Earth Institute Research Projects

Collaborative Research: FIRE: Making Meaning from Geoscience Data: A Challenge at the intersection of Geosciences and Cognitive Sciences

Lead PI: Kim Anne Kastens

Unit Affiliation: Marine Geology & Geophysics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

September 2011 - June 2013
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: This Fostering Interdisciplinary Research in Education (FIRE) project is a partnership between Columbia University and Temple University that seeks to understand the perceptual and cognitive processes by which undergraduate students and scientists transform earth science data into explanations and prediction. The principal investigator of this FIRE award, a geoscientist, will be working with a mentor in spatial cognitive science to continue to develop her expertise in this area and eye tracking in particular. The researcher proposes two studies using eye-tracking and think aloud protocols. The first study will investigate students? perceptions and reasoning as they interpret a data set (from topography/bathymetry) that is known to be subject to misinterpretation. Study two is an intervention study, testing whether providing hypothesis templates will help students interpret a three-dimensional data volume in the area of ocean salinity. The research will be evaluated by experts in spatial cognition, epistemology of data, visualization, and earth science.  In the geosciences, many students have a difficult time learning the skills that are necessary to interpret maps and large amounts of spatial data. Such skills are central to what geoscientists do and how knowledge is rendered in this discipline. This study could lead to improvements in how students learn the skills necessary to visualize geoscience data and make claims based on data interpretation. The project clearly advances discovery and promote teaching and learning in the geosciences. The research may also have implications in the learning in other fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that place high demands on a student's visualization abilities.