Autumn Line Up

Four-toothed mason wasp at Jerry Smith Park. Global insect decline is a theme we’re covering in my course ‘Ecology.’ Photo by KR Gastreich

We are a quarter of the way through the semester already, and I haven’t given you the scoop yet on the awesome courses I’m teaching at Avila. Here they are:

BI 112 Introductory Biology: Ecology and EvolutionSome professors shy away from newbie courses, but at Avila we say, “Bring ’em on!” More so with BI 112, where I cover one of the greatest stories ever told: of our origins, from molecules to mammoths and beyond. How this amazing planet came to be, how our biosphere works, and why our planetary home is a unique treasure in the universe. I’m teaching both the lecture and lab sections for this course, so my students – lucky them – got double jeopardy with me this semester.

BI 360 Ecology. Ready to leap beyond the newbie challenges of Intro Bio? Advanced Ecology is for you! This year, I threw out the old textbooks and made BI 360 new, contemporary, and hot. Really hot. Literally hot. The syllabus is built around  global change, especially climate change and how this impacts every aspect of ecosystem function. I have a sophisticated group of students so we are doing some sophisticated stuff, like using citizen science data to model range shifts of butterflies and their host plants. We aren’t spending all our time on computers though, because… Ecology! We’ve been out in the field, waist-deep in lush prairie grasses counting insects and fighting off arachnids (the annoying, biting, ticky kind) to generate real-world data on patterns of diversity in our hometown of Kansas City. Last time I taught this course was 8 years ago. It’s good to be back.

To practice skills for their upcoming field project on urban bird diversity, students identified models hidden on the Avila campus.

BI 392 Introduction to Research. I’ve updated the syllabus this fall to make BI 392 a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE). We are collaborating as a class to develop and implement our own group project, and guess what this means? YES! eBird is back! My regular followers may remember I piloted eBird last year for my Conservation Biology course. I’ve updated the module and adapted it for Intro to Research. We are just about done with field training and experimental design. Soon, we’ll begin gathering data on urban bird diversity, addressing a question the students choose and using a protocol they design. Stay tuned for further updates.

BI 492/493/499 Capstone Research and Colloquium. All Avila Biology, Biochemisty & Molecular Biology, and Pre-Health majors complete a capstone project as part of the program requirements. I’m coordinating capstone this semester, helping students get set up with appropriate research mentors and making sure everything runs smoothly as we work to meet deadlines and expectations. As part of this, I have research students of my own completing both literature- and field-based projects. For an idea of the kinds of projects my students are doing, visit my page on Prairie Bees

That’s the breakdown. If you don’t see me around here, I’ll be with my students.

Happy Equinox!




2 thoughts on “Autumn Line Up

  1. I think you should take us on a “nature walk” this year in VAB. Maybe we could go on a field trip down to the conservancy at the end of Sand Piper! That would be so great.

    Liked by 1 person

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