In introducing ecology, I brought in an inflatable earth ball to class and asked the students to show me what characteristic of the planetary motion of the earth causes our seasons. One student showed well how the tilt of the earth exposed the different hemispheres at different parts of the orbit. When she was done, I then challenged the class to show what the moon was doing at the same time (a balled up sock was about the best I could model the moon with). The students were surprised – that wasn’t in the reading! But then they got down to thinking. What did the lunar cycle represent? Did the moon spin around its axis? Suddenly the room was abuzz with ideas…
My goal in teaching is to generate those moments of surprise, surprise about new knowledge, surprise about not knowing some seemingly basic things about the world around us. At the same time, I want the students to feel that science is accessible and that, yes, they can contribute to it.
My career goal is to teach introductory biology, as well as animal behavior, ecology and evolution. My lecturing experience includes a semester of teaching the principles of ecology with lab at both the undergraduate and Masters level at the University of New Haven. I have also taught a survey of biodiversity at the University of San Diego, and in 2008, I co-taught the non-majors class “Social Issues in Biology” at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. My unit of that class focused on evolution, and the lectures were designed for the students to realize how an understanding of basic evolutionary principles can be very relevant to their lives. To see the slides from this lecture series, which is a good example of my teaching style, click here. I am currently teaching an introduction to ecology, behavior and evolution at the University of California, San Diego.
I have also had a variety of other teaching experiences – smaller series of lectures, laboratories, field trips, workshops – during my dissertation work at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, while in the field in Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea, and during the last year at USD. In Sri Lanka and in the U.S. I've been involved in several different high school programs, including this year's "Pollinators and Predators" program with High Tech High, in San Diego.
Finally, I enjoy working with students on my research and advising their own independent projects. In spring 2010, I had the opportunity to advise senior biology majors at on their “Senior Seminar”, a 20 minute powerpoint presentation on their own research topic (including both lab science and library research projects). Over the years, I have also advised a number of Sri Lankan and Indian students on projects related to my own research on birds. For example, S. Harsha K. Satischandra of the University of Sabaragamuwa conducted his undergraduate thesis on such a project, and was recently invited to the US to give a presentation at the International Society for Behavioral Ecology, the only non-Ph.D. student to get such an award.