I believe a basic science education is important for all students.  Students in today's world are asked to make decisions about scientific data in their daily lives, whether they are a Biology major or an English major.  As an educator I have two primary goals during any course: 1) show students how the scientific process works in the context of a particular course, and 2) equip students with the skills to find the answers to future questions.  In the classroom, I use an active learning, learner-centered model.  I believe students learn best if they do something with the information in class.  I employ diverse activities (graph interpretation, model building, paper discussions, lab experiments, simulation) at address diverse learning styles found in a typical classroom.  I then support students in extending that knowledge into new scenarios.

Below you can find a summary of my teaching experience:

Ecology (2015, 2016)
Introductory Organismal Biology (2015)
Evolution (2014)
NSF GK-12 Program (2012-2014)
Introductory Organismal Biology (2012)
Evolution (2011)

Grinnell College
Animal Behavior
Introduction to Biological Inquiry

Zol 355: Ecology (Summer '15, '16)

I was a TA for this course at the Kellogg Biological Station (KBS).  Students used the resources at KBS to carry out outdoor labs investing various ecological concepts.  In 2016 I was paired with an instructor who relied heavily on active learning techniques.

ecology students recording data from samples taken from a nearby lake      ecology students collecting aquatic invertebrates

BS 172: Introductory Organismal Biology (Spring '15)

In this inquiry-based biology course, students carried out group projects on the genetics and behavior of fruit flies.   Some students asked  whether female flies preferred males with certain mutations.  Others asked whether female fruit flies return scents from their childhood when it comes time to lay their eggs.

students sorting flies into treatments for their independent projects  student preparing treatments for fruit fly projects

Zol 445: Evolution (Fall '14)drawing of a male peacock

As a TA for this upper level course, I ran a recitation section each week that gave students opportunities to practice various concepts from class.  I also guest lectured during the week on Sexual Selection.

NSF GK-12 Program (Fall '12 - Spring '14)

The NSF GK-12 program partners graduate students with science teachers in local school districts with the goal of improving graduate student comminucation skills while providing teachers with opportunities to enhance their STEM curriculum with active science research.  Details about the program as well as lessons I developed can be found here.


For my second year in GK-12 I was partnered with Mary Grintals, a 5th grade teacher at the Comstock STEM Academy, and Sandy Breitenbach, an AP Bio teacher at Plainwell High School.  With the 5th graders I did several lessons related to my work with birds (this work was featured here).  I also visited the Comstock middle school to help students take data from the bioenergy sustainability network plots put in by our program.  At the high school I helped students practice statistics using an example from my own research, explore phylogenetic trees using a hands on activity on the evolution of colors in orioles, and understand the integrative nature of behavioral ecology using the latest research on man's-best-friend.

Left: Comstock middle schooler takes measurements from the bioenergy sustainability plot; Right: Snapshot of the bird identification guide used by the 5th graders
students in the BEST plots   snapshot from bird id lesson


During my first year in GK-12 I was partnered with Meredith Hawkins and Sandy Erwin in the high school in the Harper Creek School district of Battle Creek, MI. I spent a lot of the year helping several elementary, middle, and high school students take data from the bioenergy sustainability plots put in across all the schools in the GK-12 network.  These plots are used to teach students about the ecological considerations involved in planting biofuels as a source of renewable energy.  Students at the elementary schools really got into identifying the different invertebrates they caught in the plots!  Students at the high school also collected invertebrates from leaf packs placed in a local creek to see how healthy their water was.  Sandy's chemistry students also practiced another important scientific skill- writing.  Students practiced reading science journalism articles and then writing well-argued essays in response to questions these articles raised.

Top: Elementary students collect invertebrate traps from their school yard plot.  A live grasshopper made a tour around the classroom before being released (left); Bottom: Students identify invertebrates from the plots (left) and stream leaf packs (right)
student with invertebrate trap  students collecting invertebrate traps  students admire a grasshopper from the plot
identifying inverts  students identifying inverts in leaf pack

BS 172: Intoductory Organismal Biology (Spring '12)

squirrelDuring the lab for this inquiry-based course, my students investigated various questions about the behavior of animals on campus (duck, songbirds, squirrel).  Some group asked "are male or female sparrows more sensitive to predation risk when foraging?"  Others asked "do squirrels prefer to forage in the morning or the evening"?  

Zol 445: Evolution (Fall '11)

As a TA at Michigan State I taught two recitation sections (58 students) for the upper level evolution course.  I was responsible for planning roughly half recitation activities as well as half the grading for the lecture portion of the course. Students worked on activities ranging from examining the genetic code in the regions involved in color vision in primates to independent projects examining natural selection in a digital population of guppies.

Bio 295: Animal Behavior (Spring '10)feeder 

I was the teaching assistant for this upper level biology course at Grinnell College.  This course covered the basics of animal behavior along with labs investigating bird foraging at feeders, stickleback personality and habitat preference, and ant foraging and aggression.  Most labs were carried out at the Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA) owned by Grinnell College.  I attended all classes and lab sessions and held weekly review sessions.  Most review sessions were a short lecture tailored to student's questions.

Bio 150: Introduction to Biological Inquiry (Fall '09)                                                    

I was the teaching assistant for this inquiry-based introductory biology course at Grinnell College.  This course provides a thorough introduction to primary scientific literature, hypothesis testing, and experimental design, concluding with a student designed experiment and poster presentation.  I attended all classes and lab sessions and held weekly review sessions.  Most review sessions consisted of a roughly 30 min lecture tailored to student's concerns followed by time for questions.