Classes I teach

  1. Introductory Biology (Bio 116)

  2. Marine Biology (Bio 378), a capstone GER

  3. Comparative Animal Physiology / Advanced Comparative Animal Physiology

  4. Marine Mammal Biology / Advanced Marine Mammal Biology (Biology A430/60)

  5. Undergraduate Research

BIOLOGY 116: Fundamentals of Biology 2

Biology 116 Requirements

1.     Successful completion of Biology 115 & 115L

2.     Concurrent enrollment in Biology 116 L

3.     Successful completion of Chemistry 105 & 105L

This course is the second part of our two semester introductory biology sequence (Biol 115-116). This sequence of courses is designed for students with a strong interest in science or pursuing a science-related degree and demands a good background in math and science. The course is divided into 4 parts, as outlined below. There will be several in class discussions on recent topic of concern or interest, so that you can see how the topics you are learning about are applied in the modern world.

The first section of the course focuses on the foundation of biology that explains biological diversity and the properties of organisms and their evolution.  You will learn about populations, species, and the rules of genetic inheritance. The second and third sections of the course are designed to familiarize you with the diverse forms of life, so that you will gain an understanding and appreciation of the important (and often less familiar) organisms that have existed on the earth, and so when you are walking in the forest or on the beach and see something squirm away into the darkness you have a clue about what it might be.  We start with animals, and focus on the major adaptations that separate key lineages, and the basic physiological adaptations of animals to terrestrial and aquatic life. Then we introduce protists, fungi, and plants, and present broad patterns of diversification and the adaptations that have contributed to the prevalence of these organisms. The last section of the course explores the diverse ways that living organisms interact with each other and their environment.  These interactions are important because they determine the distribution and abundance of species on the surface of the earth and they shape current and future evolution.  An understanding of these interactions is essential for making wise decisions about managing our environment. Here the section ends with discussions about climate change and salmon habitat conservation.


BIOLOGY 378: Marine Biology

Capstone GER

Class is taught alternate years, typically in the fall

Course Requirements

1.     Completion of BIOL A271 or ENVI A202

2.     Upper division standing (Junior level or above)

3.     Completion of all GER Tier 1 courses (basic college-level skills) is required for GER Tier 3 credit.

Course Outline and Goals

This course provides an introduction to the marine habitat, with a focus on understanding the biological basis behind modern problems and issues in the marine sphere, particularly those in Alaska. The class is divided into 4 main sections. The first section will introduce you to the ocean as a physical habitat, and will cover topics such as ocean currents and structure, climate regimes and arctic warming. The second section introduces the organisms that form the base of the marine food web, and focuses on features that influence ocean productivity and food webs. With this understanding of abiotic and biotic features that influence communities in the open ocean, we will move into the third portion of the course, where we will discuss the challenges to life, and the diversity of life in several regions (benthos, deep sea, intertidal, estuarine). In each region we will focus on local Alaskan issues, and discuss potential threats and human impacts. Each section will have a reading and writing assignment taken from the primary literature. There will be one midterm, 4 case study assignments, and final exam. Guest speakers will present information on local Alaskan issues from a variety of perspectives. 

While lectures will be based from the textbook reading assignments, I will also include information from a wide variety of sources. Lectures are available on blackboard, but not all lecture material is detailed on the Powerpoint slides. The assignments are meant to support the lecture, but will often not cover all the information / detail presented in lecture. This means that it will be important to attend class and take good notes. You will be tested on reading assignments, material presented in class (by myself and guest speakers) and the homework assignments.


BIOLOGY 415/615 Comparative Animal Physiology

Class is taught alternate years, typically in the spring

Biology 415 Requirements                                           Biology 615 Requirements

Completion of Biology 310                                          Graduate standing or instructor permission

                                                                                        Simultaneous enrollment in 615R

Course Outline & Goals:

This course presents the physiology of marine, freshwater, and terrestrial animals, with an emphasis on understanding how different species have adapted to their habitat.  As such we will approach most topics from a comparative perspective. In the class, students develop an understanding of how the environment that animals live in impacts their physiology and behavior. Initial lectures introduce students to the variety of challenges that animals face, and the basic physical laws that govern all physiological processes. Subsequent lectures compare how different species have adapted to particular physiological stresses imposed by unique habitats. Students then apply this knowledge to predict expected physiological mechanisms for animals in particular environments. Lectures approach problems experimentally and acquaint students with the techniques used to determine physiological status. Once students have achieved an understanding of the comparative approach to the study of animal physiology, they will be better able to understand animal behavior and ecology. Because I have yet to find a text book that contains all the information I want to teach, I will be lecturing from a variety of sources and texts. Your reading assignments will be from the main text (Hill) and from handouts provided in class or on blackboard. The assignments are meant to support the lecture, but often will not cover all the information / detail presented in lecture. This means that it will be important to attend class, and to take good notes. You will be tested on what is covered in class and the concepts in the reading assignments and problem sets

 In addition to meeting all requirements for Biol A415, graduate students enrolled in the course must attend a weekly discussion section where primary physiological literature will be discussed. Information covered in discussion section will be included on graduate exams. Undergraduate students are welcome to attend these discussions, but are not required to do so.

 NOTE: This course will satisfy the physiology requirement for the B.A. and B.Sc. in Biology (i.e. this course can be used as a substitute for Biology 310 or Biology 361, by petition)


BIOLOGY 430/630 Marine Mammal Biology


Class is taught alternate years, typically in the fall


Biology 430 Requirements                                           Biology 630 Requirements

Completion of Biology 272 (Ecology)                          Graduate standing or instructor permission

Simultaneous enrollment in 430L                                 Simultaneous enrollment in 630R


Required Texts: Marine Mammals: Evolutionary Biology (Berta, Sumich, and Kovacs, 2006, Academic Press)

Recommended Texts:   Marine Mammals of Alaska (Kate Wynne) Alaska Sea Grant


Course Outline & Goals:

This course is an introduction to the biology and ecology of marine mammals, with an emphasis on understanding how they are adapted to their habitat, and their role in the marine ecosystem. As such we will approach most topics from an evolutionary perspective. Students will develop an understanding of marine mammal evolution, and the physiological, reproductive and behavioral changes that resulted from their reentry into the marine habitat. Students will then apply what they know about basic biology in order to understand the role that marine mammals play in ocean ecosystems, and discover how researchers have applied tools from a number of disciplines in order to work on these large, elusive mammals. Once students have achieved an understanding of marine mammal ecology, and the limitations inherent to working with these animals, they will address issues such as population management and conservation using topics that are current in the popular and scientific press. They will then use their problem solving skills to derive biologically appropriate solutions to modern management issues. The lecture portion of the class will present relevant information contained in the text and other sources.   The laboratory section of the course offers undergraduates the chance to work with specimens and technologies currently in use in the field of marine mammal biology, to examine population size and ecology, foraging patterns and diet, reproductive energetics, and lactation strategies, and to review the primary literature. There is a laboratory manual with the course that contains lab content.

Graduate students are expected to learn the material in laboratory section, and must also attend a weekly discussion section, in which they will read, present, and review primary literature. 

Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate students interested in conducting research in my laboratory should contact me. We typically have 1-2 students working in the lab each semester. Students interested in conducting research should have a minimum of 8 hours per week to devote to their project.