At its best, science education allows students to deepen their conceptual understanding of the world around them, increase their ability to grasp and apply abstract concepts, and augment the technical and social skills that are vital to their success as professional, civically responsible adults.
While many students (and to be fair, instructors too) forget content-specific details within days to weeks, a deep and thorough conceptual understanding can persist for years. Thus, as advocated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, I prefer to focus on concepts rather than content. Mobile devices and the internet will ensure that content is readily accessible to everyone. However, a thorough understanding of the underlying concepts and the ability to apply or synthesize concepts will remain the hallmark of a quality education.
Further, I recognize that it is critically important for all students to understand the nature of science. Science is a process that incorporates making observations, generating hypotheses, carefully designing experiments, collecting data, and interpreting the information within a deductive framework-that is, there is a logical process by which science generates knowledge. Thus, I incorporate the nature of science in my classroom by discussing scientific research, and by having students explore and present relevant case studies.
Why do some animals exhibit greater (insert trait) than other animals? My research strives to understand the factors underlying differences in traits related to life history (e.g., body size and reproduction), behavior (e.g., parental care and personality), and physiology (e.g., energy use, immunity, and oxidative stress). I integrate physiology, behavior, and ecology to provide new insight into the dynamics by which two factors -- tradeoffs and the environment -- influence important aspects of the animal phenotype. My work examines interactions among environmental factors and animal traits in an array of taxa (from insects to snakes to mammals).