One of the most rewarding aspects of being involved in scientific research is the opportunity to pass on my excitement and passion for the biological world through education. Throughout my time as a postdoc at Washington University in Saint Louis and as a graduate student at the University of New Mexico, I have sought out a variety of teaching experiences and will maintain education as a major component of my career as an ecologist. Each student approaches a course with differing levels of interest and personal goals; my objective is to use a variety of techniques to key in on those interests, engage students, and encourage them to delve critically into topics. Besides conveying important ecological concepts, I hope to light a spark of interest in the natural world that will be carried out of the classroom as a student engages with their environment.
Below you will find brief descriptions of my various educational roles.
During my graduate studies at the University of New Mexico, I was able to serve as a graduate student mentor through the Museum of Southwestern Biology’s Undergraduate Opportunities Program (UnO). As a mentor, I helped my mentee to develop and carry out an independent research project for her honors thesis, which resulted in a publication in the journal Ecosphere. The work has also been featured in PLOS’s CitizenSci blog and mentioned in a New York Times op-ed on evolution in urban environments. Additionally, my mentee was able to accompany me for a field season in Alaska where she was trained in bird survey techniques (photo courtesy of Nick LaFave).
While the primary responsibility of my current position is research, I have been able to maintain a strong educational component in my work. I am currently working with two undergraduate students to develop a project on the evolution of phenology in birds and have also been involved in training graduate students on methods in ecology and evolution.
As a graduate student at the University of New Mexico, I served as a teaching assistant for a number of courses including core ecology, evolution, physiology, and genetics as well as upper division classes on macroecology, principles of ecology, and the biology of toxins. My duties have included running labs and student discussions as well as developing lectures and class activities. In class development, I try to incorporate diverse and tangible examples from natural systems along with hands on experiences that expose students to all steps of the scientific process (exploring the world, developing questions, collecting and analyzing data, and communicating results). While not all students will continue on with ecology, my ultimate aim is to develop critical thinking and quantitative skills and to help find relevance in whatever the current topic may be.