Seems like just yesterday I was wandering the forests of Bavaria.

Every year around this time, I look at my August calendar and say, “Who are you, and what have you done with my summer?”

Classes start at Avila this week.

Wait, what? Classes start this week??

Why does time always takes us by surprise? I once read a theologian who argued this was evidence of our eternal nature. Wish I could access a bit more of that eternal nature right now!

I’m very excited about this semester. I have a great roster of classes, fun research to follow up on with my capstone students, and other projects coming down the pipeline that I look forward to sharing over the coming weeks. This autumn’s course line up includes:

BI 112 Ecology and Evolution. As long as I’ve been at Avila, this is only the second time I’ve taught our classic introductory ecology and evolution course. For many years, BI 112 was the exclusive domain of a senior faculty member who retired just this past spring. While it was sad to see him go, I’m thrilled to be teaching this course, introducing our incoming students to the two topics I most enjoy in biology, and on which I’ve built my own career.

BI 313 Plant Form & Function. Legend has it that when Avila undertook the search that led to my hire, there was some tension between the biology faculty and the administration regarding what expertise to look for. The biology faculty wanted a plant person; admin wanted a zoologist. Their compromise was me: A zoologist who managed to convince herself somewhere along the way that plants are important too. BI 313 was one of the first courses I was handed when I arrived at Avila; to this day I embrace it with joy. I love helping my students — also largely animal-biased — achieve a deeper appreciation of this incredible group of organisms on which we all depend.

BI 363 Conservation Biology. NEW COURSE FOR FALL 18!!!!  omg I’m super psyched about this one! Conservation Biology has been in our catalogue forever and a day, but Avila has never been able to offer it until this fall. Originally it was assigned to another faculty member who over the summer decided to accept a position at another university. There was talk of canceling BI 363, but I stepped up to plate and rescued this very important course from sudden doom. That was late June, which means I’ve had just under two months to pull this whole thing together. It’s going to be awesome. Among other exciting activities, the course will include a citizen science project where my students will contribute real time data to the international eBird data base maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

IS 365 Ecology Through the Writers Lens. This is the third iteration of one of the most innovative courses in my portfolio, inspired by the Andrews Forest Writers Residency which I completed some years ago. I co-teach the course with Dr. Amy Milakovic from the Avila English Department. We’ll be travelling with a group of intrepid students to Konza Prairie Reserve in western Kansas, where we’ll explore the spectacular tall grass prairie from both scientific and literary/creative perspectives. And yes, I will post pictures. Nothing better for a field biologist than being in the field!

That’s my fall line up, but I can’t help but mention – as a sneak preview for the spring – that we are also planning a new interdisciplinary studies course, IS 337 Tropical Systems: Diversity, Resistance and Resilience, which will go to Puerto Rico in May! Could it get any more thrilling? Actually, it could! But I’ll keep a few reveals under my sleeve for future posts.

Good luck to all of you who are starting a new academic year!

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