Ecological Forecasting Initiative 2021: Empowering Development of the Next Generation of Educational Materials for Forecasting

Host: NSF-sponsored EFI-Research Coordination Network

Date: June 28-29, 2021

Location: Virtual Workshop

Agenda with links to videos and resources from the workshop

Materials from the associated 1-day Inclusive Pedagogy Workshop held on June 7, 2021, were used in this 2-day meeting.
Pedagogy Workshop details are here.

This 2-day meeting focused on developing and/or improving educational materials for ecological forecasting. Although not limited to, our goal was that some of these educational materials will leverage and be informed by forecasts submitted to the EFI RCN NEON Ecological Forecast Challenge. We specifically focused on ways members of the EFI community can incorporate the production of educational resources into forecasts they inform, produce, or already use. We encouraged anyone interested in developing and/or improving forecasting educational material to apply to attend the meeting. Applications were encouraged from individuals from academic and non-academic institutions, at any career stage, and of all demographic backgrounds. There were no registration fees.

Specific objectives for the workshop were:

  • Share the diversity of existing resources for learning topics under ecological forecasting and where we have identified gaps in the existing resources
  • Develop a list of ways the EFI community can contribute to reducing gaps in terms of education material content, format, and education level
  • Create educational materials to empower scientists at all career stages to forecast using NEON data products, with explicit consideration of the best practices and challenges identified at the June 7, 2021 Inclusive Pedagogy Workshop
  • Create a community within EFI passionate about teaching ecological forecasting

The following are the four projects the group worked on during the meeting. These four projects are works in progress. If you are interested in updates, details, or want to get involved reach out to

Project 1: Updating EFI’s NEON Forecasting Challenge Shiny App

This project focuses on updating the previously developed Shiny App that is used to share visualizations and forecasting scores for the EFI NEON Forecasting Challenge.  Currently, the Shiny App visualizes and scored forecasts submitted to Year 1 of the NEON Forecast Challenge.  The update to the app will involve providing more explanation for the scoring and visualization of submissions to the Challenge, such that the app can be used as an educational tool.  The group discussed and began developing code to make changes to the app, including adding more visualizations to the app (i.e., more graphing capabilities) and including more text to walk students through steps of the visualization and scoring process.  In the near-term, the team expects to continue working on the efforts that they started during the meeting to update the types of visualizations and how they are explained in the app.  Ultimately, the group hopes to expand the app to include educational materials for other members of the forecasting community, such as end users; continue to expand the visualizations available in the app; and provide the option for off-line visualization.

Project 2: Forecast Ethics

This project focuses on filling a conceptual gap in ecological forecasting education: students are taught the theory and mechanics behind producing an ecological forecast in the existing forecasting courses, but ethical considerations in producing and disseminating forecasts are seldom discussed in the undergraduate course setting.  The group focused on developing a series of examples, formatted as case studies, for use in undergraduate classrooms.  In the future, this project could be expanded to develop educational modules focusing on ethics.  The group also discussed the importance of bringing more attention to the topic of forecasting ethics within the EFI community as a whole and suggested that an ethics working group should be developed. If you are interested in the slides developed to test in your own course, email

Project 3: Cultural Relevance of Forecasting

This group was motivated to brainstorm ideas to make ecological forecasting education more culturally relevant to the diverse undergraduate student population becoming involved in the discipline.  In order to start with a simple and tractable project, the group decided to leverage the existing infrastructure of the NEON Forecast Challenge.  This involved discussing why and how each of the themes of the first year of the Challenge are societally important and then, coming up with a PowerPoint slide format for disseminating this information to undergraduate students.  The group started with the tick population theme as an example, but they expect to ultimately develop a slide for each of the forecast themes.   Ultimately, this group hopes to generate interest within EFI for a larger-scale project involving the development of a forecasting framework that specifically focuses on forecasting a topic of cultural significance to our indigenous partners at minority-serving institutions such as Humboldt State University, Salish-Kootenai College, and University of New Mexico-Gallup.

Project 4: Development of Materials for CodeFest at Louisiana State University

One workshop participant has funding to develop modules introducing students to ecological forecasting for use at a 3-hour CodeFest hosted by Louisiana State University.  The goal of the CodeFest is to introduce undergraduate students to the fundamental concepts required to make an ecological forecast and help students produce a simple forecast.  The group brainstormed the type of forecast that would be interesting and possible to conduct in the short time frame, tentatively settling on a forecast of species richness at different NEON sites.  During the workshop, the group focused on creating and writing ReadMe documents for a GitHub repository that can be used for the LSU CodeFest and as a template for others interested in developing a similar CodeFest.  The next steps include filling in the repository in preparation for the CodeFest event, which will take place in November 2021.

5-minute video summarizing main takeaways from this meeting and the Inclusive Pedagogy workshop held on June 7, 2021. This video was recorded for the Ecological Society of America 2021 conference.
  • Playlist of all the videos from this meeting.


[11:00am-11:20am EDT]

[11:20am-12:50pm EDT]
Session 1: Synthesizing EFI’s contributions to ecological forecasting education 

[12:50pm-1:10pm EDT]

[1:10pm-2:25pm EDT]
Session 2: Brainstorming ways to move forward/how to fill gaps

  • Breakout Groups to discuss: (45 min)
    • How your group and/or EFI can contribute to reducing gaps in educational resources, based on the information presented in the previous session
    • Define what is possible to accomplish with the resources you/EFI currently have/has
    • Identify ways EFI could support resource development
  • Group presentations of ideas and voting of ideas to focus on for the rest of the meeting (30 min)
[2:25pm-2:50pm EDT]

 [2:50pm-4:15pm EDT]
Session 2: Continued

  • Self selected Breakout Groups to work on resources brainstormed prior to the break
    • Describe what your resource would ideally look like (R code? Shiny app? PowerPoint? Video?)
    • Compile resources you could use for resource development (how to make an effective Shiny app, the model you would use as an example, textbooks used as references)
      • For forecast challenge participants, how can you use what you’ve already done?
    • Breakout Group Topics
      • Evaluation and Visualization Module
      • Ethics and Forecasting
      • Culturally Relevant Examples
      • CodeFest
[4:15pm-4:30pm EDT]

[4:30pm-5:00pm EDT]
Breakout Groups Report Back and Prepare for Tuesday

Tuesday, June 29

Welcome and Logistics

Session 3: Implementation of Ideas from Day 1

  • Continue working on resources from Breakout Groups from Monday. Start writing scripts, code, etc

Session 3: Continued

  • Continue developing resource (40 min)
  • Prepare presentation with status of resource, future vision, and next steps needed (20 min) 

Session 4: Presentations with Q&A

  • Presentation from Breakout Groups
  • Synthesis across presentations and Wrap Up to discuss
    1. Priorities
    2. Timeline
    3. Participation

EFI-RCN is a part of the grassroots Ecological Forecasting Initiative ( If you have questions, please contact