Teaching Experience



allieAs part of my summer field work I've mentored several undergraduate students as part of the Kellogg Biological Station's Undergrad Research Apprenticeship (URA) program.   During the summer of 2012 I mentored Allie Burnett (pictured right).  She joined me again in 2014 to carry out an independent project and presented this work at the Indiana University Animal Behavior Conference, the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference and she plans to take this work to the Animal Behavior Conference in Alaska this summer.  In 2013 I mentored Nicki Cady who plans to continue on to a vet program.  In 2014 Aaron Aguirre was the new assistant on the project.  Aaron's poster about his indepedent project on house wren egg color won a "Best Poster" award at the Fisheries and Wildlife GSO Symposium this fall.  Copies of Allie and Aaron's posters can be found at the links below.

Allie's project poster
Aaron's project poster


NSF GK-12 Program (Fall '12 - Spring '14)

The NSF GK-12 program partners graduate students with science teachers in local school districts with the goal of improving graduate student comminucation skills and bringing inquiry activities based on real scientific data into the classroom.  Details about the program run out of the Kellogg Biological Station as well as lessons I developed in connection with the program can be found here.


For my second year in GK-12 I was partnered with Mary Grintals, a 5th grade teacher at the Comstock STEM Academy, and Sandy Breitenbach, an AP Bio teacher at Plainwell High School.  With the 5th graders I've done several lessons related to my work with birds.  Students learned how to identify common birds in their backyard, practiced graphing using data from the Great Backyard Bird Count, and will be carrying out final project observing wrens nesting in boxes around the school.  I also visited the Comstock middle school to help students take data from the bioenergy sustainability network plots put in by our program.  At the high school I helped students practice Chi-squared tests using an example from my own research, explore phylogenetic trees using a hands on activity on the evolution of colors in orioles, and understand the integrative nature of behavioral ecology using the latest research on man's-best-friend.

Left: Comstock middle schooler takes measurements from the bioenergy sustainability plot; Right: Snapshot of the bird identification guide used by the 5th graders
students in the BEST plots   snapshot from bird id lesson


During my first year in GK-12 I was partnered with Meredith Hawkins and Sandy Erwin in the high school in the Harper Creek School district of Battle Creek, MI. I spent a lot of the year helping several elementary, middle, and high school students take data from the bioenergy sustainability plots put in across all the schools in the GK-12 network.  These plots are used to teach students about the ecological considerations involved in planting biofuels as a source of renewable energy.  Students at the elementary schools really got into identifying the different invertebrates they caught in the plots!  Students at the high school also collected invertebrates from leaf packs placed in a local creek to see how healthy their water was.  Sandy's chemistry students also practiced another important scientific skill- writing.  Students practiced reading science journalism articles and then writing well-argued essays in response to questions these articles raised.

Top: Elementary students collect invertebrate traps from their school yard plot.  A live grasshopper made a tour around the classroom before being released (left); Bottom: Students identify invertebrates from the plots (left) and stream leaf packs (right)
student with invertebrate trap  students collecting invertebrate traps  students admire a grasshopper from the plot
identifying inverts  students identifying inverts in leaf pack

BS 172: Intoductory Organismal Biology (Spring '12)

As a TA at Michigan State I independently ran two 3 hour lab sections (36 students
) per week and assisted during a 1 hour recitation section each week.squirrel  TA's were responsible for picking a theme around which students carried out independent projects for the majority of the semester.  My students did projects about animal behavior and addressed questions ranging from "are male or female sparrows more sensitive to predation risk when foraging?" to "do squirrels prefer to forage in the morning or evening?"

Zol 445: Evolution (Fall '11)

As a TA at Michigan State I taught two recitation sections (58 students) for the upper level evolution course.  I was responsible for planning roughly half recitation activities as well as half the grading for the lecture portion of the course. Students worked on activities ranging from examining the genetic code in the regions involved in color vision in primates to independent projects examining natural selection in a digital population of guppies.

Bio 295: Animal Behavior (Spring '10)feeder 

I was the teaching assistant for this upper level biology course at Grinnell College.  This course covered the basics of animal behavior along with labs investigating bird foraging at feeders, stickleback personality and habitat preference, and ant foraging and aggression.  Most labs were carried out at the Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA) owned by Grinnell College.  I attended all classes and lab sessions and held weekly review sessions.  Most review sessions were a short lecture tailored to student's questions.

Bio 150: Introduction to Biological Inquiry (Fall '09)                                                    

I was the teaching assistant for this inquiry-based introductory biology course at Grinnell College .  This course provides a thorough introduction to primary scientific literature, hypothesis testing, and experimental design, concluding with a student designed experiment and poster presentation.  I attended all classes and lab sessions and held weekly review sessions.  Most review sessions consisted of a roughly 30 min lecture tailored to student's concerns followed by time for questions.