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Yael Wyner

Faculty and Staff Profiles

Yael Wyner

Associate Professor

Education Program
North Academic Center
Phone Number: 
Yael Wyner

Dr. Yael Wyner is currently working on two major research projects. In the first project called Unifying Life: Placing urban trees into an evolutionary context (NSF DRK-12 grant # 1221188), she is developing and testing curricular resources built around Leafsnap, an iPhone plant identification app that appeals to today's technologically advanced students. The project's goal is to study and enhance urban middle school students' interest and engagement with local biodiversity and the patterns of evolution.  In the second project, Ecology Disrupted (NSF DRK-12 grant # #0918629), a collaboration between City College of New York and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), she is investigating an innovative approach for bringing up to date scientific research and environmental issues into the ecology classroom. The project uses media produced by the AMNH and published scientific data on every day environmental issues to link the daily lives of students to the ecology of their surroundings.

For more information go to:

To see the Ecology Disrupted curriculum go to:


Before coming to CCNY in 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, Dr. Wyner served as Content Coordinator on The Genomic Revolution (2001), an American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) 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 0100e: Modern Concepts in Biology I Bio 0200e: Modern Concepts in Biology II Sci 4100e: The Nature of Scientific Knowledge EDSE 0200i Masters in Secondary Science Education SUS 7200: Sustainable Terrestrial, Aquatic, and Atmospheric Systems; Bio 6100E: Human Ecology

Undergraduate Course: Science 31492: Principles of Life Science

Research Interests

Yael Wyner's research focuses on the ways in which ecological function connect to everyday life in secondary science classrooms. Currently, she is developing and testing a curriculum that seeks to contextualize ecological function in environmental issues and daily life.  She is also designing curriculum to learn how best to immerse urban students in local biodiversity and patterns of evolution.

Her two major projects are:

Title: Unifying Life: Placing Urban Tree Diversity in an Evolutionary Context

Supporting faculty (PI, Co PI, etc. with email): PI, Yael Wyner (, CCNY; Co-PIs, Jennifer Doherty, Michigan State; David Jacobs, University of Maryland; John Kress, Smithsonian Institute, Peter Belhumeur, Columbia University

Abstract: In this three-year exploratory project we are developing and testing curricular resources built around Leafsnap, an iPhone plant identification app that appeals to today's technologically advanced students. The project's goal is to study and enhance urban middle school students' interest and engagement with local biodiversity and the patterns of evolution.  By making ever-present, but unobserved plants recognizable to urban students, we seek to transform the way they interact with the diversity of life that is just outside their front door. Furthermore, we seek to help students understand one of Darwin's big ideas, that all of life is related through common ancestry. With these aims in mind, we posed the following research question: In what ways can curricular resources built around Leafsnap (an iPhone plant identification app) improve urban middle-school student learning of local biodiversity and evolution? We hypothesize that these curricular resources will help students to recognize, organize, contextualize, and appreciate urban tree diversity in an evolutionary framework. To look more closely at this hypothesis, we are: 1) developing (through a co-design process) curricular resources for the Leafsnap app to be used in the classrooms of three New York City middle school teachers; 2) developing and revising written assessment and survey instruments, as well as student interview protocols to measure students' abilities to notice, organize, and explain tree diversity using an evolutionary framework and student appreciation of urban tree diversity; 3) field-testing curricular resources in the classrooms of ten New York City middle school teachers; and 4)  using these results to determine how these resources impact urban middle school student learning of biodiversity and evolutionary patterns. We will also use our results to modify curricular resources for online dissemination. Thus far, in the project's first year, we used the resources in two middle schools in East Harlem. In the project's second year, the resources will be used in the classrooms of ten New York City public middle school teachers. In the project's third year, we will integrate these resources into a life science course for teachers. Also, in the project's third year, we will disseminate the curricular resources through the Leafsnap website to a wider online audience.

Funding (if applicable): $450,000, NSF Discovery Research
Website(s): www.leafsnap.com

Title: Ecology Disrupted: Using real scientific data about daily life to link environmental issues to ecological processes in secondary school science classrooms

Supporting faculty (PI, Co PI, etc. with email): Lead PI- Yael Wyner (, CCNY; PI- Rosamond Kinsler, American Museum of Natural History; Co-PIs Jonathan Becker; Virginia Commonwealth University, Rob DeSalle, American Museum of Natural History

Abstract: We have refined and tested two case study units on contemporary issues in ecology for urban middle and high school students underserved in their connection to nature. The case studies are based on two Science Bulletins, digital media stories about current science produced by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), which use current scientific data to link ecological principles to real-world environmental issues, and to link issues to human daily life. One unit asks: "How might snowy and icy roads affect Baltimore's water supply?" The other asks: "How might being able to drive between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in just four hours put bighorn sheep at risk?" The units provide source material and real data for students to investigate these questions, video profiles of scientists that engage students in the science and the research, and the Museum Science Bulletins media for students to analyze and connect the questions to broader ecological principles and issues. We used these modules to research the following question: "Can curricular units that link environmental issues to ecological principles through analysis of real data from published research on the environmental impacts of familiar everyday activities improve student learning of ecological principles, personal and human environmental impacts and the nature of scientific activity?" Randomized control trials in the classrooms of 19 ninth grade NYC public school teachers were used to evaluate the efficacy of the modules.  Assessment items from New York State Regents exams were reviewed and new assessment items were developed, field tested, and analyzed for validity and reliability. Students in the experimental and control classrooms were pre- and post-tested using the assessments.  In addition, teachers completed pre-post surveys, and stratified samples of teachers were observed and interviewed. Analyses indicate that treatment students showed significantly higher gains than control students on learning of ecological principles and human impact. We developed a summative module on oyster harvesting in the Chesapeake Bay. All the curricular resources are being disseminated online through the website of the American Museum of Natural History. Currently, we are developing a compendium of Ecology Disrupted case studies to distribute as an environmental science workbook.
Funding (if applicable): $997,511, NSF Discovery Research



Book Chapters

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

Koch, J. and Y. Wyner (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

Nishiguchi,, M., P. Doukakis, M. Egan, P. Goldstein, D. Kizirian, A. Phillips, L. Prendini, H. Rosenbaum, E. Torres, Y. Wyner, R. DeSalle, P. Planet, M. Rusello, T. Hadrys, and G. Giribet (2001) DNA isolation procedures in Molecular Systematics and Evolution: Theory and Practice. DeSalle, R., G. Giribet and W. Wheeler eds. Birkhauser Verlag AG, Boston.

Refereed Journals

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

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

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. DOI 10.1007/s10972-013-9335-2

Wyner, Y. (In Press). A conceptual model for teaching the relationship of daily life and human environmental impact to ecological function.International Journal of Environmental and Science Education.

Wyner, Y. and Berkov, A. (2012) The Impact of an Extended Outdoor Residential Workshop on Urban Students' Learning and Appreciation of BiodiversityCities and the Environment. 5(1).

Wyner, Y.(2012) What's missing? Finding the hidden environmental story in everyday news. The Science Teacher, 79(3) 55-59. (National Science Teachers Association peer-reviewed journal for high school science teachers. The circulation is approximately 26,000 with a pass along readership almost 3 times that number.)

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. 

Wyner, Y. and DeSalle, R.(2010) Taking the Conservation Biology Perspective to Secondary School Classrooms. Conservation Biology, 24, 649–654. DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01478.

Wyner, Y. (2010) Disrupted food webs: Exploring the relationship between overfishing and dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay. Science Scope33(7):78-85. (National Science Teachers Association peer-reviewed journal for middle and junior high level science teachers. The circulation is approximately 18,000, with a pass-along readership of 2.5 times that number.)

Goldstein, P. Y. Wyner, P. Doukakis, M.G. Egan, G. Amato, H. Rosenbaum, and R. DeSalle (2005) Theory and methods for diagnosing species and populations in conservation, Annals of Missouri Botanical Gardens 92:12-27.

Wyner, Y.,S. Johnson, R Stumpf and R. DeSalle (2002) An assessment of a brown lemur hybrid zone at Andringitra, Madagascar. American Journal of Primatology, 57:51-66.

Johnson, S, Y. Wyner(2000) Notes on the biogeography of Eulemur fulvusalbocollarisLemur News 5: 25–28.

Wyner, Y. , R. DeSalle, and R. Absher (2000)Phylogeny and character behavior in the family Lemuridae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 15:124-134.

Wyner, Y., R. Absher, G. Amato, E. Sterling, R. Stumpf, Y. Rumpler, & R. DeSalle (1999) Species concepts and the determination of historic gene flow patterns in the Eulemur fulvus (brown lemur) complex.Biol. J. Lin. Soc. 66:39-56.

Wyner, Y., G. Amato, and R. DeSalle; Captive breeding, reintroduction, and the conservation genetics of black and white ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegatevariegataMolecular Ecology 8:S12:107-116.


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