tree rings at Science nightGroup members

Cinzia Cervato → Earth Systems Science Education, Geoarchaeology, Biostratigraphy, Stable Isotope Geochemistry, Data Management
William Gallus → Synoptic, mesoscale, and storm-scale meteorology, numerical weather prediction

Research topics

The department has been actively researching student learning for over a decade. Faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students have worked and are working on the design and development of web-based and virtual reality technologies as well as research-based and data-driven labs that maximize engagement and motivate development of scientific literacy across a diverse range of learner populations.

At ISU, research on learning in the geosciences encompasses multiple learning contexts (e.g., lab, virtual environment, and classroom) and frequently involves collaboration with other scientists, educators, and colleagues at partner institutions across the nation. Among other sources, our work has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Current research topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Design and implementation of virtual-reality applications to improve awareness and understanding of geological and atmospheric hazards (tornadoes, volcanoes, etc.)
  • Effects of web-based simulations and associated curriculum on the understanding of geological and atmospheric systems.
  • Development of critical thinking skills through online weather forecasting.
  • Incorporation of student-led research projects in introductory geology labs using state-of-the-art field equipment to assess water quality, groundwater flow, and flood-related issues in the Ames region.


The Geoscience Education group has access to ISU’s Virtual Reality Application Center of which Cervato and Gallus are affiliated members. VRAC supports research on human-computer interactions in multiple learning contexts with an impressive array of high-powered, immersive VR facilities. Ongoing collaboration between the Geoscience Education group and partners in ISU’s human-computer interaction program enables use of a sophisticated user-experience lab that supports user-centered design and development of instructional technology projects. A newly installed groundwater well field in Stuart Smith Park supports projects focused on learning in field contexts and offers remote monitoring capabilities for classroom use.

Students interested in pursuing research in Geoscience Education are encouraged to contact one of the group members or