Karen McNeal


Professional Title: 
Associate Professor
About Me (Bio): 
My research as a biogeochemist includes both laboratory and field projects that employ a range of analytical chemical techniques including gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, electrochemistry, microbiology, and in-situ measurements to study microbial processes in natural systems. Specifically, I investigate complex surfacial earth systems such as soils and sediments, the biotic and abiotic controls on these systems, and the associated anthropogenic influences. My work includes emphasis on the C, N, S, and Fe cycles and the coupled redox processes in sediments overlain by hypoxic (low oxygen) waters. My research in geoscience education and geocognition explores questions concerning the human understanding of complex and dynamic earth system and their interactions (e.g., global climate change, eutrophication, water resources, energy, etc). As such, my research includes three major areas: 1) the study of the impact of various pedagogical methods including inquiry-, technology-, data-, field-, and game-based activities on students’ conceptual model development and understanding of these systems using an array of qualitative and quantitative evaluation and assessment measures, 2). the implementation and evaluation of teacher professional development programs and their effectiveness on the in-service teacher and the classroom student, and 3) the development and evaluation of learning environments that support minorities, under-represented groups, and K-20 learners to pursue careers in the geosciences using strategies that serve to enhance students' experiences, knowledge, attitudes, and perspectives about the geosciences.
North Carolina State University (NCSU), Michigan State University (MSU), Mississippi State University (MSU)

This project is developing inquiry-based, lab-focused, online Climate Change EarthLabs modules as a context for ongoing research into how high school students grasp change over time in the Earth System on multiple time scales. This project examines the challenges to high-school students' understanding of Earth's complex systems, operating over various temporal and spatial scales, and by developing research-based insights into effective educational tools and approaches that support learning about climate change and Earth Systems Science.