Current Classes

BIOL111 – Ecological Biology (4 cr.)

In this team-taught core class we introduce the basic principles of ecology. Topics include evolution, population growth and regulation, competition, predation, mutualism, productivity, energy flow and nutrient cycling. We emphasize hands-on scientific research and problem solving using the primary ecological literature. Large-group lectures are complemented by small-group discussion sections and a weekly lab. We make frequent trips to the field to experience ecology in action and learn more about Indiana’s forested ecosystems. Students complete a two-week research project and use R to analyze their data. Offered every fall. (A-QR).

BIOL226 – Biological Diversity (4 cr.)

In this team-taught core class we survey the diversity of life on Earth. In learning more about plants, animals, fungi, protists and bacteria, we explore basic principles in organismal biology, ecology, and evolution. Topics include the evolution of multicellularity, how life colonized land, what events triggered explosions in biodiversity, and how important partnerships have been in the evolution of life on Earth. Lectures parallel a weekly lab in which we do a practical (and culinary) exploration of biodiversity. Offered every spring.

BIOL350 – Field Botany (4 cr.)

In this upper-level class, we take a clear, focused look at a narrow subject: the woodland flora of Wayne County, Indiana. In so doing, we experience the immense value in careful investigation of something small. In the first half of the spring semester, we learn the vocabulary of botany and practice identifying wild specimens. In the second half of the semester, we learn the ecology of our local species and find them as they emerge in the field. Because the theme of the class is to learn basic principles from detailed observation, each lesson is based not around a principle (e.g., light competition), but around an individual species of plant. Every plant has a story to tell and a lesson to teach about ecology, evolution, and our place in the natural world. Offered every other spring.

BIOL455 – Population and Community Ecology (4 cr.)

In this upper-level seminar students read landmark papers from the primary literature in roughly chronological order to build a foundational understanding of the principles of population and community ecology and to experience how scientific thought has advanced in a little over a century of ecological research. Most of our time is spent in student-led discussions, although occasionally we take time to recreate important historical debates (e.g. Clements vs. Gleason). One of our most important goals is to observe how scientific paradigms form and are broken, so that students can go out and conduct their own trailblazing research. Most of our time is spent discussing the primary literature. In lab, we learn basic biostatistics in R and then students conduct an 8-week research project culminating in a paper and oral presentation. Prerequisites: BIOL 111. Offered every other fall. (RCH)

BIOL456 – Applied Biostatistics (4 cr.)

In this class, we will delve into linear models—the most commonly used statistical models in field research—to learn how statistical models are specified, applied, interpreted, and communicated in the biological sciences. We will also explore how statistics informs sound research design. Beginning with the fundamentals of research design and statistics, we will begin constructing and analyzing progressively more complex linear models in R, as we discuss the principles behind those models in class. Students will gradually build their understanding of topics such as: the difference between categorical and continuous predictors, what assumptions statistical models make and how to evaluate them, how and why to transform data, how to select predictors and their interactions, how to specify and interpret contrasts, and how to incorporate random effects. The goal of this course will be to demystify statistics and research design so that students can gain confidence and familiarity with the most commonly-used analytical tools in biology. Students will also become proficient at handling data in the R environment, interpreting R outputs, and generating figures. Class time will be split between seminar-style discussions and computer labs using RStudio. Students will analyze authentic datasets, with a possibility of primary literature authorship. Offered in January-term (A-QR).

AWPE142 – Introduction to Aikido (1 cr.)

Aikido is a Japanese martial art that emphasizes peaceful resolution of conflict. Using grapples and throws, students learn to respond to confrontation without fear, doubt, or conflict, and to discover their inner power. No prior martial arts experience is necessary. All students are encouraged to participate regardless of physical ability. Offered every semester. (W).

Research Mentorship

I have a passion for plants, and I’m enthusiastic about working with students on a wide variety of plant-related research projects! Please contact me if you might be at all interested in working with me on these projects either during the school year or over the summer. My research involves exciting questions at the forefront of plant ecology. We investigate these questions in the field, in the lab, in the greenhouse, and on the computer (trust me, this stuff is cool).  Your work could help scientists understand:

  • What makes invasive plants succeed where native plants fail?
  • How and why do invasive plants grow so differently where they invade than where they are native?
  • How do plants recognize their neighbors, and how do they use that information?
  • Why do plants grow differently when growing next to kin?
  • Why aren’t plants more aggressive competitors?
  • How do evolutionary forces shape plant interactions?

Your work will also give you excellent research experience as well as the opportunity to contribute to, or perhaps author, important peer-reviewed publications. Undergraduate students I have mentored have published papers in top journals in the field, including Nature: Ecology & EvolutionOecologiaJournal of Plant Ecology, and Invasive Plant Science & Management.