Courses at Swarthmore College
Organismal and Population Biology (BIO 002)
Bio 2 is Swarthmore's team taught introductory biology course focused on the levels of the organism and up. Swarthmore's Biology department long ago abandoned the survey style course for a more core principles approach. We strive to teach a few fundamental concepts and our students spend more time exploring case studies, the primary literature, and understanding HOW science is conducted. Vince has also taught the Bio 2 Scholar's program attachment to the main course.
From open houses at Mountain Lake Biological Station to helping field trips from the Youth Conservation Camp to working with the Children's Choir's Science for Kids, the Formica lab actively encourages science outreach.
Teaching at Swarthmore College
Teaching & Outreach
People love seeing animals up close. In order to get people excited about social behavior of insects we created a large, 3D plexiglas observation hive. Visiting k-12 students have the chance to view bees carrying pollen, building combs, and even waggle dancing. Seminars and biology courses even use the hives for experiments. Please stop by the Scott Arboretum's Pollinator Garden to see the hive in person.
Science for kids (SFK) is a summer science education program organized by Swarthmore faculty and instructors for ~50 children from the Chester Children’s Chorus each year. Students participate in science workshops in our Science Center every day during their 5-week summer music program. My collaborator, Butch Brodie and I developed a phylogeny based workshop for SFK middle school children that explores the evolutionary relationships of live arthropods. We travel to Swarthmore during the field season to conduct the workshop. Introducing a middle-schooler to a tarantula that is as big as their face, never gets old. While most of the students are initially hesitant to interact with strange creatures, by the second day they are thinking critically about diagnostic characters.
Science For Kids
Molecular Ecology and Evolution Honors Seminar (BIO 136)
Molecular Ecology and Evolution (MEEvo) explores how molecular techniques (for DNA, RNA, & proteins) can inform larger ecology, evolution, and conservation questions. MEEvo is structured like a graduate-level journal club. Students select recently published papers and lead discussions. This seminar counts for two courses worth of credit and each year students design and execute independent lab and field projects around a theme. Previous lab project themes include environmental DNA (eDNA), selective sweeps, and population genetics of invasive species. Students in MEEvo also read literature on visual communication, statistical traps, and gender/racial bias in science.
Organismal and Population Biology (BIO 002)
Bio 2 is Swarthmore's team taught introductory biology course focused on the levels of the organism and above. Swarthmore's Biology department long ago abandoned the survey style course for a more core principles approach. We strive to teach a few fundamental concepts and our students spend more time exploring case studies, the primary literature, and understanding how science is conducted. Teaching in Bio 2 is one of my favorite assignments at Swarthmore. I've also taught the Bio 2 Scholar's program attachment to the main course which helps a small group of dedicated students hone their study skills, develop leadership skills, and dive deeper into the material we cover in lecture.
Evolution (BIO 034)
Evolution is my intermediate course, largely for sophomores and juniors. The course is a mixture of lecture, class discussion, and small group work. One third of the classes involve reading and discussing the primary literature. The course also has a weekly lab component where students focus on designing their own projects. During Evolution the students write a mock NSF pre-proposal for a novel idea of their invention and then we hold NSF-style panels for peer evaluation of the work.
The “Beetle Crew” is a mainstay of outreach activities at Mountain Lake Biological Station (MLBS) each summer. As one of the most recognizable (and easy for visitors to find) animals in the forest, forked fungus beetles figure prominently in demonstrations to visiting groups of all ages. Our lab routinely relays the results of our work at these events. MLBS hosts 6-10 visiting public groups each summer, ranging from home schoolers, to youth conservation groups, to the Virginia Master Naturalist training program. MLBS also hosts an annual Open House that brings in hundreds of visitors from the nearby counties in rural Virginia. It is amazing how much you understand the importance of your own work after you have to explain it to people who didn't expect to be excited about beetle social lives.