Research in Ecology and Evolution

This course is for undergraduate students majoring in biological sciences and is designed to teach scientific inference and communication in the context of a topic in ecology or evolution. The primary goal is not to learn about specific topics or techniques, but to learn about the process of research by doing it. Students work in pairs to develop original research questions, evaluate these questions with data and present the results to their peers. The first four weeks focus on introducing background in ecology and statistics through focused readings of the primary scientific literature and practice with R, whereas the last five weeks transition into research project development, data collection and analysis and multiple rounds of writing and peer-review. The course culminates with presentations during the final week and a written report.

I currently teach two versions of this course: 

BIO 47: The Nectar Microbes Course

In this Spring quarter course, students study interactions between the Sticky Monkeyflower plant, it pollinators and the microorganisms that inhabit its nectar. Data is collected at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve and student characterize microbial communities through a combination of culturing and sequencing. The course was originally developed in 2010 by Tad Fukami and colleagues and in 2012 was awarded the Science prize in Inquiry-Based Instruction.

BIO 46: The Lichen Microbes Course

In this Winter quarter course, students study microorganisms living in two common California lichens: Ramalina menziesii and Evernia prunastri. I developed and taught a pilot version of this course in 2017, in which students collected lichens from Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve and then examined relationships between the abiotic environment, lichen physical traits, algal symbionts, endolichenic fungi and internal and external bacteria. I will be presenting a poster at the 2017 ESA meeting in Portland in August on this course, titled: Lichen-associated micro-organisms as subjects of course-based undergraduate research in community ecology.

Syllabus and Learning Objectives