Data Science meets Environmental Studies at LACOL 2018

Workshop Track: Data Science meets Environmental Studies – Exploration

  • Cailin Huyck Orr, Assistant Director, Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
  • Kristin O’Connell, Evaluation and Education Specialist, SERC

Program: Session Agendas
Part 1: May 31, 9:30am, Weitz 136
Part 2: June 1, 10:30am, Weitz 230
OLI Discussion: May 31, 3:30pm, Weitz 136

ds diagramThe intersection between Data Science and Environmental Studies is emerging as an area of focus for LACOL as we explore opportunities for collaboration around digitally engaged modes of teaching and learning for the liberal arts.

Several colleges are currently developing programming under the umbrella of Data Science, including critical algorithm studies, big data, data visualization, and data privacy/security. Meanwhile, most LACOL schools have a data-intensive Environmental Studies concentration or major. Interdisciplinary by nature, these areas of study challenge students to understand and work with data from many angles. Students engage in analysis, problem solving, critical thinking, and modes of argument that are deeply connected to social, cultural, political, and aesthetic ideas. Considering such programs, LACOL is thinking about ways that digital collaboration might enrich teaching and learning in this arena.

What could a data science and environmental studies collaboration or community look like? Across LACOL, students collect and analyze data across a range of environments and climates: deserts, mountains, suburbs, cities, lakes, streams, and oceans. Data and environmental issues operate in virtual worlds as well. As students engage with data, could the consortium help to connect a liberal arts network of faculty, students, and peers who share similar enthusiasms and challenges? A shared course or digital forum might bring together a range of different expertises and perspectives, inviting students to think critically about how and why environmental data is collected, sliced and diced in different local contexts.

To explore such possibilities, LACOL brought an exploratory group together at the 2018 Summer workshop at Carleton College, May 31/June 1. A range of fields were represented: computer science, statistics, ecology, chemistry, biology, anthropology, geography (GIS), economics, political science, media studies.

Goals for a data/env summer meet up at the Carleton workshop were:

  • To connect colleagues who work in Data Science and Environmental Studies
  • To share what is happening on our campuses already. (Is your school forming a data science program? How and why? How are your students engaged with data and the environment in your locality and other sites in the field?)
  • To brainstorm on ideas for digital collaboration that could enrich teaching and learning


Data sci surve copy