Peggy Fong ~ Community Ecologist

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Snorkel class

The Whole Gamut

"Seeing how new knowledge is created is a valuable life experience for everybody."
Dr. Peggy Fong has been teaching the Marine Biology Quarter (MBQ) since 1996. She has taught MBQ courses in Hawaii; Moorea, French Polynesia; St. John, US Virgin Islands; and Jervis Bay, Australia. The first COSEE West online course related to the MBQ in Moorea was in 2008, the second in 2010. During the course, twenty-four students, mostly marine biology majors, learn about a particular ecosystem, and then go into the field to do original research. They develop projects from start to finish - from reading literature to coming up with hypotheses, to experimental design execution in the field, and then write up their findings and give a presentation. "It's the whole gamut of everything you do as a scientist," says Peggy.

The MBQ is essentially a graduate experience for undergraduates, focused on intensive learning in a field setting and culminating in a research project – with Peggy as mentor. The students do their own cutting edge research - and often get it published. "It's great for everybody," says Peggy. "It’s definitely a synergistic, symbiotic association."

MBQ students are required to do outreach. (See some of their efforts in the box, at left.) They also participate in the COSEE West Online Workshops, interacting with teachers from across the country and internationally, and are able to communicate about their research projects through blogs. "Their involvement gives workshop participants insight into why these students are asking these questions," says Peggy, "about how to go about doing research on a day to day basis. That group now has an understanding of how new knowledge is created."