Whether teaching in classrooms or informal settings, my goal is to celebrate curiosity and build confidence for making and interpreting observations about the natural world. Active learning, group discussion, and synergistic thinking are key to engaging with ecology for groups of any age.
As a mentor I encourage students to start thinking across boundaries early in their careers, with the philosophy that conservation is advanced not only by research, but also by innovative, cross-boundary approaches that inspire inquiry and understanding in the public.
I spent three years as lead lab instructor for Fish Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, creating and teaching lab sections for upper division ecology students, including supervising their “capstone” independent research projects. This lab spanned skills from hand-drawing (an homage to close observation in the spirit of Louis Agassiz), to quantitative bioenergetics and population modeling, proposal writing and statistics. Students waded, paddled, trapped, electrofished, coded, computed, and wrote their way through detailed fish ecology studies in both lake and stream ecosystems.
As an undergraduate at Walla Walla College I double-majored in Biology and English, and found teaching experience on both sides of the fence: I worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant for a Biology for General Studies course, as well as courses in the humanities program including Research Writing, Stylistics, and Literature of the Pacific Northwest.
I’ve mentored students in tackling both basic and applied stream ecology issues, in sites ranging from the remote, pristine mountains to suburban watersheds undergoing restoration.
Undergraduate researchers at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory investigated the synergistic effects of parasitism and environmental stressors (water quality, predation risk) on host condition, behavior and survival. They gave public talks, professional conference presentations, and authored research papers on their projects. (Learn more about Jasmine Hamilton’s and Benjamin Swift’s work here).
In a community-based, applied setting I supported a team of UW-Madison undergraduates to undertake a public science project evaluating effects of stream restoration on algae and aquatic invertebrates. Local residents and other stakeholders (members of Trout Unlimited, local watershed associations, state biologists, and high school students) participated at all stages. The undergraduate students were the frontline of community interaction, and we reflected this experience back to academic researchers in a coauthored conference presentation advocating community-engaged research for undergraduates.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
Between completing my masters and PhD I immersed myself in environmental education, designing classroom- and field-based K12 ecology lessons for public schools in Fontana, California. I also trained interpreters at the Mary Vagle Nature Center to teach school programs and engage nature center visitors in informal science learning around issues of local importance -- urban ecology and water resource conservation.
My interest in STEM interpretation and storytelling around science began during a college internship at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, DC where I contributed to museum publications, exhibits and promotional materials. This was a first foray into the challenges of communicating “gross” science, that continue to captivate me as a parasite ecologist.