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Introduction to Biology I & II for majors

I teach Introduction to Biology I each fall semester and Introduction to Biology II each spring semester. These are foundational courses which students will build upon throughout their future coursework. As the instructor of these courses, I try to walk the fine line between engaging beginning students and encouraging their interests in science while at the same time maintaining rigorous standards that ensure success upon transferring to other universities. I have implemented several labs that serve as bridges to other coursework. For instance my Intro to Bio I students learn to use micro-pipettes and use instrumentation like thermalcyclers for PCR. I use this exposure to encourage students to consider enrolling in 200 level coursework such as my Biotechnology course.

Regional Natural History

I offer this course, which I describe as biology sight seeing, each fall semester. The class takes place entirely over the course of five weekend long trips. Each weekend we camp in a natural area which facilitates seeing and experiencing the natural history of that particular region. Over the course of the semester we take trips to the mountains, piedmont and coastal plain. Trips are planned around providing opportunities to see certain features like high elevation spruce-fir forests or first order streams. However, each trip always provides "unplanned" learning opportunities like being able to talk about adaptations when we caught a hatchling softshell turtle or discussing fire return intervals when a section of forest we visited had recently been burned. This course provides a common thread through most of the courses I teach. For instance, the DNA samples we work with in my other courses are often collected by students during the Regional Natural History trips.

Field Biology

I teach this class each spring, like Regional Natural History this is a weekend only course in which we camp in natural areas. However the focus of Field Biology is grossly different, in this course students collect and analyze data. On the first trip students use sub-sampling and mark-recapture techniques to estimate population sizes (usually of longleaf pines and tadpoles). The second trip is an introduction to different sampling techniques and calculating richness and diversity. The third trip is aimed at collecting data and bringing it into GIS software. On the fourth trip students build on their GIS skills and build habitat suitability models and then ground truth the models.





I teach this class each fall semester. The prerequisite coursework and typically small class size of this class allow the opportunity to use different instruction approaches. Most classes meetings consist of discussions and working problems on the whiteboard. It is an expectation for the class that students read the text prior to each class meeting. In our discussions, I try to focus students attention on interpreting the data scientists used to reach conclusions and also to think about the details of how and why genetic processes work (ex. the way genes are regulated). This course also includes a lab which involves a semester long effort to study inheritance of traits in Drosophila and to produce a chromosome map for several of these traits.


This course is offered each spring and focuses on technique and instrumentation as well as on troubleshooting in the lab environment. Through the course of the semester, students extract DNA, perform PCR and Sanger sequencing reactions. They use bioinformatic software to assemble, edit and align DNA sequences. They then analyze the sequence data in a phylogenetic framework. Since students are collecting original data it provides the opportunity to present their findings at scientific meetings. This course provides the opportunity to conduct and present scientific research and serves as a stepping stone for other coursework and careers in the STEM field.

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