Teaching Focus & Courses

I come from a family of teachers. My mom taught 6th grade for over 30 years and my great aunt taught in the public schools of St. Louis for decades. She even lied about her age so she could begin teaching a year earlier than the age threshold allowed. That came back to bite her when she wanted to retire. By then the school had figured out her real age and made her work the extra year. I even had another aunt who taught college physical education in the 1960s, decades before Title IX increased the ranks of such women. I first realized that I enjoy teaching when I was in graduate school teaching week-long summer courses for kids 8-12 on biology of insects through the Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas.

  • 2010 – I was awarded the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • 2003 – The Entomology Society of America (Eastern Branch) gave me a Recognition Award in Teaching

On-campus teaching

Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity [BioEE 1780]: This is a large, team-taught, introductory course for about 360 undergraduate students majoring in the life sciences, including biology and entomology.  Other instructors present evolutionary processes, whereas my responsibility is about a third of the course in which I present the pattern of evolution. I introduce students to the wonderful diversity in the branches of the Tree of Life.

Comparative Physiology [BioG 1440]: Every spring I co-teach this large introductory course for about 360 biology majors. We cover the function of most animal organ systems in lecture and have small group sections (18 students) in which students do mini-labs or discuss articles. I present 1/2 of the lectures covering topics of metabolism, energetics, thermoregulation, circulation, osmoregulation, motor and sensory systems.

Insect Biology [ENTOM 2012]: In even fall semesters I teach an introductory level entomology course with a laboratory for 30-40 undergraduate and beginning graduate students. The course covers all aspects of the biology of insects, focusing on systematics, anatomy, physiology, behavior, basic and applied ecology, and natural history of insects. Early fall laboratories include field trips to collect and study insects in natural habitats around central NY. Students must also make a personal collection emphasizing ecological, behavioral, and taxonomic categories. It’s a lot of fun.

insect_bioInsect Physiology [ENTOM 4830]:  I taught this upper level lecture and laboratory course for advanced undergraduate and graduate students for about 20 years. Since spring 2013, however, I only provide 2-weeks of lectures on sensory, nervous, and muscular systems and one laboratory exercise on the escape system of the cockroach by introducing students to electrophysiological recording of neural activity in the ventral nerve cord.



Off-campus teaching

I also enjoy teaching off campus as often as I can to diverse groups of students. Typically they are adults. Here are a couple of groups I especially like working with.

adult_universityCornell Adult University (CAU): My wife, Dr. Linda Rayor, and I lead ecotours for CAU. We present lectures on natural history and lead field trips for groups of 18-50 adults and their families. Many, but not all are alumni or have some connection to Cornell. We’ve been to many cool places including Wyoming (2003), Tanzania (2006, 2007), Panama (2008), Galapagos Is. & Ecuador (2010), Alaska (2011), Brazilian Pantanal (2013). Our next trip will be to the Peruvian Amazon (scheduled May 2015).



nymnNew York Master Naturalists: At Arnot Forest about an hour south of Cornell, I present half-day indoor/outdoor workshops to groups of about 20 adults seeking certification as Master Naturalists. A host of instructors introduces the participants to all manner of organisms. I cover general biology of insects in the basic workshop or specific groups, such as butterflies or dragonflies/damselflies in advanced workshops.


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