I currently teach four different courses at the Colleges and also contribute to our research methods course.

BIOL44L Introductory Biology

This course provides an introduction to the evolution, ecology, and diversity of life, approaching biology as a science in four dimensions (space and time). By the end of the semester students are expected to have a thorough understanding of the principles of evolution, the form, function, and physiology of plants and animals, major ecological concepts, and the history of life on Earth.

Emphasis is placed on conceptual frameworks. Instead of covering all topics offered in the textbook I select several areas of major importance. A common thread of the course is ?tree thinking?, i.e. the phylogenetic perspective on biology. Tree thinking is a very challenging concept , and hence it (re)appears in many different parts of the class. Another important aspect of this course is to illustrate the connections between seemingly different biological phenomena, e.g. the similarities and differences between water-land transitions in plants and vertebrates, and the multiple origins of multicellularity. The ability to integrate and connect different topics is important for students? success in the course.

This course is designed to improve students? ability to read and interpret complex scientific illustrations, diagrams, and graphs, enhance critical thinking skills, and further develop quantitative reasoning.

BIOL120 Research Methods in Organismal Biology

This modular course provides an overview of some of the modern techniques in organismal biology. My module consists of an introduction to handling comparative and phylogenetic data in R. After an introduction to some programming students work on small inquiry-based projects that can easily be expanded to senior thesis projects.

BIOL141L Vertebrate ANatomy

The vertebrates display an enormous and incredibly interesting amount of diversity in shape and size ? for example, compare the honey possum with an elephant, or a hummingbird with a dinosaur. In this course we examine this diversity, explore how anatomical structures evolved and understand how they work. This course is very integrative and provides students with material from a variety of different disciplines, including anatomy, physiology, paleontology, and functional morphology/biomechanics. The lab is an interesting but challenging combination of dissection, CT scan analysis, morphometrics and statistics in R, designed to provide students with a broad skill set to interpret anatomical structures in the 21st century.

By taking this course, students develop a solid understanding of the evolutionary history of vertebrates, acquire knowledge of their comparative anatomy, and examine the major functional systems and explain how they work. All this is tackled from a phylogenetic perspective, reinforcing the ?tree thinking? component introduced in introductory biology classes.

BIOL167 Sensory Evolution

The senses play a crucial role in how animals perceive their environment, and the performance of sensory structures is directly linked to the organism?s fitness and survival. Thus, sensory systems are often considered to strongly influence the evolution and radiation of major animal groups. In this course we bridge the fields of evolution, neurobiology, physics, physiology, and paleontology in order to provide a more integrated understanding of sensory evolution.

For each sensory system that we discuss, we investigate its morphology and physiology and explain how it works. We learn when, in what groups, and what kind of sensory structures evolved. We also discuss possible sensory adaptations to specific lifestyles and habitats (e.g., life in the deep-sea, nocturnality, zooplanktivory, etc.).

This course is directed at the more advanced student, because it integrates across many different fields. Students will develop a good understanding of metazoan phylogenetics, acquire knowledge of the molecular and physiological basics of sensory perception, and learn about structure and function of the major sensory systems.

The class is taught in a very dynamic and interactive way, with many class room discussions. The main assignment of the course is a blog on a recent paper in the field of sensory biology ? check out our results from previous years!

BIOL182L Applied Phylogenetics

This course is an introduction to modern phylogenetic comparative methods and their application to biodiversity studies. Phylogenetic as well as fossil data provide rich resources for analyzing diversity over deep time. Using the R environment for statistical computing and graphing, students will manipulate and plot phylogenetic trees, analyze lineage diversification, visualize disparity patterns, and investigate trait evolution including model fitting, ancestral state reconstructions, and some advanced statistical approaches.

The main learning outcomes/objectives of this course are:
1) Develop macroevolutionary hypotheses and test these with comparative data.
2) Understand the theory, types of data, and methods required to analyzing macroevolution.
3) Source online databases for phylogenies and data.
4) Data handling, manipulation, and visualization in R.
5) Basic programming in R. Note that in particular the programming and visualization skills are highly transferable.

All code, along with exercises and example datasets is available here.

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