching and learning in general.

This project is being jointly funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO), Division of Biological Infrastructure, and the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR), Division of Undergraduate Education as part of their efforts to address the challenges posed in Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action. This project is also co-funded by the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) in the BIO directorate.