SUPER (Skills for Undergraduate Participation in Ecological Research)

Program Overview

The SUPER (Skills for Undergraduate Participation in Ecological Research) Program brings together teaching of foundational research skills from the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability (ESS) with research mentoring performed largely by Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL) scientists along with a broader set of Warner College of Natural Resources researchers. The program is designed primarily for Colorado State University (CSU) sophomores and juniors who are interested in gaining experience in ecological research. Freshmen should wait until their sophomore year, but seniors may participate space allowing. Students from all disciplines who are interested in developing ecological research skills are welcome to apply.

student in lab

It is our goal for you to have an enhanced student research experience that:

  1. Increases your scientific critical thinking skills;
  2. Expands your scientific literacy;
  3. Expands your ability to do, and to communicate about, ecological research;
  4. Builds your skills working collaboratively with a mentor; and
  5. Improves your qualification for future research positions or graduate school.

SUPER’s active learning activities help you achieve these goals.

Our philosophy is that students in the ecological sciences should be equipped with skills and provided with active learning experiences to prepare them to evaluate, construct, and perform research on their own or as part of a team. Undergraduate students need to become scientific citizens, participate in public scientific discourse, learn to engage in scientific communication with diverse audiences, and prepare for success in graduate school. We equip students with skills to have meaningful impact on the great challenges we are facing as a society in the 21st century.

SUPER Course Requirements

The SUPER Program has been formalized as part of CSU’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability (ESS) curriculum. A one-credit weekly training seminar is held in the fall semester, when the capstone project is a literature review with annotated bibliography that prepares students for their research projects. In the fall, students are also paired with mentors by matching student skills/interests with mentor needs. A second one-credit seminar is held in the spring, with the capstone of that semester being the presentation of research projects in poster format at the University-wide “Celebrate Undergraduate Research and Creativity” showcase (CURC). In addition to the seminar, students earn 3 credits working on their projects with their research mentors.

While the course credits for students participating in SUPER are earned through ESS, SUPER mentors maintain a key role in the program, serving as mentors for students who can come from any Warner College (WCNR) department, or even other CSU colleges (most students do come from ESS). This mentorship, and the inclusion of students on research teams as full participants, prepares students for real-world science careers and research collaboration. Graduate student mentors also gain critical guided mentoring experience through this program, setting them up for success in advising and mentoring students in the future.

History of SUPER


The SUPER Program was first created in 2010 by graduate students in the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL) who recognized the need for foundational research skills training. They also recognized the capacity of NREL scientists and graduate students to mentor undergraduate researchers. Over the years, the program has been modified to best meet the needs of developing young scientists, and to track the demands of the ecological research sector to create the scientists of the future. Dr. Stacy Lynn of the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory and joint faculty with ESS teaches and coordinates the program.