My primary objectives as a teacher are to enhance the ability of my students to understand the scientific process and to think critically and creatively about science. I believe that it is more important for students to know how to critique a scientific theory, analyze data, and design a scientific experiment than it is for them to memorize the contents of a textbook. In addition to presenting the basic principles and theories for a given subject, I also design in-class activities, assignments, and field trips that develop students’ abilities to critique, synthesize, and communicate about science.
These are some of the courses I teach:
Genetics, Evolution, and Ecology (Bio103) – How do you build an organism? Genes, obviously, are the blueprint – but that is just the beginning. How is the language of DNA translated into the instructions to make the phenotypes we see expressed in an organism? How are these instructions passed on? How do genes in a population change over the generations? And finally, how do organisms interact with each other and with their environment? These profound topics are the subject of Bio103. A running theme through the course is biodiversity – where did it come from, how is it maintained, and how do human activities threaten it?
Introduction to Environmental Studies (ENS100) discusses the impacts that human activities are having on natural systems such as air, water and species diversity. It covers a diverse range of topics including ecology, engineering, public policy, and ethics. The central theme of the course is that human activities are dramatically influencing such processes as atmospheric chemistry, land cover, and the rate of extinctions.
Plant Ecology (Bio324) introduces students to major conceptual issues and areas of current research in plant ecology. We focus on the factors that affect the distribution and abundance of plant species. The availability of water or nutrients, interactions with neighboring plants or animals, and the frequency of disturbances such as a fire may all interact to influence what vegetation we see in an area, and in what proportions. Examining the many possible influences on each species is the subject of this course. We also relate current ecological research to such environmental issues as climate change, exotic species invasions, and the conservation of rare species.
Advanced Topics in Ecology (Bio329) is a discussion-oriented seminar course that considers the ecological importance of disturbances. The class also discusses the emerging paradigm of “novel ecosystems” – the concept that ecosystems that have been altered by human activities have value for conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem function.