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Education: The Carbon Question

Project 1: Young Investigators Carbon Initiative Call for Proposals

This project calls for research proposals from young science investigators for exploring the world's carbon cycle and budget.

Now that you have completed the preliminary carbon investigations you are familiar with some of the questions driving this science problem. You have also gained familiarity with some of the data and tools available to researchers to carry out carbon studies and what types of questions can be addressed using different types of data. Now you are ready to propose your own research project. Proposals that use 2 or more types of data and tools to address different aspects of the carbon problem will receive extra points.

Below are the guidelines for preparing the proposal and a presentation:

  1. Format: The proposal is 8-10 pages of text and figures, single-spaced, with type no smaller than 12 pt. The proposal should have the following sections
  2. Proposal Cover Page: includes team members' names, school affiliation, title of research and date submitted
  3. Abstract: a brief summary of your proposal; focus question, importance and scientific methods. 200-250 words.
  4. Problem Description and its Significance: As a researcher, what do you hope to learn through this project? What research has been done that influenced your decision to research this topic? How did you decide how to tackle the issue and why? Give a description of your project in factual and human-interest terms (i.e. why should society care about your project?). What underlying science concepts are important to understanding the problem? Give both a global and local context to your research; explain why your investigation is important to a greater understanding of the planet and of your country and region. In this section, you will want to provide some data to show what is already known about your topic. This is also where you explain who you are and why you should be considered an expert in the field of terrestrial carbon storage.
  5. Key Science Questions for Investigation: Provide a detailed list of scientific questions that you will answer through your research. Be as specific as possible. List the questions in a way that makes sense i.e. from broadest to most detailed or in order of how you will attempt to answer the questions chronologically. Examples of possible questions are listed below but you should also come up with 5-10 of your own.
    1. Which two techniques would you choose in order to find the missing carbon and why?
    2. Which data sets incorporate natural temporal variation in carbon storage? Is it important to know and understand terrestrial carbon storage in the past? Why?
    3. Which data captures human-caused disturbances in the carbon budget i.e. fossil fuel emissions, pollution, deforestation and urban development?
    4. Which data sets reveal regional diversity? How do different species of vegetation affect carbon flux into an ecosystem? From a carbon storage perspective does it make sense to preserve as many different plant species as possible?
    5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of different carbon storage research methods?
    6. Which areas of the world are particularly important for terrestrial carbon storage? Why do they store so much carbon? Are these large carbon stores under threat? Why or why not?
  6. Description of Data and Methods: Scientific research will be read and reviewed by peers and other experts related to the field of carbon storage and global budgets. If you also have a public education component (how you plan to raise public awareness about your research findings), describe it here. In this section you must describe and justify your methods and provide good arguments about why you are using the methods you propose. In other words explain who you will carry out your investigation. Include amount of time it will take you to complete the research and deadlines for submitting the project results in stages i.e. when will you submit the introduction, the background research, the methods, the results the discussion of results and the conclusion? Where will you conduct your research? How will you collect data? What data analysis techniques will you use, i.e. are you looking for trends, changes, specific quantities? You may not know the answers to all of these questions and your plans might change but the more detail you can provide in your proposal, the better.
  7. Justification for Data and Methods: In this section, you should demonstrate the appropriateness of your scientific methods. The best way to do this is to perform some of the data analysis you have proposed, describe these results and how they will help address the science questions you have identified in your proposal.
  8. Evaluation: How will you know if you achieved your goals? Explain your ideas about the end product or conclusions of your research. What do you expect your conclusions to be used for?
  9. Research Team Roles and Timetable: If this is a group research project, give a detailed explanation of each team member's role and deadlines for submission of work done by each member.

The Institute on Climate and Planets at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies has guidelines for writing a science paper that you can refer to. This resource may also be helpful in preparing your research proposal.

Scientific Paper and/or Presentation

After you have completed your research project proposal in a group or as individuals, you will present your research experience in written or oral format.

Your findings may also be presented to the class as a PowerPoint slideshow. The presentation should have a similar structure to the paper (introduction, methods, results, discussion and conclusions) so you should again use the link provided above.

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