MSU's Diane Ebert-May receives national award for excellence in ecology education

  • Mar 15, 2018
  • Outreach, teaching, research, Faculty, Award
  • Homepage News, Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Research, College of Natural Science, Plant Biology

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Diane Ebert-May

Diane Ebert-May, Michigan State University Distinguished Professor of plant biology, is the recipient of the 2018 Eugene P. Odum Award for Excellence in Ecology Education from the Ecological Society of America (ESA).

The Odum award was established by the ESA in 2000 to annually recognize an ecologist for outstanding work in ecology education. Recipients of this award demonstrate their ability to relate basic ecological principles to human affairs through teaching, outreach and mentoring activities.

Ebert-May, professor of plant biology, is an international pioneer in discipline-based biology education research that studies fundamental questions about teaching and learning. As leaders in efforts to innovate and improve undergraduate STEM education, her lab group developed and tested a model for professional development using inquiry-based, learner-centered teaching. They continue to investigate the longitudinal impact of transformed biology courses on faculty teaching and student learning.

“I am truly honored to receive this award,” said Ebert-May, who serves as graduate director for the Department of Plant Biology in the MSU College of Natural Science. “Dr. Eugene Odum was a pioneer who established the field of ecosystem ecology, greatly influencing my research as an alpine plant ecologist. Ultimately, systems thinking inspired my current research on teaching and learning of ecology/biology in undergraduate education. I consider the classroom a complex ecosystem with many interacting variables that impact how students learn and how faculty teach. Our research questions, experimental designs and analyses are profoundly influenced by ecosystem ecology.”

Ebert-May received her B.S. in botany from the University of Wisconsin and M.A. and Ph.D. in biology from the University of Colorado. She served as the director of Northern Arizona University’s Science and Mathematics Learning Center and professor of biological science for 10 years before joining MSU in 1998 as director of Lyman Briggs School of Science. Her focus on discipline-based biology education research has involved more than 200 postdoctoral fellows and led to more than 50 publications that focus on teaching and learning in undergraduate biology. Her book, Pathways to Scientific Teaching is based on inquiry-based, student centered classrooms, science practice-based instructional strategies, and assessment of learning.

“Diane is a leader in discipline-based education research in biology, and we are delighted that ESA has recognized her numerous contributions to education, mentoring and outreach at MSU and the nation,” said Danny Schnell, MSU Department of Plant Biology chair. “Diane’s innovations in the classroom are based on data-driven models that utilize the same rigorous approaches and standards that apply to her scientific research. As a result of the leadership and the mentoring that Diane has provided to faculty and students, the quality of STEM teaching on campus has increased significantly.  We are truly honored to have her on our faculty.” 

Founded in 1915, the Ecological Society of America is the nation’s largest community of professional ecologists. Its 9,000 members work in academia, government and in the private sector to improve society’s understanding and stewardship of life on Earth.

For a complete list of ESA Eugene P. Odum Award for Excellence in Ecology Education recipients, visit http://esa.org/history/eugene-p-odum-award/.

Banner image: Diane Ebert-May, University Distinguished Professor of plant biology, is an international pioneer in discipline-based biology education research that studies fundamental questions about teaching and learning. Photo courtesy of MSU College of Natural Science.