Teaching

I teach the following courses at the University of Winnipeg (note that descriptions on this page may differ from those in recent course calendars):

BIOL-2403(3) PRINCIPLES OF ECOLOGY (Le3,La3). This is a general introductory course in ecology for second year students.  In my section, I emphasize the central role of energy flows in ecosystems, the variety of life history and species interactions, as well as providing an essential introduction to quantitative concepts of population growth and competition.

BIOL-3471(3) FOREST ECOLOGY (Le3) This course provides an integrative, interdisciplinary discussion on structure and function of forest ecosystems, with  reference to boreal, temperate and tropical forests. Topics to be covered include global and local variations in forest ecosystems; the processes controlling ecosystem structure and function; natural disturbance, succession, forests as wildlife habitat, carbon storage and the effects of climate change.

BIOL-3473(3) PRINCIPLES OF SILVICULTURE (Le3) Silviculture integrates biological principles of tree growth and regeneration (silvics) with the application of this knowledge to forest management (silviculture). In this course, we cover silvicultural systems (e.g. even-aged and uneven-aged management), thinning, forest regeneration, and related activities of the silvicultural cycle.  We examine forest management from Canadian and International perspectives.  Assignments include the debate of forest management issues, quantitative analysis of silvicultural goals and greenhouse experiments with “miniature forests”.

BIOL-4471(3) ECOLOGICAL METHODOLOGY (Le3,La3). This course is concerned with both the design of ecological studies and the use of computers to analyze, interpret, and present ecological data. Students will review the nature, properties, and purpose of measurements; graphic presentation, statistical analysis, and interpretation of ecological data.  My goal for this course is to bring the philosophy and practice of hypothesis generation and testing together with the details of statistical analysis to enable students to understand how ecological studies are conducted. 

BIOL-4451(2) FOREST ECOSYSTEMS FIELD COURSE (P,V). This 3-week field course  gives students a comprehensive overview of forest ecology field skills. Topics include field and laboratory exercises in boreal and urban forestry; tree and plant identification; classification of forest types; forest management and environmental impact; soil classification; forest succession; dendrochronology; forest measurement; forest protection and silviculture.

Teaching Philosophy 

My teaching strategy is to use all my courses to impart the core concepts and skills that students will need to (1) understand the course material, and (2) to make good use of this understanding in the future. 

To understand core concepts, students must engage actively with the subject matter of the course rather than being passive recipients of information.  To that end, I ask frequent questions in class, engage students in class debates and presentations, and have them do conceptual modeling and quantitative exercises. 

And above all, I want students to write well.  Writing, writing, writing – that vanishing art of organizing information into a coherent whole – that if you are lucky, may qualify as knowledge.  Yes, you will write, and you will be criticized.

Even more important than writing is the ability to think about and reflect upon the material that you are trying to learn.  Any university subject has to be seen as more than just a loose collection of “facts” imparted through a smorgasbord of courses.  To achieve true understanding, you have to be able to integrate the concepts learned in different courses to see your subject as a whole.

My overall philosophy, then, is that my students should be active learners.  Variations on the active learning style of pedagogy include “problem-based learning”, “active learning”, and “collaborative learning”.  Although lectures are necessary, I am increasingly incorporating these approaches, which demand that students actually get up and do something.