I am deeply committed to teaching at both undergraduate and graduate levels. When teaching, my main goal is to create a learning environment that develops critical thinking skills and an appreciation for the key conceptual issues present in ecology and evolutionary biology. I also strive to cultivate an appreciation and awareness for biological diversity (both organisms and their ecosystems), which also facilitates the comprehension of fundamental concepts in ecology and evolution. When possible this includes first hand interactions from field trips or living organisms in the laboratory/classroom. Lastly, I believe that all students studying biology should be competent with basic quantitative and computational methods.
Teaching and Outreach
1. Teach with enthusiasm. Course material professed from a dull or pedantic teacher promotes antipathy for focal material, particularly if the topic is difficult to understand. Enthusiasm and devotion to the subject adheres meaning for comprehension by the student. Subjects such as phylogenetics and geospatial analyses can be foreign and intimidating for many students. A love for the subject conveys not only its worth, but also makes the subject more approachable.
2. Teach with clarity and be prepared. Clarity in message is vital to successfully conveying course material and goals. In order to do this, I must know the subject, distill complex information into palatable units, be consistent in terminology and reaffirm main points. This also means to anticipate student confusion and to evaluate student’s progress (via quizzes, worksheets and discussion) during and after lectures. As a college student, I observed many lectures where the instructor was ill prepared and I left many of these lectures frustrated or confused. A lack of preparation can also convey a lack of respect for the students and their academic success which can promote apathy for course material.
3. Relevancy to life. Stories that connect people to biology remind students that evolutionary and ecology research is a human endeavor and, like any other subject, is not isolated from politics, social norms, or the paradigms history. In absence of real life connections, for some students, difficult theoretical topics may seem irrelevant. I have used examples from my field research on tropical amphibians to introduce students to challenging biological problems while instilling in them a sense as to how science actually works. I find that students, especially in ecology and evolution, respond very well when course materials are connected to the natural world.
4. Student success matters. This means knowing my students, their career goals and learning what works for them — and in lieu of this, tailor my teaching by using appropriate modes of teaching (verbal, visual, tactical, etc.). It also is important that I convey expectations of student success, professionalism and responsibility.
5. Life is about constantly learning. Lastly, constant self-evaluation and a perpetual strive for self-improvement will allow me to continue to grow as a teacher to meet the needs of my students.
ZOOL478 Behavioral Ecology
Behavioral ecology is the study of the environmental, genetic and social factors that influence the evolution of animal behavior. The field combines theoretical principles from evolutionary biology with methods from ecology, genetics and behavior to obtain a deeper understanding of issues of theoretical interest.
ZOOL535 Quantitative Biogeography
This graduate course focuses on spatial analyses from the perspective of the organism (or a group of organisms) and the role of the environment in shaping its distribution. This course covers topics associated with species distribution modeling, biodiversity quantification, landscape genetics, animal movement analyses, home range quantification, and landscape conservation prioritization from the perspective of conserving a single species.
ZOOL536 Spatial Analysis in Ecology
This course provides the ecological, GIS and statistical foundations needed to perform spatial analyses of ecological data at the landscape level. This graduate course covers the conceptual basis and practical application of GIS-based techniques for accounting for spatial autocorrelation, data reduction, batch processing of analyses (in Python, ArcGIS and R), spatial interpolation of spatial data, and building mixed predictive models aimed at assessing landscape level processes.
ZOOL578 Zoology Colloquium
This annual seminar series offers one-hour presentations by researchers from various fields.
ZOOL555 Seminar in Evolution and Ecology
A special topics course regarding key concepts in evolution and ecology using primary literature for graduate students.