Research-Centered Courses and Teaching
I teach a variety of field and lab-based courses that focus on ecology and environmental science. All courses emphasize the process of science and take an investigative approach to address ecological questions. Recent areas of research that students have pursued in my courses include data gathering and analysis to determine our campus greenhouse gas emissions and how best to reduce them, exploration of green roof design from soil type to plant biodiversity, and the effect of disturbance (e.g. grazing, burning, flooding) on oak savanna and restored prairies, as well as the impact of agriculture and stream management practices on Minnesota rivers. Recent field sites have included the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve and the Belwin Conservancy in Afton, MN.
BIOL 1110 - Environmental Biology
This course is designed for students who are interested in environmental issues, but have a major area of study outside of the sciences. The course focuses on the principles of biology and chemistry behind critical environmental issues, as well as the interdisciplinary aspects of environmental problems that shape debate and policy decisions. The course is organized into three main modules that address the 1) nature of science and evolution, 2) causes and consequences of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, and 3) scientific investigations of global climate change. Students in this course have participated in the first two SCU greenhouse gas inventory assessments (see link to more information about this project here), collecting, analyzing and presenting all data required to estimate our campus-wide emissions. Co-taught with Education as part of the STEM minor in elementary education. Offered winter semester.
BIOL 2710 – Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior This is the third lab course in a foundational sequence for biology majors that familiarizes students with concepts in the modern sciences of ecology, evolution and behavioral biology. It provides a solid foundation in the genetics, evolution and dynamics of populations, behavioral ecology, the ecology of interacting species and communities, element cycling and ecosystem dynamics.
Experimental design and quantitative analysis are key components of both class and lab. Laboratory involves intensive field research projects. Offered fall semester.
Upper-Level Topics Courses in Biology
Topics courses provide an opportunity to explore specialized areas of research and study in ecology. Based on my areas of expertise, I am interested in research-based courses in the following areas:
Aquatic Ecology - emphasizing field work in local lakes and rivers, and the use of current approaches and techniques to answer questions about nutrient cycling, species interactions, and food web dynamics in aquatic environments.
Ecosystems and Global Change - focused on measurement of biological processes at cellular, patch, ecosystem, and global scales, and how environmental change affects ecosystem structure and function.
Winter Ecology – an exploration of how biological processes, including organismal physiology, activity, and species interactions respond to winter conditions in Minnesota, and an appreciation of how much biological activity there is! A field course in winter!
Biogeochemistry – focused on the origin of the elements, the geologic and biological factors that influence their form and availability, and their measurement.
HNRS 4994: Writing Environmental Wrongs: The Literature and Ecology of the Prairie This course was co-taught with Cecilia Konchar Farr in the English Department as part of the Antonian Scholars Program in 2010. This interdisciplinary seminar integrated literature, poetry, history, ethics, and a field-based study of the effect of fire and bison grazing on plant biodiversity and soil chemistry in a restored prairie ecosystem.