My research interest and training may be broadly defined within the fields of behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology. It is my experience that research in these fields often lends itself to both the inclusion of undergraduate research projects and the potential for interdisciplinary collaborations. My research program examining the fitness consequences of learning and social behavior in animals has allowed me the opportunity to work with many undergraduate students while bridging the gap between ecology, conservation, and psychology.
Teaching through undergraduate research advising
In addition to my more traditional teaching experiences, I have had the rewarding opportunity to mentor many undergraduate research projects throughout my career. I feel that being a mentor requires considerable time and effort, and it is the responsibility of the mentor to provide students with as rich and complete an experience of science and research as possible. Accordingly, I have weekly meetings with students where we discuss all aspects of our research projects (including grant proposals, design, protocol, data analysis, and manuscript and grant writing) and the primary literature. Student projects are indeed challenging to both students and faculty and require creativity, industriousness, and a proficient understanding of the literature. With the help and support of a faculty advisor, a student research project can give a student a feeling of accomplishment and a greater understanding for the subject matter and the scientific process regardless of the student’s future career goals. I have worked with many undergraduate students on diverse research questions and taxa and have fully enjoyed and benefited from each experience. Undergraduate research projects that I have been involved with have resulted in publications, successful funding, presentations, and several honors awards.
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