Teaching

I am a lecturer in the University of Washington’s Program on the Environment, located in the new College of the Environment. I am also a lecturer in biology at the University of Washington’s Seattle and Bothell campuses. Courses I have taught recently include Methods in Environmental Research (ENVIR 250), Conservation Biology (BIOL 476), Natural History of the Puget Sound Region (ENVIR 280),  Biodiversity, Conservation, and Sustainability in Peru (BIOL 493), Landscape Change in the Pacific Northwest (ENVIR 495D), Environmental Studies: Interdisciplinary Foundations (ENVIR 100), Evolution (BBIO 466), and Ornithology (BIOL 444) (see below for more information and links to course webpages). I am grateful to be surrounded and supported by by top-notch colleagues and students at the University of Washington.

Whether teaching in the field or the classroom, my courses encourage active discussion, inquiry-based learning through hands-on activities, and interdisciplinary thinking skills. While I believe lecturing is an important skill and art form, whenever possible I opt for a Socratic method that encourages dialog, critical thinking, and empathy with other points of view.

Field observation and natural history are also mainstays of my teaching. In an era of rapid declines in biological diversity and the unraveling of many of the world’s ecosystems, the ability to observe and understand free-living organisms, and interactions among them, is as important as ever. Work as a naturalist field instructor, field research technician, and wilderness trip leader during and immediately following my years as an undergraduate at Williams College afforded me many opportunities to hone field skills and work with students of all ages in many parts of the world, including California, Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, and Nepal. I am currently involved in an initiative (http://naturalhistorynetwork.org/) to foster increased natural history education at all academic levels, especially at the college level, where there is evidence that natural history training has become progressively de-emphasized in biology curricula over the past 30 years.

More information about my courses:

Come to PoE Lunch  Seminar! All welcome. Building community among our undergraduate students, faculty, and alumni, through weekly talks on a variety of topics related to the environment.  This is the only weekly departmental seminar on campus that I know of that regularly features undergraduate speakers. See website for more details. [This seminar is currently on hiatus. Check back for details]

Landscape Change in the Pacific Northwest (ENVIR 495D). This summer course includes a 9 day backpacking trip in Olympic National Park! We explore human-induced change in the regional landscape over the last 200 years (in particular the loss of “wilderness”), and what it means for society from a philosophical, psychological, and ecological standpoint. On our backpacking trip we also look at evidence for past and present climate change, and its effects on the ecosystems and landforms of Olympic National Park. Check out blogs from the following students who were on the course in 2013: Sarah Schooler, Julia Riel, Alex Hirt. I also have a short write-up on my blog here.

Natural History of the Puget Sound Region (ENVIR 280) . Offered Spring quarter. This course highlights the amazing natural history of this region from geology and landforms, to the biology of some of the region’s most fascinating organisms and habitats. We take weekend field trips to many of the key ecosystems of the region to document natural history first hand. Many of the weekly “lectures” meet in local parks and natural areas near campus. This course will help you develop your basic field taxonomy skills in plants and animals, as well as ways of documenting your field observations through writing and sketching. This spring’s course will resemble the details posted here. Click here for a blog post with photos from last year’s course.

From Andes to Amazon: Biodiversity, Conservation, and Sustainability in southeast Peru. This is a 3-week UW Exploration Seminar (study abroad during summer-autumn interim) led by myself and Dr. Ursula Valdez. The course provides training in ecological research methods (including with birds, plants, and insects), and takes an in-depth look at conservation issues in southeast Peru. We travel from the high dry valleys of the Andes, through cloudforest on the eastern slope, and down into lowland rainforest in the Amazon Basin, where we visit the extremely remote Cocha Cashu Biological Station. Some students may opt to come earlier for a home-stay experience with an indigenous Quechua family living in the mountains. Course website and blog posts.  Click here and here for press coverage of our course.

Conservation Biology (BIOL 476). This course provides an overview of concepts and skills in conservation biology, and then applies that background to case studies, from the local to global scale. Labs include a major city-wide survey of invasive plant species, part of a long-term data set, and the exploration of ecological factors related to their temporal and spatial increase or decrease. Other labs help you develop skills in basic statistical analysis, and modeling techniques such as population viability analysis. We also use Google Blog software and/or posters to present educational material for the general public about conservation issues of your choosing.

Ornithology (BIOL 444). Upper division course providing an integrated understanding of birds, from anatomy, physiology, and neurobiology, to evolution, ecology, and behavior. Lectures provide background on classic research, and students select and present primary literature on current research. Weekly monitoring of bird species and behavior in local natural areas, and weekend field trips throughout eastern and western Washington. Skills taught include bird identification by sight and sound (and taxonomy using specimens at the Burke Museum), mist-netting, and dissections. Course website.  Note: most readings are not visible because of copyright restrictions.

Evolution (BBIO 466). This upper division course touches on classic and current research in major sub-disciplines of evolutionary biology. Skills taught include data analysis, tree building, population genetics models, critical analysis of experimental design, and application of optimality models and selection-thinking to puzzling natural phenomena and human social behavior. Course website.  Note: most readings are not visible because of copyright restrictions.

Environmental Studies: Interdisciplinary Foundations (ENVIR 100). Introduces the interdisciplinary approach to environmental studies. Examines the ethical, political, social, and scientific dimensions of current and historical environmental issues, at the local and global scale. First in a three-course sequence required of environmental studies majors. Course website.  Available for public view after the current quarter.

Methods in Environmental Research (ENVIR 250). This course is a hybrid natural science and social science course, in which students gain practical experience with experimental design, research methods, and data analysis. The natural science portion of the course focuses on field research methods using the forest and creek of Ravenna Park as a field site. The social science portion of the course utilizes online sociological and epidemiological data sets, interviews, and surveys. Basic GIS skills are also introduced, using ArcGIS. Readings from the primary literature on local environmental problems serve as a backdrop for the methodologies explored in the course.