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  Home > K-12 Education > Opportunities for Teachers > Research Experience for Teachers (RET): Past Projects

  Research Experience for Teachers (RET): Past Projects

Click here to download lesson plans and other instructional materials developed by Andrews Forest RETs.

The NSF-funded Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program matches K-12 teachers with scientists for 8-10 weeks of field data collection and independent research.

Jeremy Magee teaches biology, physical science, and AP environmental science to 9-12 grade students at Sandy High school in Sandy, Oregon. In 2013, he worked with the Bunchgrass Ridge Restoration project led by Dr. Charlie Halpern of University of Washington. Jeremy worked alongside graduate students, a postdoctoral researcher, two students in NSF's Research Assistantships for High School Students (RAHSS) Program, an undergraduate in NSF's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program, a French student intern, and a USFS summer employee to complete a year-8 remeasurement of tree-removal plots treated with or without fire, and adjacent "reference" meadows, as part of an unusually detailed and long-running restoration experiment in high-mountain meadows. The study is part of the critical partnership between Andrews LTER researchers and the Willamette National Forest, which has been a vital partner in conducting this study, a user of the resulting information, and a champion of outreach to other land managers. Jeremy wrote a blog about his experiences. In the fall of 2013, Jeremy led his students in using field and analysis techniques from the Bunchgrass Ridge project to compare biodiversity of a forest and urban meadow habitat. He also highlighted the Bunchgrass Ridge project as an example of the scientific method/process in practice. Visit the Bunchgrass Ridge webpage to learn more about their research, education, and training opportunities.

Research for Teachers (RET) participant, Jeremy Magee, Summer 2013
Research for Teachers (RET) participant, Jill Semlick, Summer 2012

Jill Semlick currently teaches 9th and 10th grade biology to a high- minority (61%) and low socio-economic status (64% free & reduced lunch) population of students at Madison High School in Portland. In 2012, she worked with Andrews Forest scientists on the long-term phenology project to get ideas for involving her students in similar field-based inquiry. In the fall of 2012, she guided her 11th and 12th-grade students in her Sustainable Agriculture class in a study of insect diversity using pitfall traps and led her freshman biology students and summer school students in a decomposition study as part of collaboration with the Israeli LTER site. Click here to see a video that Ms. Semlick and Ms. Luftig made about how to make and install simple pitfall traps for use with student field investigations.

Brian Vollmer-Buhl teaches biology, life science, earth science, oceanography, forensic science, chemistry, and physics in grades 7-12 in Mapleton, a small rural community located in the coast range, 40 miles west of Eugene. In 2012, he worked with Andrews Forest scientists on the long-term phenology project, long-term watershed program, and a high-elevation pollinator study with the goal of learning current scientific methodologies that his students can apply to their yearly science inquiry project. Mr. Buhl guided his general biology students in conducting a diversity study of the invertebrates at six different locations/habitats on the school grounds. Students set up and collected invertebrates from pitfall and flying beetle traps, both collection methods that Brian learned about in the long-term phenology study.. Students learned about dichotomous keys, identified the invertebrates they collected, and presented their analysis as a final project for the year.

Research for Teachers (RET) participant, Brian Vollmer-Buhl, Summer 2012
Research for Teachers (RET) participant, Alexandria Luftig, Summer 2012

Alexandria Luftig teaches anatomy and physiology and biophysical foundations (9th grade science) at Corvallis high school. In 2012, she worked with all sides of the phenology project from the different methods of capturing insects to identifying the stage of plant development and even mist netting songbirds to collect their fecal matter for insect identification. She developed and taught lessons that focused on increasing students' scientific literacy through the lens of the Andrews Forest long-term phenology project. In addition, she led her 9th-grade students in setting up and collecting arthropods using pitfall traps with a focus on scientific measurement skills. In the course of this work, Ms. Luftig developed a short guidelines document as a resource for teachers for creating field research lessons for high school or middle school students.


John McGinity teaches Advanced Placement (AP) Chemistry, AP Physics, Chemistry, and Physics at Sherwood High School. In 2012, he worked with Dr. Chris Thomas and Ph.D. candidate Steve Drake on a project investigating airflow in mountainous terrain and potential links to climate change. Based directly on his RET experience, John developed lesson plans for his physics students to use machine generated fog, video, and Vernier Logger Pro software to quantify displacement, velocity and acceleration vectors and gradients in wind motions in various environments. Click here to see the video his students made of this project. In the spring of 2013, students in his AP Physics class will further develop the same project by proposing hypotheses regarding the forces causing the observed motions and suggest additional experiments to explore these hypotheses. John presented the materials he developed to other high school teachers at the Oregon Science Teachers Association in October of 2012.

Research for Teachers (RET) participant, John McGinity, Summer 2012

Molly Charnes, 2011 RET. Photo by Kari O�Connell, Summer 2011.

In 2011, Molly Charnes, a high school biology and environmental systems teacher at Academy of International Studies at Woodburn, Oregon, worked with Andrews LTER scientist Mark Schulze to conduct phenology research and help plan for involving teachers and their students as citizen scientists in the long-term phenology study at the Andrews LTER site. She entered two long-term phenology study plots as National Phenology Network sites, and developed lesson plans for student phenology projects in the schoolyard and developing a phenology trail and plot for students and teachers visiting the Andrews Forest.


In 2009, Rima Givot, a biology, geology, and astronomy teacher at Sisters High School, shadowed different researchers at the H. J. Andrews LTER forest. With the intent to gain experience and ideas for implementing field science inquiry projects into her teaching, she interviewed scientists and field assistants, assisted in field research, and visited different field sites at the Andrews. Working under Elizabeth Borer and Eric Seabloom, she assisted with field research and data collection for the Nutrient Network (NutNet) study. She learned about collection methods of biomass and invertebrates as well as improving plant identification techniques. She wrote lesson plans about plant identification and collection, and contributed a written overview of the NutNet project at a level that high school students could comprehend. She is excited to share the NutNet study with her classes and help her students connect with current research that relates to the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles. She also worked with Jay Sexton to develop long term decomposition studies she will conduct in a local forest with her biology classes.

Research for Teachers (RET) participant, Rima Givot, holds a display tank at the Andrews Forest, photo by Kari O'Connell, Summer 2009

Jill Semlick, 2008 RET. Photo by Kari O�Connell, Summer 2008.

In 2008, Jill Semlick, a high school biology and ecology teacher at the Pauling Academy in Portland, Oregon, participated in the NSF-funded program, Research Experience for Teachers, at the Andrews Forest. Semlick shadowed six Andrews Forest researchers as they did their field work. She took video and still images which she wove together into several presentations titled "How Biologists 'Do' Biology." In her classroom, Semlick shares a video with her students each week. The students take away ideas to use in their own flying squirrel study project. Semlick reports, "My students enjoy and request the presentations, I think because they make science accessible to them. They see their teacher (me) in the role of student, doing an assignment, which ultimately makes them consider science, college and research as viable personal goals."

In 2006, Kurt Cox, a junior high science teacher from the McKenzie River School District, developed a set of research activities on the McKenzie River high school grounds which are based upon the research being conducted at the Andrews LTER site. The seventh and eighth-graders visited the Andrews LTER site for two days in the fall and spring to collect data for comparison to that collected on the high school grounds.

RET, Kurt Cox, at the Andrews Forest, photo by Kari O'Connell, Summer 2006
RET, Larry Byman, taking elevation readings for a long-term stream channel cross section study at the Andrews Forest. Photo by Greg Downing, July 2006

In 2006, Larry Byman, a Biology and Environmental Field Studies teacher in Longview, Washington, worked with Andrews Scientists during the 2006 field season to learn about long-term data collection and data management techniques. Based on what he learned at the Andrews, Mr. Byman developed environmental curriculum for use at the Longview District's Wake Robin Outdoor Learning Center. "This ranks as one of the absolute best learning experiences I've had during my teaching career," said Mr. Byman. His lessons cover topics such as Litter Decomposition, Moth Diversity, Soil Seed Bank, Stream Cross Section, and Tree Growth Rate. Byman's curricula are available through the Wake Robin Outdoor Learning Center's website.

In 2005, Dan Bregar, a Biology, Ecology, Physical Science, and Computer Technology teacher in Corvallis, Oregon investigated the growing role of GIS in ecological research. The school purchased GIS software, and with the help of Theresa Valentine, Andrews Spatial Data Manager, Dan and his Advanced Field Biology students began to learn how to use GIS with their field data. They collected GPS points and were able to match them with existing spatial data for their study sites. Dan plans on developing curriculum that involve hands-on units to teach proper field techniques for GIS use, along with a series of on-line and conventional lessons that would teach students how to use GIS software to enter, display, and analyze ecological data.

In 2003, Jeff Mitchell of Philomath, Oregon worked with Andrews scientists Sherri Johnson and Andy Moldenke to investigate the effects of forest harvest on the diversity and abundance of invertebrates in soil, water, and air. From these experiences, Mitchell has developed field activities for his high school biology classes in a 75-acre wetland in Philomath. The students use scientific protocols Mitchell learned as an RET to sample different parts of the food chain (aquatic invertebrates, small mammals, etc.), analyze the data, and discuss which species are native v. introduced. In 2004, through a proposal to SEPS (Science Education Partnerships), Mitchell taught a Wetlands Field biology Workshop, in which 13-14 teachers participated for a week. Five of his students helped with the teacher workshop. See the SEPS website for more detailed information.

RET Lyn Neeley at Torrey Charlton RNA, photo by Howard Bruner, July 2003

In 2003, Lyn Neeley, who teaches biology in New York City at East Side Community High School, worked with Andrews scientist Kari O'Connell on several long-term forest carbon studies at the Andrews Forest and on wildfire research in the Torrey Charlton Research Natural Area. Neeley developed a series of Powerpoint presentations and student activities based on the Andrews Forest ecosystem that she uses as the ecology unit in 9th and 10th-grade biology classes. Neeley’s instructional materials are available from this website (see above).