Approach to Education

My academic profile is incomplete without a discussion of teaching. In fact, education is a deeply-held passion of mine, and it was through the pursuit of teaching opportunities that I was first introduced to  ecology. I have worked at every stage of the teaching process, from graduate-level lectures and laboratory recitations to curriculum design and lecture preparation. However, my most extensive teaching experience is mentoring individuals and tutoring small groups.

Matthew (orange) and William (green) are high school students from the Glenwood School in Smith’s Station, Alabama who learned about ecological research as my field and lab assistants during a field course in central Panama.


I am a strong believer that sharing knowledge is a responsibility and should be a priority for academics. My position as a research fellow does not include a teaching position, so I have worked outside of my fellowships to involve myself in education. Through the Jefferson County Public Schools, I have worked with elementary school educators to organize field trips and develop content for lessons. At the university-level, I served as a consultant for the redesign and implementation of an R-based curriculum in a graduate-level course covering statistical analyses and experimental design. Additionally, I waived a semester of my fellowship to make myself available to teach an introductory biology lab and gain experience managing undergraduate teaching assistants. Because I live approximately 6 months per year at a field station, I regularly give guest lectures about tropical forest ecology and ecosystem processes to visiting field courses.

One-on-one or small group interactions remain my preferred medium for teaching.  These types of interactions maximize flexibility so that information can be conveyed in the most relatable manner for everyone. Accordingly, I emphasize the importance of individual meetings for my students and I enjoy mentoring undergraduate students interested in research. Introducing students to undergraduate research is personally important to me because my time as an undergraduate research assistant positively affected my career. I try to provide students with a clear and accurate view of academic research so that they can make an educated decision about their future. Ultimately, mentoring undergraduate students is an excellent medium for combining my passion for research with my broader desire to educate.

Undergraduate research assistant Riley Kneale attaches a respirometry collar in Panama.