Classes start this week. In other words, we are five blinks away from Christmas!
I’ve been blessed with a wonderful summer and am starting the new academic year rested and ready (more-or-less) to go. Two of my favorite courses are in this fall’s line-up: Introduction to Animal Behavior and Women and Science.
When I was an undergrad, I took a course in Animal Behavior that changed my life. Now – 30 years and a fun career as a field biologist later – I secretly hope my version of this old favorite will have the same impact on some of my students. Animal Behavior demands a critical examine of how evolutionary theory applies to behavior. Students consider in concrete terms how scientific theories generate hypotheses, and how those hypotheses in turn must be tested.
It’s rigorous but also just plain fun! We consider a wide spectrum of behaviors across all kinds of animals. Everything from wasps to elephants behaves, and so every species has the opportunity to provide examples of cool/weird/amazing behaviors. Even single-celled organisms like slime molds have stories to tell. More recently, scientists have looked beyond animals and protists, uncovering compelling evidence that plants may also have evolved behavioral strategies.
In addition to Animal Behavior, this semester I’ll be teaching Women and Science. It’s been five years since I’ve had the opportunity to do this course, and I’m very excited to see it come back. Together with my co-instructor, Dr. Abigail Lambke, we’ll be looking at several aspects of the intersection between gender and science.
We’ll start with a consideration of feminist theory and how various modes of feminist inquiry can enhance our understanding of the substance and practice of science. Along the way, we’ll celebrate the many contributions of women to science while acknowledging, through case studies, the particular challenges women have faced in the scientific endeavor.
Images of women in science will be a recurring theme throughout the semester, and before we finish we’ll touch on some very contemporary topics, including fertility, women’s health, and population growth. We’ll also discuss how women and science is being increasingly discussed through modern-day media, including social platforms such as Twitter. (Think #distractinglysexy and #Googlememo, and you’ll know where we’re going…)
Courses like these inevitably inspire reflections for my blog, so stay tuned if you want to hear more. I know we are in for some lively discussions and thought-provoking discoveries.