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  1. This EDI data package contains instructional materials necessary to teach Macrosystems EDDIE Module 6: Understanding Uncertainty in Ecological Forecasts, a ~3-hour educational module for undergraduates. Ecological forecasting is an emerging approach that provides an estimate of the future state of an ecological system with uncertainty, allowing society to prepare for changes in important ecosystem services. Forecast uncertainty is derived from multiple sources, including model parameters and driver data, among others. Knowing the uncertainty associated with a forecast enables forecast users to evaluate the forecast and make more informed decisions. This module will guide students through an exploration of the sources of uncertainty within an ecological forecast, how uncertainty can be quantified, and steps that can be taken to reduce the uncertainty in a forecast that students develop for a lake ecosystem, using data from the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). Students will visualize data, build a model, generate a forecast with uncertainty, and then compare the contributions of various sources of forecast uncertainty to total forecast uncertainty. The flexible, three-part (A-B-C) structure of this module makes it adaptable to a range of student levels and course structures. There are two versions of the module: an R Shiny application which does not require students to code, and an RMarkdown version which requires students to read and alter R code to complete module activities. The R Shiny application is published to shinyapps.io and is available at the following link: https://macrosystemseddie.shinyapps.io/module6/. GitHub repositories are available for both the R Shiny (https://github.com/MacrosystemsEDDIE/module6) and RMarkdown versions (https://github.com/MacrosystemsEDDIE/module6_R) of the module, and both code repositories have been published with DOIs to Zenodo (R Shiny version at https://zenodo.org/doi/10.5281/zenodo.10380759 and RMarkdown version at https://zenodo.org/doi/10.5281/zenodo.10380339). Readers are referred to the module landing page for additional information (https://serc.carleton.edu/eddie/teaching_materials/modules/module6.html). 
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  2. Because of increased variability in populations, communities, and ecosystems due to land use and climate change, there is a pressing need to know the future state of ecological systems across space and time. Ecological forecasting is an emerging approach which provides an estimate of the future state of an ecological system with uncertainty, allowing society to preemptively prepare for fluctuations in important ecosystem services. However, forecasts must be effectively designed and communicated to those who need them to make decisions in order to realize their potential for protecting natural resources. In this module, students will explore real ecological forecast visualizations, identify ways to represent uncertainty, make management decisions using forecast visualizations, and learn decision support techniques. Lastly, students customize a forecast visualization for a specific stakeholder's decision needs. The overarching goal of this module is for students to understand how forecasts are connected to decision-making of stakeholders, or the managers, policy-makers, and other members of society who use forecasts to inform decision-making. The A-B-C structure of this module makes it flexible and adaptable to a range of student levels and course structures. This EDI data package contains instructional materials and the files necessary to teach the module. Readers are referred to the Zenodo data package (Woelmer et al. 2022; DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7074674) for the R Shiny application code needed to run the module locally. 
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  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  4. Abstract

    Ecosystems around the globe are experiencing changes in both the magnitude and fluctuations of environmental conditions due to land use and climate change. In response, ecologists are increasingly using near‐term, iterative ecological forecasts to predict how ecosystems will change in the future. To date, many near‐term, iterative forecasting systems have been developed using high temporal frequency (minute to hourly resolution) data streams for assimilation. However, this approach may be cost‐prohibitive or impossible for forecasting ecological variables that lack high‐frequency sensors or have high data latency (i.e., a delay before data are available for modeling after collection). To explore the effects of data assimilation frequency on forecast skill, we developed water temperature forecasts for a eutrophic drinking water reservoir and conducted data assimilation experiments by selectively withholding observations to examine the effect of data availability on forecast accuracy. We used in situ sensors, manually collected data, and a calibrated water quality ecosystem model driven by forecasted weather data to generate future water temperature forecasts using Forecasting Lake and Reservoir Ecosystems (FLARE), an open source water quality forecasting system. We tested the effect of daily, weekly, fortnightly, and monthly data assimilation on the skill of 1‐ to 35‐day‐ahead water temperature forecasts. We found that forecast skill varied depending on the season, forecast horizon, depth, and data assimilation frequency, but overall forecast performance was high, with a mean 1‐day‐ahead forecast root mean square error (RMSE) of 0.81°C, mean 7‐day RMSE of 1.15°C, and mean 35‐day RMSE of 1.94°C. Aggregated across the year, daily data assimilation yielded the most skillful forecasts at 1‐ to 7‐day‐ahead horizons, but weekly data assimilation resulted in the most skillful forecasts at 8‐ to 35‐day‐ahead horizons. Within a year, forecasts with weekly data assimilation consistently outperformed forecasts with daily data assimilation after the 8‐day forecast horizon during mixed spring/autumn periods and 5‐ to 14‐day‐ahead horizons during the summer‐stratified period, depending on depth. Our results suggest that lower frequency data (i.e., weekly) may be adequate for developing accurate forecasts in some applications, further enabling the development of forecasts broadly across ecosystems and ecological variables without high‐frequency sensor data.

     
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  5. Freshwater ecosystems provide vital services, yet are facing increasing risks from global change. In particular, lake thermal dynamics have been altered around the world as a result of climate change, necessitating a predictive understanding of how climate will continue to alter lakes in the future as well as the associated uncertainty in these predictions. Numerous sources of uncertainty affect projections of future lake conditions but few are quantified, limiting the use of lake modeling projections as management tools. To quantify and evaluate the effects of two potentially important sources of uncertainty, lake model selection uncertainty and climate model selection uncertainty, we developed ensemble projections of lake thermal dynamics for a dimictic lake in New Hampshire, USA (Lake Sunapee). Our ensemble projections used four different climate models as inputs to five vertical one-dimensional (1-D) hydrodynamic lake models under three different climate change scenarios to simulate thermal metrics from 2006 to 2099. We found that almost all the lake thermal metrics modeled (surface water temperature, bottom water temperature, Schmidt stability, stratification duration, and ice cover, but not thermocline depth) are projected to change over the next century. Importantly, we found that the dominant source of uncertainty varied among the thermal metrics, as thermal metrics associated with the surface waters (surface water temperature, total ice duration) were driven primarily by climate model selection uncertainty, while metrics associated with deeper depths (bottom water temperature, stratification duration) were dominated by lake model selection uncertainty. Consequently, our results indicate that researchers generating projections of lake bottom water metrics should prioritize including multiple lake models for best capturing projection uncertainty, while those focusing on lake surface metrics should prioritize including multiple climate models. Overall, our ensemble modeling study reveals important information on how climate change will affect lake thermal properties, and also provides some of the first analyses on how climate model selection uncertainty and lake model selection uncertainty interact to affect projections of future lake dynamics. 
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  6. Ecological forecasting is an emerging approach to estimate the future state of an ecological system with uncertainty, allowing society to better manage ecosystem services. Ecological forecasting is a core mission of the U.S. National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and several federal agencies, yet, to date, forecasting training has focused on graduate students, representing a gap in undergraduate ecology curricula. In response, we developed a teaching module for the Macrosystems EDDIE (Environmental Data-Driven Inquiry and Exploration; MacrosystemsEDDIE.org) educational program to introduce ecological forecasting to undergraduate students through an interactive online tool built with R Shiny. To date, we have assessed this module, “Introduction to Ecological Forecasting,” at ten universities and two conference workshops with both undergraduate and graduate students (N = 136 total) and found that the module significantly increased undergraduate students’ ability to correctly define ecological forecasting terms and identify steps in the ecological forecasting cycle. Undergraduate and graduate students who completed the module showed increased familiarity with ecological forecasts and forecast uncertainty. These results suggest that integrating ecological forecasting into undergraduate ecology curricula will enhance students’ abilities to engage and understand complex ecological concepts. 
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  7. Abstract Water temperature, ice cover, and lake stratification are important physical properties of lakes and reservoirs that control mixing as well as bio-geo-chemical processes and thus influence the water quality. We used an ensemble of vertical one-dimensional hydrodynamic lake models driven with regional climate projections to calculate water temperature, stratification, and ice cover under the A1B emission scenario for the German drinking water reservoir Lichtenberg. We used an analysis of variance method to estimate the contributions of the considered sources of uncertainty on the ensemble output. For all simulated variables, epistemic uncertainty, which is related to the model structure, is the dominant source throughout the simulation period. Nonetheless, the calculated trends are coherent among the five models and in line with historical observations. The ensemble predicts an increase in surface water temperature of 0.34 K per decade, a lengthening of the summer stratification of 3.2 days per decade, as well as decreased probabilities of the occurrence of ice cover and winter inverse stratification by 2100. These expected changes are likely to influence the water quality of the reservoir. Similar trends are to be expected in other reservoirs and lakes in comparable regions. 
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  8. Abstract

    Communicating and interpreting uncertainty in ecological model predictions is notoriously challenging, motivating the need for new educational tools, which introduce ecology students to core concepts in uncertainty communication. Ecological forecasting, an emerging approach to estimate future states of ecological systems with uncertainty, provides a relevant and engaging framework for introducing uncertainty communication to undergraduate students, as forecasts can be used as decision support tools for addressing real‐world ecological problems and are inherently uncertain. To provide critical training on uncertainty communication and introduce undergraduate students to the use of ecological forecasts for guiding decision‐making, we developed a hands‐on teaching module within the Macrosystems Environmental Data‐Driven Inquiry and Exploration (EDDIE;MacrosystemsEDDIE.org) educational program. Our module used an active learning approach by embedding forecasting activities in an R Shiny application to engage ecology students in introductory data science, ecological modeling, and forecasting concepts without needing advanced computational or programming skills. Pre‐ and post‐module assessment data from more than 250 undergraduate students enrolled in ecology, freshwater ecology, and zoology courses indicate that the module significantly increased students' ability to interpret forecast visualizations with uncertainty, identify different ways to communicate forecast uncertainty for diverse users, and correctly define ecological forecasting terms. Specifically, students were more likely to describe visual, numeric, and probabilistic methods of uncertainty communication following module completion. Students were also able to identify more benefits of ecological forecasting following module completion, with the key benefits of using forecasts for prediction and decision‐making most commonly described. These results show promise for introducing ecological model uncertainty, data visualizations, and forecasting into undergraduate ecology curricula via software‐based learning, which can increase students' ability to engage and understand complex ecological concepts.

     
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  9. null (Ed.)