Teaching Experiences- Colgate University


CORE: Discoveries in Biology (Fall 2007) 

In this course we are learning about research and theory relevant to the discipline of Biology. We are reading primary literature and having student-led discussions, using scientific method to develop field experiments to answer itching questions students have been pondering, and debating about controversial topics in science (including stem cell research, predator management, genetically modified organisms, and global warming). After having equated scientific method and scientific revolutions (paradigm shifts) to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, students and I had a Chautauqua at the Madison Wind farm. Enjoy the pictures of our semester's journey:


Trip to the Vestas Windfarm in Madison, NY!

Herbert Hill, our International Relations major excited to see a Northern short-tailed shrew up close! Herbert and his group are working on an independent project to determine if human traffic on campus affects small mammal species assemblages.

David Pokorny and Chris Welhoelter setting out their traps and marking them with a GPS unit at the old golf course field at Colgate University.


Dave and Tim Burkly identifying Peromyscus in the field.




Releasing a chipmunk from a Sherman trap September 30, 2007.

Shelby Scott picking flowers associated with edge habitats in Hamilton, NY. She and her group members are collecting, identifying,  and pressing edge vs. interior flowers. They are planning to locate older specimens in the Colgate University herbarium and test the                              hypothesis that trends suggest earlier      blooming over time.



Matt Kissane setting his feeding chamber.

Jess Lippman can't wait to see if small mammals experience greater predation risk in the open or in the forest.

 Brandy Godfrey and her group (including Jess and Matt above) are probing the question as to whether small mammals perceive greater risk depending on the predator using coyote, bobcat, and fox scent in their feeding chambers.

Meghan Lawler and Ashley Russell setting up their crow decoys at their open site to test the giving up density (GUD) of small mammals when faced with visual predation risk. This will be a nice comparison to the group above looking at predator scent as a measure of                                                                        predation risk.

Owl decoy next to the feeding chamber in the forest cover plot. Crows are not as threatening (students hypothesize)...we shall see as the data roll in!


Kyle Chones identifying his maple (Acer sp.) leaf on Colgate's campus. He and his group members are noting leaf phenology in central NY and will be running chromatography to isolate accessory pigments from maple, beech (Fagus sp.), and oak (Quercus sp.) leaves.


Kyle, Jess, Catherine, and Stephanie working on their leaf chromatography lab experiment. 


Pin Oak leaves soaking in alcohol in a hot water bath...we're hoping to draw out those accessory pigments! 




Meredith Day, Alex Kuntz, and Ken Chones filling up their bird feeders for their experiment.

Alex and Lauren Abuouf working hard to get the proper amount of black oil sunflower seeds for their experiment. They are setting feeders out over the weekend to acclimate birds before making their observations.

Using Colgate's herbarium specimens to explore phenological changes in local flora! These are chicory specimens from 1960 & 1967!

Javier and Becky comparing aster specimens.

Emily, Mark, and Javier are looking at the leaves of their aster specimen to determine whether it is a New England or a New York aster...sometimes it's tricky!

Our night of glow dusting...figures the first cold snap came last night. No rodents to follow with our UV blacklights.

...but we had fun anyway, candy, spooky sounds, and fake eyeballs near our traps...what could be more fitting for 9PM the week of Halloween!

Radiant Color's Glo Dust w/ our UV lights.

Ecology/ Evolution and Diversity

(Spring 2008)

In class we will be learning about the evolutionary biology of organisms and the ecological processes that influence their distribution and abundance.  Lecture will explore biodiversity, population ecology, and community as well as ecosystem dynamics. Labs such as mimicry, animal evolution/phylogeny (PCR and DNA sequencing), fossil exploration, plant biodiversity, and optimal foraging will serve to reinforce important class topics. 

Mimicry lab Jan 30, 2008

Emily, Lisa, and Kristen making their lard worms (some palatable, some not so much).

 Laura carefully measuring her worms for our arrays.




Scott and Steffan enjoying getting to know each other while molding palatable green worms.

Dan and Tim setting their worm arrays for our predation experiment.

 Our colorful and somewhat tasteful worm array for the chickadees of central New York.


Seth and Adam looking at their gymnosperms!

Iustin and Halley characterizing angiosperms!

Plant lab...how about those ligules!

Getting a closer look at stomata under the scopes.

Animal evolution lab...who knew aquatic creatures could be so fun! Dr. Damhnait McHugh and her students from Biology 211.

Myra and JulieAnn are working hard to fill in their character matrix to begin building their phylogenetic trees!

Anemones are so much fun...at least that's what we think.

Seth dares Adam to pick up the leopard spotted crab.

Adam triple dog dares Seth to pick up the crab! No fingers were lost.

Fossil lab...Smiley Rock and the Brachiopods!

Ancient worm burrows on the loading dock walls.

Drew Boland looking at fossils intently through his hand lens! He's a born archaeologist!

Here's Drew again measuring wingspan of Mucrosporifer fossils with a caliper.

Mollusc fossils in Colgate buildings!

More shells!

Gotta love young scientists!

spiral shells!



Optimal foraging week 1: patch quality and handling time (shelled vs. unshelled seeds). Laura and Traci are sorting their seeds.

Mice are in arenas and we are ready to begin.

Let the foraging begin!

We noticed the mice were more readily consuming shelled seeds. Hmm...is this a crypsis issue?

Week 2, we are testing a stress on the mice. The class decided to shine a colored light (blue cellophane) on the mice to see if it might influence foraging behavior.

Blue lights were attached to our arenas on one side only. The other side was left as a control.

Emily Weyburne is noting handling time and the interesting observation that her mouse only forages in the corners of the arena.

This mouse was pretty hungry. We'll have to analyze our results next week to see if blue light hindered or fostered foraging behavior.





Independent Study: Effects of Dietary Calcium on the least shrew (Cryptotis parva) learning and memory

P.I. Jessica Czajka (senior Colgate Biology major)


Faculty mentor: moi

Cryptotis parva in her nest box. He's pit-tagged and ready to be used in trials.

Trial#1: The Shrew Raceway!

At the starting line...ready, set, go!

She's rounding the bend...


Jessie with her pit-tag reader and stopwatch ready to go!






Trial#2: the Maze!!!


You might wonder why they'd take on this maze...the reward is a bounty of tasty mealworms!

She's released from the tub and into the maze...now we watch and count how often she enters a blind alley.

She's headed back towards the entrance...wrong way!





 Shrew team (right to left: Christine Kelly, Shelly Forster, Shaina Musco, Iustin Moga...not pictured Steffan Pierre and Catie Carr). These students have been weighing elastomer and control shrews on a weekly basis and have been feeding Jessie's shrews their special diet.

Biology research symposium 2008

Visible Implant Elastomer (VIE) tags

Our collaborator Mike Rentz (U Minnesota) traveled out to Hamilton recently to tag a portion of our shrew colony with the fluorescent elastomer tags. Mike has experience using this in the field as a mark-recapture tag for small mammals (first one to try it too) and now we are testing the effects this mark might have on growth, survival, and reproduction.

Here's Mike tagging a least shrew and using a UV blacklight to see if the elastomer injected properly.

The fluorescent elastomer tag is injected in the underside of the tail where the fur is a bit lighter and less dense.

This is a worthwhile test b/c elastomers do not cause as much trauma as a pit-tag and are much cheaper. In the past they have been used in fish and amphibian research.

Conservation Biology (spring 2008)