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Exploration, Interest, Inquiry

Lesson Plans

For me, fostering exploration and genuine interest are the most important factors spurring student learning. As the instructor and mentor it is my job is to foster this interest, guiding exploration into a lasting experience. 


Nothing, in my experience, generates interest in a subject more reliably than firsthand exploration without the expectation of knowing all the answers. This inquiry experience doesn't have to be elaborate, even a well designed thought experiment can be enough. But, once a student's interest is piqued it is the job of the teacher to scaffold a student’s questions and exploration, by providing the established knowledge and foundational skills the student needs to answer the questions they've generated and the questions they will need to answer in the future.


I believe this inquiry-based approach allows me to foster the most important skills a learner can achieve, problem solving and critical thinking. My goal is to generate students with the confidence and background to break a problem apart, critically examine their own approach, and constructively critique past approaches. 


I believe mentoring is critical to help new scientists excel, particularly for members of under-represented groups in the sciences for whom direct mentoring can be key to success. I am proud to have led a diverse and successful group of undergraduate lab employees through my years as a graduate student and Lab Manager of the Kennedy LIFE Lab. This group of 11 undergraduates completed significant work toward my PhD project, as well as agency-funded work. One mentee, Breanna Graves, co-authored a publication showing for the first time that sawfish rostral teeth record chemical records of movement. Another, Briana Frazee, contributed significant data to new work on freshwater mussel growth and chemistry, winning the Best Student Poster award at the Annual Meeting of the Idaho Chapter of the American Fisheries Society. Two students completed honors projects, one was selected as a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar, and another presented her otolith-chemistry project at the National Collegiate Research Conference at Harvard University.


As a Fulbright Scholar I also worked closely with a Brazilian masters student, Carine Moraes, on data analysis and writing for her project studying niche breadth in Amazonian giant otters and neotropical otters. This resulted in a recent publication in Hydrobiologia. I also mentored 4 graduate students in otolith techniques and statistical methods as a senior graduate student in our lab.

My teaching experience includes: 

  • Instructor of record for upper level Fish Ecology lecture and two lab sections

  • Field lab instructor for a four-day backcountry fish ecology field methods field trip

  • Development of a lab introducing life-history analysis using otolith chemistry and the R/RStudio statistical software and the Shiny package

  • Lab instructor leading field-based stream biodiversity surveys in a high-enrollment introductory course in natural resources

  • Initiating and improving a hands-on lab curriculum testing Charnov's Marginal Value Theorem of optimal foraging for upper-level undergraduates

  • Intensive training in inquiry-based teaching methods as a part of the National Science Foundation's GK12 teaching fellowship

  • Developed and taught all new, field-based, curriculum for a semester-long Wildlife Management class for upper-level high school students

  • Lead teacher and lab curriculum designer for a 9th grade Physical Science class

Otolith Chemistry: On the forefront of fish ecology

Introduction to strontium isotope otolith chemistry

(R/RStudio skills, migration, life history)

Beans and Rice Optimal Foraging Lab
Charnov's Marginal Value Theorem
(lab based introduction and testing of theory)
Estimating Moving Populations
The Lincoln-Peterson Mark-Recapture Estimator
(integrated field and lab-based activities)
Organization of the Biotic/Abiotic Environment
(integrated field and lab-based activities)
Operation High Roller:
Birds of Prey/Wildlife Enforcement
(reading/discussion activity)
Wolf Endangered Species Act Listing/Delisting
(research and critical writing )

Teaching and Mentoring Photos 

(permission granted by all students pictured. All are currently over 18)

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