Project TURBO

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Long-Term Ecological Research

The Undergraduate Saco River Biodiversity Observatory (TURBO) provides interdisciplinary research experiences at UNE. As a science student, you will be engaged in a large-scale, long-term research project centered around the Saco River Ecosystem.

Throughout your four years as a UNE student, you will work on Project TURBO in multiple courses and disciplines — as part of lecture or lab courses or as independent projects. This assures that the complexity of the environment and its interactions are made explicitly clear. You will explore urban, salt marsh, intertidal and open water habitats and apply methods of ecology, physiology, molecular biology, botany, zoology, mathematics, chemistry and physics. Data generated by you and your fellow students will be entered into a database on the TURBO website with access for all students and faculty. The data is used throughout different courses and will support informed decision making for policy and politics. The database will be expansive and include uplands as well as the estuary.

Project TURBO was designed to enhance the teaching outcomes and to increase retention and graduation rates in the STEM disciplines. This builds on UNE experience and expertise in undergraduate research and place-based active learning. The common theme is the Saco River Estuary, which is being studied in three ways:

  • Individual courses will devote at least a week to  a month-long unit to the project, in lecture and/or lab
  • Faculty will lead small teams on specific research projects
  • You will conduct independent projects as honors theses or independent research

The breadth of the studies encompass:

  • Urban ecology 
  • Coastal forest ecology
  • Species in salt marshes
  • Species in the intertidal and subtidal, and in the open water
  • The chemistry and physics that relate the environment to the organisms

In this manner, you can start off in structured inquiry (science practices), work through guided inquiry and ultimately conduct open inquiry (Spronken-Smith et al. 2011). The participating courses span all years from freshman to senior year, and also span across multiple departments, ensuring repeated exposure and opportunity for growth. 

By conducting similar surveys, experiments and assessments every year, you will not only be able to assess the estuarine ecosystem as a whole, but will identify changes over time as well. 

Additional events, such as an annual conference to report the results, workshops, seminars, T-shirt design contests and others will create a “buzz” around the project.

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