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Virtual Outdoor Retailer winter snow show to be 'powered by artificial intelligence'

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January's annual Outdoor Retailer Outdoor Snow Show will be hosted virtually Jan. 27-29. Rather than take place at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, the annual event will be a fully online experience dubbed "Outdoor Retailer Winter Online." In an email, Outdoor Retailer Senior Vice President and Show Director Marisa Nicholson said "developments have made it impossible to bring the event's community together safely and successfully in Denver" due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said these included government restrictions and limitations on large gatherings. Outdoor Retailer hosted its first digital show this summer.


With to-do list checked off, U.S. physicists ask, 'What's next?

Science

As U.S. particle physicists contemplate their future, they find themselves victims of their own surprising success. Seven years ago, the often fractious community hammered out its current research road map and rallied around it. Thanks to that unity—and generous budgets—the Department of Energy (DOE), the field's main U.S. sponsor, has already started on almost every project on the list. So this week, as U.S. particle physicists start to drum up new ideas for the next decade in a yearlong Snowmass process—named for the Colorado ski resort where such planning exercises once took place—they have no single big project to push for (or against). And in some subfields, the next steps seem far less obvious than they were 10 years ago. “We have to be much more open minded about what particle physics and fundamental physics are,” says Young-Kee Kim of the University of Chicago, chair of the American Physical Society's division of particles and fields, which is sponsoring the planning exercise. Ten years ago, the U.S. particle physics community was in disarray. The high-energy frontier had passed to CERN, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva, where in 2012 the world's biggest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), blasted out the long-sought Higgs boson, the last piece in particle physicists' standard model. Some physicists wanted the United States to build a huge experiment to fire elusive particles called neutrinos long distances through Earth to study how they “oscillate”—morph from one of their three types to another—as they zip along. Others wanted the country to help push for the next big collider. Those tensions came to a head during the last Snowmass effort in 2013, and the subsequent deliberations of the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (P5), which wrote the road map. U.S. researchers agreed to build the neutrino experiment, but make it bigger and better by inviting international partners. They also decided to continue to participate fully in the LHC, and to pursue a variety of smaller projects at home (see table, below). The next collider would have to wait. Most important, DOE officials warned, the squabbling and backstabbing had to stop. In fact, physicists recall, the 2013 process had an informal motto: “Bickering scientists get nothing.” ![Figure][1] CREDIT: PARTICLE PHYSICS PROJECT PRIORITIZATION PANEL REPORT (2014) Physicists have just started to build the current plan's centerpiece. The Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Illinois will shoot the particles through 1300 kilometers of rock to the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) in South Dakota, a detector filled with 40,000 tons of frigid liquid argon. LBNF/DUNE, which should come online in 2026, aims to be the definitive study of neutrino oscillations and whether they differ between neutrinos and antineutrinos, which could help explain how the universe generated more matter than antimatter. “The angst in the neutrino community is a lot lower than it was last time,” says Kate Scholberg, a neutrino physicist at Duke University. “The DUNE program will be going on at least into the 2030s.” However, researchers are already thinking of upgrades to the $2.6 billion experiment, she notes. In other areas, the future looks less certain. The last time around, for example, scientists had a pretty clear path forward in their search for particles of dark matter—the so-far-unidentified stuff that appears to pervade the galaxies and bind them with its gravity. Researchers had built small underground detectors that searched for the signal of weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs), the leading dark matter candidate, bumping into atomic nuclei. The obvious plan was to expand the detectors to the ton scale. Now, two multi-ton WIMP detectors are under construction. But so far WIMPs haven't shown up, and scaling up that technology further “is probably not going to work very well anymore,” says Marcelle Soares-Santos, a physicist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “So we need to think a little bit more out of the box.” Researchers are now contemplating a hunt for other types of dark matter particles, using new detectors that exploit quantum mechanical effects to achieve exquisite levels of sensitivity. A perennial question for the field is what the next great particle collider will be. The obvious need is for one that fires electrons into positrons to crank out copious Higgs bosons and study their properties in detail, says Meenakshi Narain, a physicist at Brown University. But possible designs vary. Physicists in Japan are discussing such a Higgs factory in the form of a 30-kilometer-long linear electron-positron collider. Meanwhile, CERN has begun a study of an 80- to 100-kilometer circular collider. China has plans for a similar circular collider. However, Vladimir Shiltsev, an accelerator physicist at Fermilab, says those aren't the only potential options. “The real picture is much murkier.” Snowmass organizers have received at least 16 different proposals for colliders, including one that would smash together muons—heavier, unstable cousins of electrons—and another that would use photons. Snowmass participants should consider all options, Shiltsev says. Joe Lykken, Fermilab's deputy director for research, suggests physicists could even push for DOE to support a massive experiment that has nothing to do with particles: a next-generation detector of gravitational waves, spacetime ripples set off when massive objects such as black holes collide. Their discovery in 2015 by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) opened a new window on the universe. LIGO consists of two L-shaped optical instruments with arms 4 kilometers long in Louisiana and Washington; it was built by the National Science Foundation. The next generation of ground-based detectors could be 10 times as big, and might better fit DOE, which specializes in scientific megaprojects, Lykken says. “It starts to sound like the kind of thing that the DOE would be interested in and maybe required for,” he says. During the coming year, Snowmass participants will air the more than 2000 ideas researchers have already proffered in two-page summaries. Then, a new P5 will formulate a new plan. Whatever ideas scientists come up with, to execute their new plan they'll have to maintain the harmony that in recent years has made their planning process an exemplar to other fields. “Being unified is the new norm for us,” quips Jim Siegrist, DOE's associate director for high energy physics. “So we have to continue to keep a lid on divisiveness and that'll be a challenge.” [1]: pending:yes


New $20 million center to bring artificial intelligence into the – IAM Network

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CU Boulder postdoctoral researcher Rosy Southwell and undergraduate student Cooper Steputis demonstrate the use of a functional near-infrared spectroscopy device, which can monitor brain activity. Such laboratory studies will compliment efforts that a university research team is launching in Colorado classrooms. That's the vision of a new $20 million research collaboration that will be led by the University of Colorado Boulder. The project is called the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) AI Institute for Student-AI Teaming. It will explore the role that artificial intelligence may play in the future of education and workforce development--especially in providing new learning opportunities for students from historically underrepresented populations in Colorado and beyond.


US awards more than $1B to establish 12 new AI and quantum science research institutes

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The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced more than $1 billion in awards for the establishment of 12 new artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum information science (QIS) research institutes nationwide. The $1 billion will go towards NSF-led AI Research Institutes and DOE QIS Research Centers over five years, establishing 12 multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional national hubs for research and workforce development in these critical emerging technologies. Together, the institutes will spur cutting edge innovation, support regional economic growth, and advance American leadership in these critical industries of the future. The National Science Foundation and additional Federal partners, including the US Department of Agriculture, are awarding $140 million for seven NSF-led AI Research Institutes over five years to accelerate a number of AI R&D areas, such as machine-learning, synthetic manufacturing, precision agriculture, and forecasting prediction. The NSF-led AI Research Institutes will be hosted by universities across the country, including at the University of Oklahoma at Norman, University of Texas at Austin, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of California at Davis, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


DOD Inks $32M HPC Deal with Liqid; Forms AI Partnership with DOE, Microsoft - insideHPC

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The Department of Defense has made HPC news twice in the last few days – in one, the Army will spend $32 million on supercomputing technology from composable infrastructure vendor Liqid; in the other, DOD will partner with the Department of Energy and Microsoft to develop AI algorithms to support natural disaster first responders. In the deal with Colorado-based Liqid, the Army has purchased two supercomputers to improve data analytics for organizations "across the military branches requesting such services," according to a story by Andrew Eversen in the online military publication C4ISRNET. The computers will be located at the Army Research Laboratory's DOD Supercomputing Resource Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, according DOD announcement earlier this month. The High Performance Computing Modernization Program, or HPCMP, provides advanced computing capabilities to the DOD's R&D community. "The primary customer base for the (HPCMP) has been the physics-based modeling, which are your weapons designers and that kind of stuff -- it's all based on physics effects," Matt Goss, director of the center, told C4ISRNET.


Artificial Intelligence Applications in Cardiology

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The No. 1 overarching hot topic at all the medical conferences over the past couple years has been artificial intelligence (AI). What was once science fiction or far-fetched research projects are now starting to gain U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) market clearance. Some AI elements are already being used without clinicians knowing it, being integrated into the backend of cardiology imaging systems and IT reporting systems to help speed workflow. However, beyond the hype of AI, there are practical concerns, including the need for validation, clinical evidence showing AI helps patient care, and the payment system based on how medicine did things 20-30 years ago needs to change. "We have a huge gap between all this AI investment and how we actually take care of patients. We need to integrate it into our care, because if it is not part of how we take care of patients, this isn't going to work," explained John Rumsfeld, M.D., Ph.D., FACC, American College Cardiology (ACC) chief innovation officer, and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.


Distorting science, putting water at risk

Science

The Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) ([ 1 ][1]), which was published in April by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (“the Agencies”), has redefined “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) to restrict federal protection of vulnerable waters ([ 2 ][2]). With its emphasis on “continuous surface connections” and “permanen[ce],” the NWPR removes or reduces protection for U.S. waters, including millions of miles of streams and acres of wetlands, many of which comprise headwaters that are critical for sustaining water quality and healthy watersheds ([ 3 ][3]) (see the figure). Although the Agencies claim to have “looked to scientific principles to inform” the NWPR, science has been largely ignored and oversimplified. These new exclusions are based on selective parsing of statutory language and earlier case law, rather than on previously established, science-based interpretations of the U.S. Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA) ([ 4 ][4]). The EPA's own Science Advisory Board (SAB) found sufficient evidence to conclude that “…the proposed Rule lacks a scientific justification, while potentially introducing new risks to human and environmental health” ([ 5 ][5]). Responding to this unprecedented distortion of science and rollback in water protections, which went into effect nationwide on 22 June, will require coordinated efforts among scientists, lawmakers, and resource managers. Clearly articulated in the CWA is the intention “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters” ([ 4 ][4]). The CWA was explicit in protecting “navigable waters,” which Congress defined broadly as WOTUS; however, the extent to which waters other than navigable rivers, lakes, and territorial seas [traditional navigable waters (TNWs)] are protected has repeatedly provoked legal skirmishing. Particularly contentious are determinations about which nontraditional waters, such as wetlands and small tributary streams, contribute to the integrity of TNWs. The NWPR functionally ends the debate by elevating state over federal regulatory authority. Without federal law as a protective regulatory floor, states can and often do choose to leave waterbodies unprotected, making waters vulnerable to unregulated pollution, dredging, filling, and other activities that may profoundly erode water quality ([ 3 ][3]). The NWPR downplays science by redefining protected “waters” and explicitly states that “science cannot dictate where to draw the line between Federal and State waters.” The NWPR relies overwhelmingly (and arguably arbitrarily) upon the 2006 Supreme Court opinion by Justice Scalia in Rapanos v. United States, Carabell v. United States Army Corps of Engineers that lacked majority support. A more scientifically nuanced position was articulated by Justice Kennedy on the same case; the four dissenting Justices agreed with Kennedy's rationales for protecting waters, but would have protected even more. The realized impacts are likely to be worse than projected, as ephemeral streams and nonfloodplain wetlands are usually underestimated by remotely sensed data ([ 3 ][3]). The economic analysis filed with the NWPR was largely silent about impacts, simply acknowledging that “the [A]gencies are unable to quantify [the scope] of these changes with any reliable accuracy” owing to geospatial data issues and uncertainty about government responses ([ 6 ][6]). Yet, in spite of this uncertainty and the potential for harm, the Agencies proceeded with a restrictive and risky rule. Connectivity is a cornerstone in understanding how freshwater ecosystem functions are sustained. In 2015, the Obama administration promulgated the Clean Water Rule (CWR) that included all tributaries and most wetlands as WOTUS ([ 7 ][7]). The scientific rationale for the CWR was reviewed in the EPA Connectivity Report ([ 8 ][8]), which synthesized >1200 peer-reviewed scientific publications and input from 49 technical experts. After a public review process, the 25-member EPA SAB confirmed the scientific underpinnings of both the Connectivity Report and the CWR. Since then, the body of supporting evidence has grown ([ 3 ][3], [ 9 ][9]), enhancing our understanding of how the integrity of freshwater ecosystems within a watershed relates to the biological, chemical, and hydrological connectivity among waterbodies, including wetlands and ephemeral streams. This understanding recognizes as critical to services derived from freshwater ecosystems gradients of connectivity (versus a binary property: connected, not connected) that operate as a function of frequency, magnitude, timing, and duration of biological, chemical, and physical connections among waterbodies ([ 10 ][10]). By disregarding or misinterpreting the science of waterbody connectivity, the NWPR draws scientifically unsupported boundaries to distinguish WOTUS, reaches conclusions contrary to current science, and asserts legal and scientific views substantially different from those of the Agencies under previous administrations of both political parties going back to the 1970s. The NWPR promotes regulations contrary to what science shows about effective water protection. Although agencies often have latitude to adjust regulatory choices when implementing longstanding statutes, they cannot do so arbitrarily and without reasoned justification and rationales in light of relevant law, facts, and science. In contrast to the CWR's recognition of biological, chemical, and physical connectivity, the NWPR relies solely on direct hydrologic surface connectivity to determine wetland jurisdiction. Nonfloodplain wetlands and ephemeral streams are categorically excluded on the basis of lack of hydrological connectivity irrespective of their degree of biological or chemical connectivity. Also excluded are floodplain wetlands lacking a direct surface water connection to TNWs “in a typical year,” and intermittent tributaries lacking relatively permanent surface flows. Such exclusions are inconsistent with evidence demonstrating that these waters are functionally connected to and support the integrity of downstream waters. Removal of federal protection is likely to diminish numerous ecosystem services, such as safeguarding water quality and quantity, reducing or mitigating flood risk, conserving biodiversity, and maintaining recreationally and commercially valuable fisheries ([ 3 ][3]). Just as tiny capillaries play critical roles in the human body, nonfloodplain wetlands (so-called “isolated”) and ephemeral streams (that flow only after precipitation events) support an extensive suite of ecosystem services. Because nonfloodplain wetlands and ephemeral streams are connected to one another and downstream waters along a gradient of connectivity, they also provide substantial cumulative or aggregate ecosystem services ([ 10 ][10]). Because these wetlands and streams will summarily lose federal protection, they will be vulnerable to outright destruction, fill, or unpermitted industrial pollution discharges that risk transporting pollutants throughout watersheds. Losses of nonfloodplain wetlands could include particularly vulnerable and often valuable waters ([ 2 ][2]), including some playa lakes, prairie potholes, Carolina and Delmarva Bays, pocosins, and vernal pools. A preliminary analysis predicts widespread losses of wetland functions, with particularly high impacts on wetlands in arid and semi-arid regions. For example, the CWR protected 72%, whereas the NWPR will only protect 28% of wetland acres, in New Mexico's Río Peñasco watershed ([ 11 ][11]). The NWPR also categorically excludes subsurface hydrologic connectivity. To disregard groundwater connectivity is to disregard the scientific understanding of how natural waters function. The Agencies justify this exclusion by claiming that “A groundwater or subsurface connection could also be confusing and difficult to implement.” Although implementation may be challenging in some cases, claimed implementation ease under the NWPR should not supersede an evidence-based determination of connectivity given the potential for economic and environmental harm. The NWPR directly conflicts with a growing body of scientific evidence and with input and review by federal and nonfederal scientists. The rule narrows WOTUS in ways that are inconsistent with longstanding views about the CWA's mandate to safeguard access to clean water. The NWPR opens previously protected waters to filling, impairment, and industrial pollution, and will undermine decades of investments restoring water quality across the United States and lead to profound loss or impairment of ecosystems and the services they provide. For context, the economic value of ecosystem services provisioned by nonfloodplain wetlands alone has been estimated at $673 billion per year ([ 2 ][2]). Congress has the power to strengthen the CWA by enacting new legislation to replace or repeal the NWPR. Future administrations can reassess and act to restore protections through new rulemaking, without the need for new legislation. Toward these ends, the scientific community has already spoken on the matter, proposing three frameworks for the development of renewed protections based on sound scientific merits ([ 2 ][2]). Meanwhile, litigation may present challenges to and perhaps enjoin implementation of the NWPR. The April 2020 County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund may help. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an argument that would have eliminated federal CWA protections. The Court instead called for a functional and context-sensitive analysis of the disputed activities and their effects to determine federal jurisdiction over intentional pollution discharges into groundwater that predictably flows into WOTUS. In that 6 to 3 decision, the Court laid out a clear scientific basis for closing a loophole in the CWA, affirming for the first time that pollutants that travel through groundwater and then emerge into surface waters are in fact covered by the CWA. ![Figure][12] Protected versus unprotected waters Multiple waterbody types were initially under consideration for protection as “waters of the United States” under the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. Ephemeral streams flow only after precipitation events, intermittent streams flow periodically or seasonally, and perennial streams flow continuously. There are many types of nonfloodplain, or “isolated” wetlands, including prairie potholes and vernal pools, as illustrated here. GRAPHIC: MELISSA THOMAS BAUM/ SCIENCE Redoubled research efforts also can help address knowledge gaps critical for effective water policy. Quantifying the potential “harm” to clean water that will be caused by the NWPR is critical for both litigation and future rulemaking. Thus, the scientific community will be challenged to further demonstrate the consequences of changes to physical, chemical, and biological connectivity on water quality—especially in the context of nonperennial streams and nonfloodplain wetlands. Research-based evidence on the impacts of climate change were notably absent in the NWPR and will also be critical in challenging the rule. Under current human-use and water-management schemes, many stream flows are declining, such that intermittent and perennial streams are increasingly being replaced with ephemeral streams that will lose protection. For example, the Upper Kansas River Basin lost 558 km (21%) of stream length between 1950 and 1980, presumably as a result of groundwater pumping exacerbated by climate change, with a cumulative loss of 844 km (32%) predicted by 2060 ([ 12 ][13]). Reduced mountain snowpack and increased evaporation have been implicated in the ∼20% decline in the Colorado River's mean annual flow in comparison to the previous century; the Upper Colorado River basin supplies water to around 40 million people and supports ∼16 million jobs ([ 13 ][14]). Adoption of the NWPR is an indicator that the federal government is at least in part shedding the use of science and responsibility for water protection. Additional federal rollbacks of environmental protection, such as the Update to the Regulations Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, a rule finalized on 15 July, could create a perfect storm for exploitation of water resources. Although federal statutes grant latitude to state, tribal, and local governments to provide additional, more protective regulation, many states do not do so, and many even prohibit regulations more stringent than federally required ([ 2 ][2], [ 14 ][15]). Thus, absent federal protections, many waterbodies will go unprotected. If the NWPR remains in place, local and grassroots approaches to water conservation, including watershed councils and coalitions, information and educational plans to reduce pollution, and university extension programs, will need to further mobilize to fill the vacuum created by the new rule. Such efforts would require additional resources and heightened stakeholder coordination. 1. [↵][16]U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Defense, Department of the Army, Corps of Engineers, The Navigable Waters Protection Rule: Definition of “Waters of the United States,” 85 Fed. Reg. 22250 (A2020). 2. [↵][17]1. I. F. Creed et al ., Nat. Geosci. 10, 809 (2017). [OpenUrl][18] 3. [↵][19]1. S. A R. Colvin et al ., Fisheries (Bethesda, MD) 44, 73 (2019). [OpenUrl][20][GeoRef][21] 4. [↵][22]Federal Water Pollution Control Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq., Sec. 101, p. 3 (1972). 5. [↵][23]U.S. EPA, Letter to Andrew Wheeler, 27 February 2020, SAB commentary on the proposed rule defining the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act, EPA-SAB-20-002 (Environmental Protection Agency, 2020). 6. [↵][24]U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Army, Economic analysis for the Navigable Waters Protection Rule: Definition of “Waters of the United States” (EPA, 2020). 7. [↵][25]U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Defense, Department of the Army, Corps of Engineers, Clean Water Rule: Definition of “Waters of the United States” 80 Fed. Reg. 37054 (EPA, 2015). 8. [↵][26]U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Connectivity of streams and wetlands to downstream waters: a review and synthesis of the scientific evidence technical report, EPA/600/R-14/475F (EPA, 2015). 9. [↵][27]1. S. M. P. Sullivan, 2. M. C. Rains, 3. A. D. Rodewald , Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 116, 11558 (2019). [OpenUrl][28][FREE Full Text][29] 10. [↵][30]U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Letter to Gina McCarthy, 17 October 2014. SAB review of the draft EPA report Connectivity of streams and wetlands to downstream waters: A review and synthesis of the scientific evidence (EPA, 2014). 11. [↵][31]1. R. Meyer, 2. A. Robertson , Navigable Waters Protection Rule spatial analysis: A GIS based scenario model for comparative analysis of the potential spatial extent of jurisdictional and non-jurisdictional waters and wetlands (Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, Winona, MN, 2020). 12. [↵][32]1. J. S. Perkin et al ., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 114, 7373 (2017). [OpenUrl][33][Abstract/FREE Full Text][34] 13. [↵][35]1. P. C. D. Milly, 2. K. A. Dunne , Science 367, 1252 (2020). [OpenUrl][36][Abstract/FREE Full Text][37] 14. [↵][38]State constraints: State-imposed limitations on the authority of agencies to regulate waters beyond the scope of the federal Clean Water Act (Environmental Law Institute, 2013). Acknowledgments: We thank the many individuals who contributed to previous and related documents concerning the proposed replacement rule that helped inform this paper, including letters to the Federal Register (Docket ID No. EPAHQ-OW-2018-0149) and Public Input on the SAB Commentary on the Proposed Rule Defining the Scope of Waters Federally Regulated under the Clean Water Act (84 FR 4154). We also thank L. Poff, W. Kleindl, and three anonymous reviewers for their critiques and suggestions in earlier drafts. R. B. Keast and S.M.P.S. developed the figure. S.M.P.S. is currently providing advisory and expert consulting services to ongoing litigation regarding the NWPR. 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Colorado State University Global Launches Fully Online Artificial Intelligence and Machine …

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This new degree program will allow students to gain a detailed understanding of software development, artificial intelligence, and machine learning …


Global exam grading algorithm under fire for suspected bias - Reuters

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NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Colorado high school student Isabel Castaneda checked her final grades for the International Baccalaureate program in July, she was shocked. Despite being one of the top-ranking students in her public school, she failed a number of courses -- including high-level Spanish, her native language. The International Baccalaureate (IB) program - a global standard of educational testing that also allows U.S. high-school students to obtain college credit - cancelled its exams in May, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of sitting final exams, which usually account for the majority of students' scores, students were assigned their marks based on a mathematical "awarding model", as described by the IB program. "I come from a low-income family - and my entire last two years were driven by the goal of getting as many college credits as I could to save money on school," Castaneda said in a phone interview.


Courses bring field sites and labs to the small screen

Science

> Science's COVID-19 coverage is supported by the Pulitzer Center. In a normal summer, Appledore Island, a 39-hectare outcrop 12 kilometers off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire, becomes a classroom. Students from high school to graduate level live in close quarters, eat in a communal dining hall, and work shoulder to shoulder to explore the biology of the shore and waters in 18 courses organized by the Shoals Marine Laboratory. But this summer, with the pandemic surging, students have stayed home. Instead, a skeleton staff on Appledore is streaming field trips and dissections of fish and invertebrates and setting up cameras to gather data for students. Rather than leading students around the island, coastal restoration ecologist Gregg Moore from the University of New Hampshire (UNH), Durham, hauls a backpack full of equipment: “a dual modem with two different cellular carriers, a signal-boosting directional antenna, and a large DC power source,” he says. The equipment allows him to teach 12 remote students—twice the course's usual enrollment—basic techniques of coastal ecology. Moore's is just one of hundreds of lab and field courses forced online by COVID-19—“a seismic shift for those who were not already involved in distance or online education,” says Martin Storksdieck, a science education researcher at Oregon State University, Corvallis. Some researchers worry students will miss out on certain practical and problem-solving skills and won't be able to judge whether the hands-on work of a scientist is a good fit for them. But instructors are developing high-tech ways to simulate the field and lab experiences. “I would say [these courses] are not virtual,” says Jennifer Seavey, director of the Shoals lab. “They are real.” And some advantages are emerging. By lowering geographical and financial barriers, Seavey says, “Virtual field courses are democratizing fieldwork.” The shift has taken ingenuity. “Professors must get creative and use a combination of what is available,” including online videos and free or commercially available online labs, says Mildred Pointer, a physiologist at Howard University who is working on a fall course in general biology. No single tool meets all their needs, Pointer says. As the pandemic gained momentum, emails flew among the leaders of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. Many U.S. geology majors must take a “capstone” field course to graduate. The cancellation of more than three-quarters of these courses jeopardized graduation for many majors. So the association invited instructors to develop learning objectives that did not depend on students doing fieldwork. It also compiled online exercises to help the 29 field courses that have moved online this summer. Lessons range from “Orienteering in Minecraft” to “Geology of Yosemite Valley,” which includes a 43-stop Google Earth tour with photos and embedded text. Like Moore, geoscientist Jim Handschy wanted to give remote students “as close to the real experience as possible.” He runs Indiana University's Judson Mead Geologic Field Station in Montana, which had enrolled 60 students before classes were canceled in March. He and a few instructors visited each outcrop in their course plan, filmed the rocks and landscape, and captured magnified views of samples. Each week, the class delves deeper into the rock layers and their history. For their final project, students digitally map a 3100-hectare landscape. Shannon Dulin, a geologist at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, who just finished teaching a field course, sees the value of learning how to survey a landscape without setting foot on it. On their class evaluations, her students said they gained unexpected skills. “And these are skills they are going to need on the job,” she adds, as geologists are increasingly being asked to evaluate sites they don't visit. In other fields, hands-on learning takes place in labs. Typically, students work in pairs and share equipment, “so there are a lot of issues about virus transmission,” says Heather Lewandowski, a physicist at the University of Colorado (CU), Boulder. At her university this fall, lab exercises as diverse as building an electrical circuit or analyzing solar flare data will most likely be completely remote. Luckily, physics already had a foot in the virtual lab world—especially at CU. There, back in 2002, Nobel laureate Carl Wieman developed the Physics Education Technology (PhET) Interactive Simulations project to provide “games” that teach students basic physics concepts. The PhET web portal now has 106 physics-based simulations and another 50 or so for other disciplines. It became a go-to place this spring for faculty shifting to online teaching; traffic increased fivefold, says Director Katherine Perkins. In addition, several universities have adopted a handheld device called the iOLab that rents for $50 a semester. With it, students can measure magnetism, light intensity, acceleration, temperature, gravity, and atmospheric pressure, and do basic physics experiments at home. “They like that we trust them and are not just giving them instructions,” says iOLab inventor and physicist Mats Selen at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Lewandowski and her colleagues surveyed physics instructors and students about their experiences and posted their findings on arXiv, the physics preprint server, on 2 July. Respondents said online labs work best when projects are open-ended, and online class meetings are kept small. They complained about technical difficulties, students having unequal access to the internet and materials, and longer prep times for both students and instructors. But they reported they could meet most key learning objectives, Lewandowski says, even though “there are lots of things we can't replicate in remote experiments,” such as such as building vacuum chambers or troubleshooting equipment. Some institutions decided this spring that virtual just wouldn't do. The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, simply canceled its summer courses. “MBL courses are world-renowned for the intensity of the hands-on nature of the lab work,” says Director Nipam Patel. Students spend long hours with famous faculty and do their own projects using organisms collected locally. “We felt that it would be exceedingly difficult to replicate these experiences as a virtual lab course.” Other institutions will try for a mix of in-person and virtual labs. Suely Black, chemistry chair at Norfolk State University, expects only half of his students will be in lab each week this fall, while the other half will be in online classes analyzing data and writing reports. “The crisis has caused us to more critically evaluate what activities students must experience in the lab setting,” he says. Similarly, this fall, organic chemistry students at the University of Michigan (UM), Ann Arbor, will rotate into the lab in small groups, giving each a taste of the hands-on experience. Personal protection equipment is standard for this course and all the work is done in hoods with excellent air exchange, so “they are really fully protected,” says UM biochemist Kathleen Nolta. Storksdieck, an advocate of online learning, questions the value of smelling fumes or using a pipette. “We have to ask whether all the hands-on taught so far was all that great,” he says. Dominique Durand, a biomedical engineer at Case Western Reserve University, says after he put a master's program in biomedical engineering completely online 5 years ago, he concluded that solving problems was more important than hands-on experience. And University of California, Santa Cruz, ecologist Erika Zavaleta thinks virtual courses will open fieldwork to far more students. “There are things you can do online that you can't do in person,” she adds, such as visiting more places than possible by driving. Even so, Handschy laments that his geology students will not have the 12-hour-a-day immersive interactions with each other and faculty that past classes have had. Natalie White, a rising junior at UNH who took Moore's course on Appledore last year, agrees: “You don't have all the time in between when you walk around the island and can ask impromptu questions.” Appledore Island is the source of some her fondest memories. “I think they are missing out on the community.”