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  1. Many undergraduate students encounter struggle as they navigate academic, financial, and social contexts of higher education. The transition to emergency online instruction during the Spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these struggles. To assess college students’ struggles during the transition to online learning in undergraduate biology courses, we surveyed a diverse collection of students ( n = 238) at an R2 research institution in the Southeastern United States. Students were asked if they encountered struggles and whether they were able to overcome them. Based on how students responded, they were asked to elaborate on (1) how they persevered without struggle, (2) how they were able to overcome their struggles, or (3) what barriers they encountered that did not allow them to overcome their struggles. Each open-ended response was thematically coded to address salient patterns in students’ ability to either persevere or overcome their struggle. We found that during the transition to remote learning, 67% of students experienced struggle. The most reported struggles included: shifts in class format, effective study habits, time management, and increased external commitments. Approximately, 83% of those struggling students were able to overcome their struggle, most often citing their instructor’s support and resources offeredmore »during the transition as reasons for their success. Students also cited changes in study habits, and increased confidence or belief that they could excel within the course as ways in which they overcame their struggles. Overall, we found no link between struggles in the classroom and any demographic variables we measured, which included race/ethnicity, gender expression, first-generation college students, transfer student status, and commuter student status. Our results highlight the critical role that instructors play in supporting student learning during these uncertain times by promoting student self-efficacy and positive-growth mindset, providing students with the resources they need to succeed, and creating a supportive and transparent learning environment.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 11, 2023
  2. Goller, Carlos C. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT The global spread of the novel coronavirus first reported in December 2019 led to drastic changes in the social and economic dynamics of everyday life. Nationwide, racial, gender, and geographic disparities in symptom severity, mortality, and access to health care evolved, which impacted stress and anxiety surrounding COVID-19. On university campuses, drastic shifts in learning environments occurred as universities shifted to remote instruction, which further impacted student mental health and anxiety. Our study aimed to understand how students from diverse backgrounds differ in their worry and stress surrounding COVID-19 upon return to hybrid or in-person classes during the Fall of 2020. Specifically, we addressed the differences in COVID-19 worry, stress response, and COVID-19-related food insecurity related to race/ethnicity (Indigenous American, Asian/Asian American, black/African American, Latinx/Hispanic, white, or multiple races), gender (male, female, and gender expressive), and geographic origin (ranging from rural to large metropolitan areas) of undergraduate students attending a regional-serving R2 university, in the southeastern U.S. Overall, we found significance in worry, food insecurity, and stress responses with females and gender expressive individuals, along with Hispanic/Latinx, Asian/Asian American, and black/African American students. Additionally, students from large urban areas were more worried about contracting the virus compared to studentsmore »from rural locations. However, we found fewer differences in self-reported COVID-related stress responses within these students. Our findings can highlight the disparities among students’ worry based on gender, racial differences, and geographic origins, with potential implications for mental health of university students from diverse backgrounds. Our results support the inclusion of diverse voices in university decisioning making around the transition through the COVID-19 pandemic.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 29, 2023
  3. Abstract Ecosystems across the globe receive elevated inputs of nutrients, but the consequences of this for soil fungal guilds that mediate key ecosystem functions remain unclear. We find that nitrogen and phosphorus addition to 25 grasslands distributed across four continents promotes the relative abundance of fungal pathogens, suppresses mutualists, but does not affect saprotrophs. Structural equation models suggest that responses are often indirect and primarily mediated by nutrient-induced shifts in plant communities. Nutrient addition also reduces co-occurrences within and among fungal guilds, which could have important consequences for belowground interactions. Focusing only on plots that received no nutrient addition, soil properties influence pathogen abundance globally, whereas plant community characteristics influence mutualists, and climate influence saprotrophs. We show consistent, guild-level responses that enhance our ability to predict shifts in soil function related to anthropogenic eutrophication, which can have longer-term consequences for plant communities.
  4. Comita, Liza (Ed.)
  5. Textbooks shape teaching and learning in introductory biology and highlight scientists as potential role models who are responsible for significant discoveries. We explore a potential demographic mismatch between the scientists featured in textbooks and the students who use textbooks to learn core concepts in biology. We conducted a demographic analysis by extracting hundreds of human names from common biology textbooks and assessing the binary gender and race of featured scientists. We found that the most common scientists featured in textbooks are white men. However, women and scientists of colour are increasingly represented in contemporary scientific discoveries. In fact, the proportion of women highlighted in textbooks has increased in lockstep with the proportion of women in the field, indicating that textbooks are matching a changing demographic landscape. Despite these gains, the scientists portrayed in textbooks are not representative of their target audience—the student population. Overall, very few scientists of colour were highlighted, and projections suggest it could take multiple centuries at current rates before we reach inclusive representation. We call upon textbook publishers to expand upon the scientists they highlight to reflect the diverse population of learners in biology.
  6. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 22, 2023