Whew! It has been a whirlwind two months getting settled into my new position as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Davidson College. I just finished my third week of teaching Integrating Concepts in Biology II (Bio 114), an intro course sequence focused on some of the key, central ideas in biology (like information, evolution, and homeostasis). The course uses a book developed by Davidson College professors (Malcolm Campbell, Laurie Heyer, and Chris Paradise) and emphasizes working with real, published research and datasets and developing quantitative skills. By design, my approach features heavy doses of small group work and other active learning strategies which keep both my students and me on our collective toes. It has really been wonderful to find myself back in the classroom, even though I am exhausted at times. The students are motivated, willing to prepare, and curious, as evidenced by the amount of time we spend chatting after class and during my office hours.
As part of the class, I’ve also been developing labs and activities. While I’m adapting most of these from labs shared by generous colleagues for logistical reasons, I was excited to develop a brand new lab focused around citizen science that just dropped this week. In addition to working independently on a citizen science project of their own choosing, our whole class is contributing to a survey of Davidson’s campus. When I first arrived in NC, I checked out the local iNaturalist observations, but was surprised to find very few observations from Davidson’s campus and the surrounding areas. This was not an acceptable situation.
Starting yesterday, students have been contributing to our project to document the biodiversity of the campus community and rapidly remedying this problem. We’re hoping to break 500 observations in the next two weeks! If you’re an iNaturalist user (and especially if you have expertise in insects or plants, our two most commonly observed groups), feel free to help make some identifications (hint, hint).