Articles | Volume 17, issue 1
Research article
22 Jan 2013
Research article |  | 22 Jan 2013

Training hydrologists to be ecohydrologists: a "how-you-can-do-it" example leveraging an active learning environment for studying plant–water interaction

S. W. Lyon, M. T. Walter, E. J. Jantze, and J. A. Archibald

Abstract. Structuring an education strategy capable of addressing the various spheres of ecohydrology is difficult due to the inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary nature and general breadth of this emergent field. Clearly, there is a need for such strategies to accommodate more progressive educational concepts while highlighting a skills-based education. To demonstrate a possible way to develop courses that include such concepts, we offer a case-study or a potential "how-you-can-do-it" example from a recent course set in an ecohydrological context co-taught by teachers from Stockholm University and Cornell University at Stockholm University's Navarino Environmental Observatory (NEO) in Costa Navarino, Greece. This course focused on introducing hydrology Master's students to some of the central concepts of ecohydrology, while at the same time supplying process-based understanding relevant for characterizing evapotranspiration. As such, the main goal of the course was to explore some of the central theories in ecohydrology and their connection to plant–water interactions and the water cycle in a semiarid environment. While this course is still in its infancy with regards to addressing some of the more in-depth aspects of ecohydrology, it does provide a relevant basis with an initial emphasis on the more physical concepts of ecohydrology from which to build towards the more physiological concepts (e.g., unique plant adaptations to water availability or differences in water use between native plants and irrigated vegetation). In addition to presenting this roadmap for ecohydrology course development, we explore the utility and effectiveness of adopting active teaching and learning strategies drawing from the suite of learn-by-doing, hands-on, and inquiry-based techniques in such a course. We test a potential gradient of "activeness" across a sequence of three teaching and learning activities. Our results indicate that there was a clear advantage for utilizing active learning with a preference among the students towards the more "active" techniques. This demonstrates the added value of incorporating even the simplest active learning approaches in our ecohydrology (or general) teaching.