Integrating Math into Undergraduate Biology Education:
Both the biology research and education communities suggest that most undergraduate biology curricula do not provide students
adequate training in the quantitative skills they need to obtain a deep understanding of biological phenomena and to contribute
effectively to future scientific inquiry. Strategies for integrating math into the undergraduate biology curriculum include
integrating math into introductory and upper-division biology courses, focusing on biology examples in math courses, and
including quantitative skills in undergraduate research.
After reviewing in detail strategies for and barriers to integrating
math into undergraduate biology curricula, Kristin investigated the perception of upper-division ecology and marine biology majors
of the importance of math in biology, ecology, and conservation biology and whether a short module using evidence-based teaching
strategies could increase students' appreciation of the roles of math in biology, increase their interest in taking quantitative
courses, and contribute to their learning of a key but challenging mathematical model. Kristin developed and analyzed a computer
inquiry module that uses research literature to introduce structured population models and their conservation applications to
upper-division ecology courses. She showed that students increased their appreciation of the importance of math in biology,
ecology, and conservation; their willingness to take a quantitative ecology course; and their understanding of the applications of
structured population models to wildlife management. Many students commented that this module showed them why their biology major
programs required math courses and made them feel much more able to interpret math in papers and use math in their own independent
research. Materials for this module are available here
Bivalves of Midway Atoll:
Black-lipped pearl oysters, Pinctada margaritifera, were heavily harvested in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the late
1920s. According to NOAA surveys since the 1990s, this population has not recovered naturally in over 80 years. In order to
determine this population's status in more detail and study potential strategies for restoration, Kristin surveyed Midway Atoll's
shallow benthic habitats for abundance and distribution of large bivalves and measured recruitment, growth, and survival of pearl
oysters. Although Kristin and her Midway collaborators found only 13 adult P. margaritifera at Midway in over six years of coral
reef research, they studied over 1500 recruits. Because pearl oysters are also extremely difficult to identify morphologically, particularly as juveniles, Kristin also
sequenced the nuclear ribosomal marker ITS1 and conducted phylogenetic analysis to determine that the recruits were actually P.
maculata, a much smaller species not known to occur in the Hawaiian Islands.
Kristin is particularly interested in developing innovative teaching strategies and assessments for introductory biology and ecology
courses, including developing an ecology concept inventory and further integrating math into biology courses.
Kristin uses evidence-based learner-centered teaching strategies, such as active learning and inquiry, to facilitate her students' learning of key
concepts and science process skills, such as creating and interpreting graphing, finding and evaluating quality of information, and
communicating. She worked with Education professor Dr. Doris Ash to develop a series of reviews for our university's science faculty of
innovative teaching strategies for large-enrollment science classes, such as active learning, "clickers," collaborative learning, and
just-in-time teaching (available here).
She greatly enjoys mentoring students on independent scientific research projects and making use of technology to facilitate
teaching and learning.
- McCully, K.M. (in prep) Protecting populations: From mathematical models to conservation action. Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology.
- McCully, K.M. and D. Potts. (in prep) Varying geographic and habitat distribution of large bivalves at Midway Atoll, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin.
- McCully, K.M. and D. Ash. (submitted) Modelling populations: using case studies to integrate mathematics into undergraduate ecology courses. CBE Life Sciences Education.
- McCully, K.M. 2013. Uncharted waters: Bivalves of Midway Atoll and integrating mathematics into biology education [dissertation]. University of California, Santa Cruz. (link to PDF)
- McCully, K.M., C. Zurbrick, and D. Ash. 2013. Reviews of innovative teaching strategies for large-enrollment science courses. (published online here)
- Vroom, P., J. Asher, C.L. Braun, E. Coccagna, O.J. Vetter, W.A. Cover, K.M. McCully, D.C. Potts, A.M. Vanderlip, and C. Vanderlip.
2009. Macroalgal (Boodlea composita) bloom at Kure and Midway Atolls, Northwestern Hawaiian
Islands. Botanica Marina 52(4):361-363. (Link to journal)
- McCully, K.M. 2013. Uncharted waters: Bivalves of Midway Atoll and integrating mathematics into biology education. Dissertation seminar, University of California, Santa Cruz. (Link to video)
- McCully, K.M. and D. Ash. 2013. Protecting populations: Emphasizing the importance of mathematical modeling in undergraduate ecology. Presentation at Society for Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER), St. Paul, MN. (Poster)
- McCully, K.M. and D. Ash. 2013. Protecting populations: Emphasizing the importance of mathematical modeling in undergraduate ecology. Presentation at Life Discovery Conference, St. Paul, MN. (Presentation)
- McCully, K.M. 2013. Inspiring connections to the environment: Kelp forest-based ecology and the human dive response. Share fair roundtable at Life Discovery Conference, St. Paul, MN.
- McCully, K.M. 2012. Pearl Oysters (Pinctada) of Midway Atoll (NW Hawaiian Archipelago). Presentation at Hawaii Conservation Conference, Honolulu, HI. (Abstract, Presentation)
D.C., K.M. McCully*, W.A. Cover, A.B. Warner. 2012. A Multidisciplinary
Approach to Restoration and Sustainability of Midway Atoll's Shallow
Reef Habitats. Presentation at Hawaii Conservation Conference,
Honolulu, HI. (Abstract, Presentation)
K.M., D.C. Potts 2012. Pearl Oysters (Pinctada) of Midway Atoll (NW
Hawaiian Archipelago). Oral presentation, 12th International
Coral Reef Symposium, Cairns, Australia. (Abstract, Presentation)
K.M. 2011. Population dynamics and restoration of the black-lipped
pearl oyster, Pinctada margaritifera, in the Hawaiian Archipelago.
Presentation at UCSC Departmental Symposium.
McCully, K.M. Population
and community dynamics of the black-lipped pearl oyster, Pinctada
at Midway Atoll. Presentation at Species Interaction
Workshop, Stanford, CA. December 2009.
McCully, K.M. and Potts D.C. Status and
Dynamics of the Black-lipped Pearl
Oyster, Pinctada margaritifera at
Midway Atoll, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Presentation at
of Naturalists conference, Monterey, CA. November 2009. (Abstract,
- McCully, K.M. and K.M. Schoenrock. 2009.
Coral Reef Research Project: Projects and Coral and Urchin
Identification. Presentation to Papahānaumokuākea
Alaka'i (PAA) educators' workshop at Midway Atoll. 15 June 2009.
- McCully, K.M. and D.C.
Potts. 2008. Distribution and recruitment of the black-lipped pearl
margaritifera, at Midway Atoll, Northwestern Hawaiian
presentation in Ecological Restoration mini-symposium, 11th
Reef Symposium. (Abstract, Poster)
- Potts, D.C., W. Cover,
K. McCully, and J. O'Leary. 2008 An integrative interdisciplinary
research program on environmental change at Midway Atoll (NW Hawaiian
Islands). Poster presentation in "Modeling
Concepts and Processes on Coral Reefs" mini-symposium, 11th
International Coral Reef Symposium. (Abstract)