Yael Wyner

Associate Professor, Science Education Program Director


North Academic Center





Yael Wyner

Yael Wyner


Yael Wyner’s research interests center on how students connect human action and their own daily lives to the living world. Currently, she is studying what students think about the plants they pass daily and the connections they make between extinction and natural selection. She is also writing an introductory college level environmental science textbook. Prior to this work, in partnership with the American Museum Natural History, Professor Wyner developed with NSF funding Ecology Disrupted, an educational approach for linking daily life to environmental issues and sustainability. In another NSF funded project, Unifying Life, she studied how middle school students learn the patterns of evolution through close observation of the trees that they pass daily. With colleagues, she also launched a new undergraduate program called Science Learning & Public Engagement, to prepare students for science outreach and education positions at museums, environmental non-profits and community-based organizations.

To find out more about the Science Learning and Public Engagement program visit: https://education.ccny.cuny.edu/publicscience
To access the Ecology Disrupted curriculum visit: https://www.amnh.org/learn-teach/curriculum-collections/ecology-disrupted
To access the Unifying Life curriculum visit: https://www.ccny.cuny.edu/education/unifying_life_site




Before coming to City College in September 2008, Yael Wyner taught ecology, biology, and conservation biology courses to middle and high school students for seven years at Hunter College High School, a public school for gifted learners in New York City. Prior to entering the field of formal education, Yael Wyner served as Content Coordinator on The Genomic Revolution (2001), an American Museum of Natural History exhibit about the scientific and societal implications of new advances in genomic technology. Yael completed her Ph.D. in Biology at New York University and the American Museum of Natural History in 2000. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on brown lemur and black and white ruffed lemur conservation genetics. In 1994, Yael received a B.S. from Yale University with Distinction in Biology.

Courses Taught

Graduate Courses: 
BIO 7100e: Modern Concepts in Biology I
BIO 7200e: Modern Concepts in Biology II
BIO 6100e: Ecology Disrupted: Sustainability and Human Environmental Impact
SCIE 4101e: Life Science for Middle School Teachers I
SCIE 4102e: Life Science for Middle School Teachers II
SCIE 4103e: Science Across Contexts
SCIE 7300e: Laboratory and Demonstration Techniques in the Biological Sciences
EDSE 7202i: Masters Project in Science Education
SUS 7200: Sustainable Terrestrial, Aquatic, and Atmospheric Systems 

Undergraduate Courses: 
SCI12500: Principles of Life Science
SCI 12600: Principles of Environmental Science
FIQWS 10008: Environmental Issues

Research Interests

Drawing from my initial training as a conservation biologist and my work in formal and informal learning environments, my research seeks to understand and improve student learning of ecology and evolution. Evolutionary biology’s historical lens is at the core of all my research.

Project 1: The Panda Paradox: Distinguishing Extinction from Natural Selection
This ongoing project documents undergraduate biology student confusion between extinction and natural selection. I am exploring why students do not differentiate extinction from natural selection and the best approaches for helping students understand how these concepts are different from one another. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29VRyirMdiw&feature=youtu.be

Project 2: Environment Disrupted: An interactive data driven approach to connect daily life and environmental issues to ecology
Along with Rob DeSalle, I am writing an introductory college level environmental science textbook that explores the relationship between daily life and present-day ecosystems as products of their evolutionary past.  

Project 3: Unifying Life: Placing urban tree diversity into an evolutionary context
Through this NSF funded project, I developed a curriculum to immerse New York City middle school students in local tree biodiversity and the patterns of evolution. Results from Unifying Life studies show little prior student knowledge of street trees and the utility of scientific practice for learning disciplinary core ideas. Currently, I am exploring student dispositions towards learning about trees. For a video about this work visit: https://www.ccny.cuny.edu/education/unifying_life_site

Project 4:  Ecology Disrupted
An NSF funded project with the American Museum of Natural History, Ecology Disrupted links students’ daily life to ecological function by framing present-day ecosystems as products of their evolutionary past. Research on learning related to Ecology Disrupted shows that students and teachers do not see how their own daily lives connect to ecosystems.
Website:  https://www.amnh.org/learn-teach/curriculum-collections/ecology-disrupted


Refereed Articles

In Press         Wyner, Y., DeSalle, R. (In Press). Content analysis of environmental science textbooks for how they link the environment to ecology and daily life. CBE-Life Sciences.

2020               Wyner, Y., DeSalle, R. (2020). Distinguishing extinction and natural selection in the Anthropocene: Preventing the Panda Paradox through practical education measures. Bioessays, 42 (2) 1900206.

2019                Wyner, Y., Doherty, J. (2019) Seeing the trees: What urban middle school students notice about the street trees that surround them. Journal of Biological Education, DOI: 10.1080/00219266.2019.1667407

2018                Wyner, Y., Blatt, E. (2018). Connecting ecology to daily life: How students and teachers relate food webs to the food they eat. Journal of Biological Education. DOI: 10.1080/00219266.2018.1447005

2017                Wyner, Y., Doherty, J. (2017). Developing a learning progression for three-dimensional learning of the patterns of evolution. Science Education. 101(5),787-817. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21289 

2016                Wyner, Y. (2016). Using local street trees to teach the concept of common ancestry. Science Scope, 39(6), 19-26. 

2015                Steinberg, R., Wyner, Y., Borman, G., Salame, I. (2015). Targeted courses in inquiry science for future elementary school teachers. Journal of College Science Teaching, 44, 48-53.

2014                Wyner, Y., Becker, J., Torff, B. (2014). Explicitly linking human impact to ecological function in secondary school classrooms. American Biology Teacher. 76 (8), 508-515.

2013                Wyner, Y. (2013). A case study: Using authentic scientific data for the teaching  and learning of ecology. The Journal of College Science Teaching 42 (5).

2013                Wyner, Y. (2013). A conceptual model for teaching the relationship of daily life and human environmental impact to ecological function. International Journal of Environmental & Science Education, 8 (4), 561-586.   

2013                Wyner, Y., and DeSalle, R. (2013).  Bringing science out of the clouds. Genewatch 26, 30-31.

2013                Wyner, Y. (2013). The impact of a data and media centered professional development project on secondary biology teachers’ practice. The Journal of Science Teacher Education. 24(5), 833-857.  DOI 10.1007/s10972-013-9335-2

2012                Wyner, Y. and Berkov, A. (2012). The impact of an extended outdoor residential workshop on urban students’ learning and appreciation of biodiversity. Cities and the Environment. 5(1).

2012                Wyner, Y. (2012). What’s missing? Finding the hidden environmental story in everyday news. The Science Teacher, 79(3) 55-59.

2011                Koch, J. and Wyner, Y. (2011). Ecology Disrupted: Using authentic data to teach secondary science. Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Education, Economy & Society, Paris 20-23, July 2011, 2nd Edition. pg. 369-375.

2010                Wyner, Y. and R. DeSalle Taking the conservation biology perspective to secondary school classrooms. Conservation Biology, 24, 649–654. 


Book Chapters

2015                Wyner, Y.  (2015). Ecology disrupted: Using sustainability as a unifying principle for an environmental science course, in Educating Science Teachers for Sustainability. Stratton, S., Hagevik, R., Feldman, A., and Bloom, M. eds.

2014                Wyner, Y.  (2014). Ecology Disputed: A model approach to STEM education that brings ecology, daily life impact, and scientific evidence together in secondary school science classrooms, in The National Science Teachers Association Exemplary Science Program Series(ESP). R. Yager ed. NSTA Press, Arlington.

2013                Wyner, Y. (2013). Using authentic data to teach secondary ecology: a theory for teaching the nature of science in Irby, B.J., Lara-Alecio, R., eds, Handbook of Educational Theories. Information Age Publishing Inc., Charolotte.

2012                Koch, J., Wyner, Y. (2012). Using authentic scientific studies to advance science teacher education and secondary science teaching and learning in the field of ecology: The role of diverse stakeholders in science education, in B. Boufoy-Bastick ed., Cultures of Teacher Education, Strasbourg, France: Analytrics


2019                PI, Building a CCNY partnership for experiential learning with science cultural institutions and community-based organizations. Course Innovation Grant, CCNY Campus Engagement Network.The goals of this project are to develop a new internship course that is the centerpiece of a new undergraduate major in Science Learning and Public Engagement and to create an advisory panel with community partners and other CCNY faculty.

2012-2016       PI, Unifying Life: Placing urban tree diversity into an evolutionary context. NSF Discovery Research Grant, $450,000.  Developed curriculum for NYC public secondary school students (grade 6-8) to learn about local tree diversity. To access details from Discovery Magazine Citizen Science Blog: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/citizen-science-salon/2014/04/11/leafsnap/#.XF2U_c9KhE5

2009-2014       Lead PI, collaborative grant between the American Museum of Natural History and the City College of New York, “Ecology Disrupted: Using real scientific data to link daily life and environmental issues to ecological principles in secondary school classrooms.” NSF Discovery Research Grant. $997,511.  Developed curriculum for secondary school and college students to learn about environmental issues. Tested in the classrooms of over 70 NYC public school teachers. Use curricular model in college and graduate courses.

2012-2017       Co-PI, The Phase 1 Robert Noyce Scholarship Program at CCNY: Expanding the Teacher Academy program for STEM education in urban schools. $1,196,723. A program to support undergraduate secondary science majors as they prepare to teach in New York City schools.

2011-2012     City Seeds Interdisciplinary Grant from CCNY, Co-PI Identifying Life: Putting Climate Change in Context.  $49,650. Co-PIs, Amy Berkov, Assistant Professor, Biology and Gregory Borman, Lecturer, Secondary Education, City College of New York.  

2010                Engaged Department Initiative for Secondary Education, Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies, City College of New York, Co-PI. To bring service learning to department courses. Co –PIs, Shira Epstein, Edwin Lamboy, Andrew Ratner, Despina, Stylianou

2010                Faculty Fellowship Publication Program 

2009                PSC-CUNY, Measuring the Interdisciplinary Success of High School Environmental Science Textbooks                                         

2007-2009       NSF Discovery Research Grant, Co-PI Ecology Disrupted  $199,939, PI, Steve Gano, Director of Technology, National Center for Science Literacy, Education and Technology and Co-PI Rob DeSalle, Curator Invertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History

2002-2007       Hunter College High School PTA grants (3 grants total over $10,000)

1999-2000       NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant

1999-2000      MacCracken Fellowship, NYU (Full stipend and tuition support)  

1998                New York University Summer Predoctoral Research Fellowship

1996-1999       NSF Predoctoral Research Fellowship (Full stipend and tuition support)

1995-1996       MacCracken Fellowship, NYU (Full stipend and tuition support)