I propose that mentoring short-term student-led projects can serve as a research model for the long-term study of ecological phenomena.  For the last decade, open-access peer-reviewed journals have revolutionized traditional academic & scholarly publishing.  Principally undergraduate institutions are then in a unique position to engage the undergraduate research experience to address long-term research objectives.  As such, my undergraduate upper-division courses regularly blur the line between teaching & research.

     This is a field course that explores interactions between organisms and both their abiotic & biotic environments across population, community, and ecosystem levels.  Undergraduate student conduct independent field-projects in diverse habitats across Southern California (such as Ballona wetlands & Santa Monica mountains) and submit findings for publication.  

     Here are some of our papers:


     This travel-embedded course meets regularly during the spring semester and travels to the Neotropics during spring-break to conduct field research.  In Costa Rica we visit tropical lowland rainforest at La Selva Biological Station - located 7km out of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui (Heredia).  In Mexico we visit a high-elevation (2,500 m.a.s.l.) tropical thorn woodland at Peña del Gato UMA - in La Congoja, Aguascalientes. Undergraduate students conduct field-projects in selected topic areas and submit findings for publication.  

     Here are some of the research questions we explore: 
Ant-plant interactions: What role does dioecy play in how plants optimize ant-defense? 

Chemical Ecology: How are bract-water environments modified by changes in aquatic insect diversity? 
Bat morphometrics: What is the relationship between wing morphometrics and echolocation spectrograms among different guilds of bats? 
Agroecology: What are the ecological dynamics in a 15yr old native tree plantation & how do they compare to the surrounding secondary forest? 

     Organisms ubiquitously engage in a dynamic interplay of chemical signals to attract, discourage, maintain and shape intra- and interspecific interactions.   This course links the analytical detection & quantification of organic macromolecules with the evaluation of biological interactions.  Below is a picture of my students developing an instrument methodology to detect sugar species and relative concentration from myrmecophytic extrafloral nectar (EFN) glands using High Performance Liquid Chromatography with Refractive Index Detection (HPLC-RID):


Here is the first of our papers:

     This course format is incredibly flexible; we read lots of primary literature & spend ample time in the field, greenhouse, and/or lab.  The challenge remains that this course is not counted towards my regular teaching-load (Yikes!).
     Here are some of our papers:

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