United States - Operation Wallacea

United States

Enhanced understanding of syllabus

Many students going on an Operation Wallacea expedition are likely to be studying Biology or Environmental Science as their elective science subject. A significant amount of what is being learnt in the classroom can be experienced first-hand whilst on an expedition and approximately 44% of the College Board AP Biology curriculum matches across to the lectures, field practicals and experience of working alongside academics on an Opwall expedition.

Free Classroom Exercises

Operation Wallacea has been running research expeditions since 1995 and started taking high school/sixth form students in 2004. With the help of funding from the Weston Foundation we have created a new science resource known as The Wallace Resource Library or WRL .

This resource provides novel data sets for the classroom and uniquely, these data sets have all been processed and produced by the actual scientists involved in the research. These data sets all originate directly from Operation Wallacea research sites around the world and there is now a full set containing 19 WRL datasets and 45 Biodiversity Data Tasks. The WRL datasets are extensive and complex tasks and the Biodiversity Data Tasks are much shorter, adopting the style of examination questions worth 10+ marks or short 40 minute homework tasks. These should be standalone, and where possible, have explanatory notes to help with the answers.

To make this valuable resource more usable in the classroom, we have now indexed each WRL dataset to a number exam specifications  and these can be investigated by following the links: you will then find a summary table suggesting how a dataset might be used as a classroom resource. We have plans to cover many more educational frameworks although these programs are now being made available to US High Schools for use as classroom exercises to support AP Biology or Environmental Science courses.

To find out more follow the loins to Free Classroom Exercises.

Additional research related qualifications

University course credit

Students participating in Operation Wallacea expeditions can earn university course credit from University of West Florida. The course credit is based on exam results, a field diary, a research project essay, and an assessment of student performance in the field. Whilst the UWF course credits are only accepted toward Marine Biology or Biology degrees at UWF, you can submit a summary of the course completed and your completion certificate with grade (which will be provided by the university) when applying for relevant degrees at other US universities and they may or may not count it as relevant credit towards your degree.  The cost of the 3 credit course is $600 for both in-state and out of state applicants and the course credit is completed from the field experience plus an essay that is submitted after returning from the field. Please note that we cannot currently offer this at our Mexican, Cuban or Honduran sites. You can find more information here.

An alternative credit option that can work for ALL Opwall expedition locations is to register for and complete a 3 credit online/field course called Field Biology (BIOL 12) offered by Shasta College in Redding, California. This course involves some pre and post expedition web-presented (online) course work that includes readings, assignments, quizzes, keeping and submitting a field journal, and submitting a final presentation, as well as an assessment of student performance in the field. BIOL 12 is fully transferable in the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems and may be transferable to universities in many other states as well (check with your institution). For California high school students these 3 transferable credits cost only about $30 for college fees, since tuition is waived for California high school students! College/university students who are California residents can register for the course for just around $170. Out of state college/university and high school students would have to pay approximately $850 for the 3 transferable credits. The advantages of signing up for this course are that you are much better prepared for the research projects you will be involved with and, of course, you will be earning transferable course credits for your Opwall experience at a much lower cost than at most universities. For more information and to register for BIOL 12, please send an email to sfulton@shastacollege.edu stating where you are from, whether you are a high school student or a college/university student and which Opwall expedition you will be a part of, including the expedition dates.

National Honor Society

All schools are strongly encouraged to fundraise for their expeditions and each school group must have a fundraising Chairperson. This role provides an opportunity for the elected student to gain leadership experience to be used in their National Honor Society application.

Science Research in the High School – SRHS

In the northeast of the US, a significant number of schools are associated with the Science Research in the High School program (SRHS). This is an advanced research program for school students who are expected to publish the results of their field research in a peer reviewed journal before entering university. In addition, students are expected to give presentations at high school science seminars. The whole emphasis is on developing research skills in students with them completing a research placement at the end of their sophomore year in a lab or at a field research station to gain initial research experience. During their junior year, the students are then expected to choose a research topic, complete background reading and, in consultation with academics, develop a research proposal with a clearly defined question. This independent research project is then implemented over the summer before entering their senior year. During their senior year, the students write up the research and submit the manuscript for publication as well as making a presentation at a high school science seminar. This scheme fits perfectly with the Opwall field programs with the standard General Surveyor expeditions fitting the research experience requirement at the end of their sophomore year. The published research project in their Junior and Senior years fits much better with the Dissertation/Senior Thesis approach, so these students sign up alongside the university students and go through the research planning and implementation phase with academic mentors.

University applications and interviews

In the US, the college entry essay and college interviews are the main opportunities for students to express themselves beyond their high school transcript, test scores, and extracurricular activities. You may choose to reference your time on expedition to demonstrate your independence and global efficacy, while the unique opportunity to meet academics from universities around the world will also set you apart from other applicants.