Teaching and Mentoring

 
 

Teaching Philosophy

Students are most engaged in science if they understand it as not just memorization of dry facts, but an unfolding process in which they can participate.  My goal, for any scientific course, is to have students take relevant data and develop their own story. The analytical, communication, and data management skills they learn through this process are transferable to problems they encounter in their education and beyond.

Along with an element of student research, I implement a wide range of evidence-based strategies within a single course. I emphasize group activities and discussion to encourage problem-solving and synthesis.  Short in-class writing assignments encourage students to engage in synthesis, and allows me to quickly assess their understanding. At the end of any course, my students should able to take principles that we had learned in class, and apply them to real world examples of environmental change.

I implement evidence-based teaching strategies to ensure an equitable learning environment for students from many different backgrounds and demographics. More on this topic can be found on my Diversity and Outreach page.

 

Mentoring Philosophy

 Nick and Maggie sampling the Sturgeon Lakes

Nick and Maggie sampling the Sturgeon Lakes

I believe that students working with me should be responsible for developing their own research questions with guidance from myself and more senior students. I focus on important, transferable skills such as data management, how to develop a research plan, and placing their work in the context of existing literature. I encourage students to read widely, and ask questions. In turn, I ask them to reason through their own understanding of biogeochemical processes and how our own data reflects larger theoretical understanding. I aim for them to develop their analytical skills and ability to teach themselves.  Students working with me also mentor and teach each other. Peer mentoring provides students with the chance to develop collaborative skills that will be useful in any context, and to learn new technical abilities from each other. Mentorship is not a one-way street, either, and I learn from my students - better ways to communicate and educate, more about unfamiliar places or topics outside my own knowledge-base, and they are a constant source of inspiration and enthusiasm. 

 

Teaching Experience

Instructor of Record, Biogeochemical Processes, undergraduate and graduate course, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, 2016

Description: Biogeochemical Processes is the study of how biological, chemical, physical, and geological processes interact to form and change the environment.  In particular, this courses focuses on how specific elements – such as Carbon, Nitrogen, and Phosphorous – move through Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere. The movement of such elements through the environment can provide insight into the formation and evolution of life, current ecosystem processes, and the large-scale, uncontrolled experiment that is taking place as humans alter these processes. The first half of this course will largely center on the biogeochemistry of different parts of the global environment, with an emphasis on the carbon cycle. The second half focuses on a global-scale understanding of elemental cycles.  Throughout, the human impacts on biogeochemistry over a variety of spatial and time scales will be emphasized. Syllabus available upon request.

Teaching Assistant, Coastal Watersheds, undergraduate course, Marine Science Institute, University of Texas at Austin, 2012

Description: This field/lab course emphasizes river water sampling, flow measurement techniques, water chemistry, and methods of data analysis that are essential for estimating the transport of materials from land into the coastal ocean. Students will travel to the Mission and Aransas rivers in South Texas to measure in-situ water quality parameters, collect water for nutrient analyses, and conduct river flow measurements at several sites on each river. Following field work, students will conduct lab work to measure water chemistry measurements and perform data analysis that includes estimation of nutrient export from land to sea. Understanding how water flow and nutrient concentrations combine to determine nutrient export from land to sea is a primary objective of this course. Students will discuss how variations in land-use influence nutrient export from coastal watersheds and how the physical characteristics of the receiving waters (tidal rivers, estuaries) mediate the biotic response to nutrient inputs.

Guest Instruction

Limnology, undergraduate and graduate course, “Global Carbon  Cycle and Global Change”, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN.

Marine Biogeochemisty, graduate course, “65 million years of climate change”, Marine Science Institute, University of Texas at Austin, Port Aransas, TX.

Coastal Watersheds, undergraduate course, linking watersheds to river export, Marine Science Institute, University of Texas at Austin, Port Aransas, TX.

 Marine Environmental Science, undergraduate course, “Global Climate Change.”  Marine Science Institute, University of Texas at Austin, Port Aransas, TX.

 Coastal Watersheds, graduate course, “Watershed export events and coastal ecosystem responses in South Texas.”  Marine Science Institute, University of Texas at Austin, Port Aransas, TX

 Part of my "Lending Library": I encourage students and colleagues to stop by my office and borrow a book!

Part of my "Lending Library": I encourage students and colleagues to stop by my office and borrow a book!

Additional courses

Below are potential specialty courses that I have developed syllabi for, although I have not yet taught these courses. This is not a comprehensive list of all courses that I would be interested in teaching - simply those that have been developed already. Sample syllabi are available upon request.

 Watershed Processes, graduate/undergraduate course, lecture/lab/field

Description: Rivers integrate a landscape – as water moves across terrestrial ecosystems, materials are accumulated and processed before eventually being delivered to the coastal ocean.  This course will first introduce basic watershed processes, including the physical, chemical and biological processes that impact delivery of water, sediments and nutrients to the coastal ocean.  Then, students will examine the fate of these constituents in the coastal ocean, and how humans have influenced land-ocean connections.  Topics include introductory hydrology, biogeochemistry, GIS watershed modeling, and estuarine processes.  Students will then explore how human activities such as water use, climate change, land use and land cover, and management/restoration practices have influenced the above processes.  Examples of these issues will include local field trips and case studies from the poles to the tropics. 

Seas in Transition: Science and Science Communication, undergraduate course, seminar

Description: Before Silent Spring, Rachel Carson made a name for herself as the author of a trilogy of books about marine biology. She brought to life ecosystems from the coast to the open ocean to the air above the waves. In this course, we will read sections of Under the Sea Wind, The Sea Around Us, and The Edge of the Sea each week and in conjunction with recent scientific papers that update our understanding of marine processes since the books' publication in the mid-20th century. Students will focus on three themes for each section: 1) how has the ecology and environment changed since 1950 2) how has our understanding changed and 3) how does the text effectively communicate science. Weekly discussions will be student-led. This is a writing intensive course, and students will be expected to develop articles and other media that convey important or interesting scientific ideas based on recent research.

Polar Environmental Change, undergraduate course

Description: This course explores the global and local impacts of environmental change in the Arctic and Antarctic.  Anthropogenic climate change is a primary topic, but current climate is placed in the context of long-term shifts in global temperature and carbon cycling. Topics include climate, ice sheet dynamics, sea ice, permafrost, terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and human-environment interactions (indigenous communities, resource extraction, etc). The first half of the course will focus largely on physical processes and climate, and the latter half on interactions between ecosystems, humans, and the physical environment. Throughout, we will discuss how our understanding of high latitude processes has evolved, and strategies to communicate scientific knowledge.