I like to compare the process of education to a three-step ladder, which is being climbed together by students and their teacher. If you are familiar with Ron Prokopy's work, you can probably tell after reading these words that he influenced me a lot.
On the first step, a teacher is supposed to convey to the students certain information, and the students are supposed to acquire it. Obviously, this is a very important step by itself; it also has to be passed on the way to the other two steps. However, I consider it to be a complete failure when the only thing learned by the students is how to take notes and then reproduce them during an exam.
Scientific progress is currently proceeding at such a pace that a large portion of this knowledge might be outdated a few years after the students' graduation. Therefore, it is extremely important to continue to the next step, where the students learn how to obtain information on their own, and how to process it in the most rational way. Reaching the second step requires some additional effort, but it is absolutely essential for student success in the real world.
The third step is the most challenging one. On that step, the students are supposed to develop the skill of analytical thinking. It is my deep belief that the ultimate goal of education is to produce the people who can distinguish between right and wrong on their own. Therefore, I see my primary duty as an educator in assisting my students to achieve this goal.
For all my classes, I like to make student presentations, review papers, discussion sessions, and independent research projects to be a significant part of student activities. I also usually offer my students an opportunity to critique a variety of entomology-related materials, ranging from the "Bug's Life" movie to Green Party press releases, and from Syngenta advertisements to peer-reviewed papers published in scientific journals.
Currently, I teach the following classes:
BIO 391-0003 / BIO 511, Insect Ecology
Course Objectives. The overall goal of this class is to provide students with an understanding of intricate interactions between insects and their environment. More specifically, the students completing this course are expected to
- Describe the impacts of biotic and abiotic factors on insect biology
- Explain mechanisms of population regulation
- Rationalize the concept of energy flow through trophic levels in an ecosystem
- Place ecological interactions in their evolutionary context
- Show appreciation of insect contribution to maintaining diversity of life on Earth
General Course Description. The course covers fundamental concepts in ecology as they apply to insects on population, community, and ecosystem levels. Materials are presented in the form of lectures, discussions of primary scientific literature, and hands-on exercises.
Syllabus. Click here to get a copy of the current syllabus in PDF format.
BIO 455/555, Biological Invasions
Course Objectives. Biological Invasions is listed within Area V (Ecology) of the School of Biology and Ecology curriculum. Joining this class is expected to contribute to student understanding of the interactions of organisms and their environments and the consequences of these interactions for population, community, and ecosystem dynamics. Specific objectives to be met by taking this course include being able to describe biotic and abiotic factors that influence the dynamics of populations and to use ecological principles to explain the consequences of human activity (current economic and social issues). Students completing Biological Invasions will also improve the array of the tools for life-long learning and should be able to demonstrate the ability to use resources at hand to gather information, clearly articulate questions and answers to others, and assess the accuracy of science reports presented in the media.
The students completing this course are expected to
- Know theoretical bases of invasion biology
- Understand mechanisms behind species establishment in non-native areas
- Understand the impacts of exotic organisms at the population and ecosystem levels
- Appreciate economic and sociopolitical issues surrounding exotic species
- Know alternative approaches to managing invasive species
General Course Description. In an increasingly global society, virtually no areas remain sheltered from invasion by alien species. Currently, invasion by alien species is recognized as one of the major environmental problems worldwide. Failure to address this issue may have dire consequences, including disruption of vital ecological processes, loss of agricultural, forestry, and fishery resources, and epidemics of serious diseases within human populations.
This course is designed to serve as an introduction to invasion biology, a rapidly growing area of applied biology. It is assumed that the students have already taken a course in introductory ecology and are familiar with basic ecological concepts. In this course, students will learn about the mechanisms of natural and human-mediated biological invasions, their consequences from ecological, economic, political, and ethical perspectives, and review management options available for prevention and/or mitigation of the negative impacts of invasive species. The intent is that a strong foundation in ecological principles will lead to an understanding of what causes biological invasions and what are the possible ways of dealing with them.