Science Field Courses That Emphasize Videography

The video opens with a scene of a rainforest followed by footage of spiders and the aquatic ecologist who studies them. Christopher Holmes, a graduate student at the University of Illinois, explains that spiders are a lot like us, “They need to eat, build a house, and survive and reproduce.” He then uses the analogy of a human fisherman to explain spider ecology in greater detail.

Some students take field science courses as part of their training. Such courses often require students to conduct an independent research project and then write a report and/or give a presentation at the end of the course. With the advent of digital media, some of these courses are now encouraging or requiring students to create a video, a course blog, and/or a course podcast as part of a growing emphasis by educational organizations to teach communication skills to students.

Naturally, I think this is an excellent idea.

In the next video, Ralph Saporito, a Tropical Biologist, and Nick Batoro, Ph.D. candidate, describe some of the trials and tribulations that researchers and students encounter when doing fieldwork:

The above videos were co-sponsored by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), which offers a variety of field courses and study abroad opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. Students taking Introduction to Tropical Biology (Winter 2014) created, with the assistance of Day’s Edge Productions, several excellent videos about their topic of interest and posted them on YouTube. You can go to the course website to watch all of them. Thanks to Andrés Santana, Graduate Education Department, OTS, for permission to embed two of the videos here.

OTS also offers a field course for science teachers, during which they design their own research project and produce their own videos to “bring their personal experiences in the rainforest to life for their students”.

Field courses like these are great opportunities for science students and educators to be exposed to videography and science communication. I’m pleased to see that organizations like OTS are taking the initiative to teach media skills along with learning about tropical ecosystems. I helped teach an OTS course in Panama many years ago, long before I took up videography. I can now think of many ways that video could have enhanced that course…from filming some of the organisms and their behavior…to producing student videos about their experiences.

If you are teaching a field course or any course with field trips or laboratory exercises, you might consider having students create a video as a course assignment (or as an alternative to a written report). They can easily accomplish this with a digital camera (that shoots video), an iPad, or a Smartphone.