Lack of Diversity in Stuffed Animals

Spineless, Ignored, Misunderstood: Perceptions of Animal Diversity in the UCD Community

First-Year Seminars provides a lab like environment for instructors to test out new course ideas.  That was just the case in a winter 2022 course developed by the College of Biological Science’s Faculty member Laci Gerhart-Barley and PhD candidate Hannah Nelson, “Spineless, Ignored, Misunderstood: Perceptions of Animal Diversity in the UCD Community”.  A primary goal of the course was to help students break stereotypes in animal representation by studying animal diversity or lack thereof in media representation.  Throughout the course students learned how to code imagery, perform statistical analyses, and visualize data with a culminating poster presentation to their peers and representatives of the College of Biological Sciences.  Students went through the full scientific method process – developing a hypothesis, collecting data, analyzing and representing that data, receiving peer feedback and formally presenting results in a conference style poster.      

Student reflections from the course indicate the value found in learning the research via the course instruction and assignments.  In articulating the transformative impact of the course one student stated, “I had the chance to think creatively in my everyday life project and poster design, and the poster event reminded me of the excitement of sharing my findings and passion with people. I came to college hoping to become someone that not only has great research ability but also cares about the social impact of her work. This seminar experience confirmed how much I enjoy doing this.” 

The idea of “Research” can seem abstract, foreign, or removed from the undergraduate experience.  Demystifying that notion and making the research process approachable is a key outcome of CURE specific FYS courses.  In experiencing this course one student stated, “this entire class has made me a lot more excited to look for research in the future. I always knew that I wanted to try to do research but it sounded really intimidating and I didn’t know if I’d be a good fit for it. After learning coding and how scientific posters work, I’m a lot more confident in my ability to get involved in research. Last quarter, the description for this class sounded exciting but intimidating. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do it but it was so manageable and I learned so much. It makes me want to try to get involved in research sooner rather than later. I genuinely had so much fun and I want to do more things like this.”