In teaching science I aim beyond simply stating facts. I aim to teach the process of discovering and communicating information about the living world. My approach centers on inquiry-based learning. Inquiry-based learning uses activities that challenge students to think critically, propose hypotheses and evaluate data together. By modelling the scientific process at its most creative and collaborative, inquiry effectively relates concepts in a format that can scale up from small labs to large lectures. All of my classes, regardless of level, use inquiry in combination with other techniques such as classroom response systems, wikis, peer instruction and socio-scientific issues. I will occasionally update the page with activies that I have developed and refined in my courses.


Foundations of Biology | Botany | Evolution | Biology of Climate Change | Forest Ecology


Foundations of Biology

This two semester sequence introduces students to the major ideas and core skills in modern biology. The first course examines evidence for evolution as the explanation for the match between organisms and their environments. It also establishes the ecological foundations and conservation implications for the unifying concept in biology. The second course describes the how cells composed of characeristic molecules process energy to maintain and reproduce the information of life. Both emphasize quantitative literacy, scientific writing and collaboration. They also feature a suite of activities and exercises which culminate in a course long project. In the first course, students collaborate to describe how different organisms have responded to pollution in Sarasota Bay. The second with a wiki project that students use to evaluate claimed causes and cures of cancer.

 

Botany

This course examines the diversity, structure and function of organisms with cell walls including bacteria, fungi, protists, algae, and especially plants. These distantly related organisms include primary producers that energize the biosphere, decomposers that recycle nutrients and economic species that provide most of humanity’s food, fiber and medicine  All fall under the traditional domain of botany which we approach first by comparing and contrasting each group in an evolutionary context. Then, focusing on flowering plants, we examine how variation in a basic body plan contributes to the variety of functions performed by different plant organs and species. To this end, each student will contribute to a functional flora of campus, by identifying, observing and analyzing different species that inhabit the native plant restoration area.

 

Evolution

This course provides an overview of applied evolutionary biology.  We start with a focused reading of “the Origin of Species,” where students contribute to a weekly fact check on claims Darwin used to support his one long argument. Along side "the Origin", we proceed through evolutionary models in population genetics, speciation and phylogenetics. Students will build on this foundation by applying evolutionary analysis to contemporary issues in human health and the environment. 


 

Biology of Climate Change

Climate change is the defining environmental challenge of the 21st century.  Models project dire consequences for human societies and biological diversity.  Yet, life exists today despite climate change and catastrophes throughout earth’s history.   In this course, we explore the premise that the history of life and climate on earth sets precedents for the biological impacts of contemporary climate change.  We begin by examining the planetary science of the climate system including solar radiation and the distribution of heat in the atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere.  Then, we will evaluate the stability of climate and biogeochemical cycling through major evolutionary innovations.  Proceeding chronologically from the faint young sun paradox and Gaia hypothesis, we will explore the oxygen catastrophe, the Carboniferous climate anomaly, mass extinctions, the spread of fire with C4 photosynthesis and the impacts of Pleistocene climate cycling on diversification.  Then we will investigate how climate shaped human origins and how, in turn, humans have shaped climate through technological innovations from agriculture to industry.  Our course will culminate in student research projects on biological consequences of proposed local and global strategies for mitigating climate change impacts.

 

In the first meeting, students use the materials below (a heat plate, an infrared thermometer, an infrared gas analyzer and containers) to design and implement an experiment based on John Tyndall's original demonstration of the greenhouse effect.

BCCactivity

Forest Ecology

Forests are among the most important ecosystems on earth. They dominate the carbon cycle, harbor incredible biodiversity and support ancient cultures as well as vital industries. In this class, we examine how variation in the structure and function of forests relates to the biology of their defining organisms: trees. Major topics will include the evolution, development and diversity of woody plants, wood anatomy and variation, tree physiology, competition, succession and biogeography. The course culminates in a final project where students will apply forest ecology skills such as data analysis, tree identification and measurement, to local research on forest resilience to global change.

 

Students in this course have verified our campus tree list by producing a key to all 180 documented woody species. They will also design and execute an inventory of our Mangrove habitat where they will conduct experiments on forest ecosystem dynamics.


 

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