Amherst College is a top liberal arts college, so teaching is an important and valued part of my professional life. Here are some of the courses I teach most frequently.
ANIMAL BEHAVIOR (BIOLOGY 280 AND 281)
Shaped by millions of years of evolution, animals have evolved myriad abilities to respond to their environment, their potential predators and prey, and members of their own species. This course examines animal behavior from both a mechanistic and a functional perspective. Drawing upon examples from a diverse range of taxa, and using articles from the primary scientific literature, we discuss topics such as behavioral endocrinology, sexual selection and mating systems, dispersal and migration, communication, and cooperation.
TROPICAL BIOLOGY (BIOLOGY 454)
This course focuses on the ecological and evolutionary significance of tropical biodiversity. To provide students with a first-hand appreciation of this diversity, we begin with a 2-week field trip to Costa Rica (at no additional cost to students) to study three habitat types: lowland tropical forests, montane cloud forests, and tropical dry forests. Students conduct independent research projects during the field component of the course, and write an NSF-style grant proposal in the seminar part of the course.
FORM AND FUNCTION (BIOLOGY 264 and 265)
Functional morphology is the study of relationships between anatomical structures and the ecology and behavior of organisms. For example, how do bird wings produce flight? Can we predict differences in bird flight habits based on wing shape or feather structure? How do wings of flying and flightless birds differ? We begin by discussing animal body size and metabolism before moving on to various forms of locomotion, and then to morphological adaptations for prey capture, predator avoidance, and reproduction. We also discuss how animal morphology inspires human innovation.
ADAPTATION AND THE ORGANISM (BIOLOGY 181)
An introduction to the evolution, ecology, and behavior of organisms and how these relate to the diversity of life. Following a discussion of the core components of evolutionary theory, the course examines how evolutionary processes have shaped morphological, anatomical, physiological, and behavioral adaptations in organisms that solve many of life's problems, ranging from how to find or acquire food and avoid being eaten, to how to attract and locate mates, and how to optimize reproduction throughout a lifetime. We also discuss how diverse organisms have arrived at solutions to life's challenges.