News and Events
Nature of Life @ Itasca, College of Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota. Jul. 2018
I was fortunate enough to spend the last few days teaching and getting to know some of the incoming CBS class of 2022(!). Every year, all incoming freshmen into College of Biological Sciences must participate in their Nature of Life (NoL) series, where students attend a 3-day science and nature immersion camp at the UMN's Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories. Students participate in a series of educational modules introducing them to their future professors, different fields of biology, and basic research. They also get to know and meet each other with the hope that they will form a network of peers to help foster their college career. NoL is quite an impressive operation, and, have to admit, I was quite jealous of the opportunity these kids were afforded. They are lucky bunch, but fortunately they seem to recognize this and were a delightful group of students to hang out with over the course of a few days. On top of this Itasca State Park is truly beautiful. Kudos to the Nature of Life team, CBS and IBSL for arranging this event and inviting me.
Spotlight Article in iDigBio, Jan. 2018
In the latest issue of iDigBio's Research Spotlight series, we highlight some our recent work on the promise and pitfalls of using herbarium specimens for evolutionary and ecological research (link).
Market Science - Minnesota State Fair, MN 2017
The Minnesota State Fair is here! This year, the fair held a STEM Day and Market Science was there to represent. I was fortunate enough to helped organize one of two sessions for Market Science at the fair. The session we ran was a new and improved version of "How Do Plants Move?" It was similar to the one we ran at the Olmsted Co. Fair, but more focused and with a new game that taught animal dispersal.
We had nearly 200 kids come through our tent. It was a great experience to interact with so many curious and excited young scientists. It was truly a highlight of my educational career.
Market Science - Olmsted County Fair, MN 2017
Last weekend I had the opportunity to develop and run a Market Science booth at the Olmsted County Fair in Rochester, MN. While I have volunteered for Market Science before―and even developed activities for them―this was the first time I ran an event from start to finish.
The question of the day was "how do plants move?". The activities included exploring seed dispersal (movement through space), germination and dormancy (movement through time), and why movement matters (e.g., climate change). For seed dispersal, we showed kids real-life models like a maple samara or dandelion pappus, then let them build and test their own wind-dispersed fruit using real seeds and craft supplies. For germination, we had a microscope setup for kids to look at newly germinated seeds. We also had a variety of seeds kids could plant and take home as an illustration of dormancy―"right now your seed is sleeping, but if you give it the right conditions, it will wake up!" Finally, we had a lot of figures and graphs (more so for the parents in tow) on how plant movement is important for such things as climate change and invasive species.
We had a great turn out! Lot's of kids (and adults) getting excited about botany and science. I can't recommend volunteering for Market Science enough. A big thank you to the Market Science team for letting me do this!
Clubes de Ciencia - Mexico, 2016
I had the great fortune to spend the last week in Monterrey, Mexico leading an intensive, week-long course as part of Clubes de Ciencia - Mexico (CdeCMx). The course, titled "Forests of Future", focused on the impacts of climate change on plant diversity and how we can use species distribution modeling to predict these impacts.
The experience has forced me to use an old cliché — I truly lack the words to convey how much fun I had last week. I would like to thank CdeCMx and the hosting institution, Universidad Regiomontana (U-ERRE), for running a fantastically organized program and providing an open and welcoming environment to myself and my students. I would also like to thank my right-hand man, AJ Protin, for helping me run my course and navigate some of the more thorny translation hiccups.
Most importantly though, I would like to thank my students. These kids (Alondra, Fernanda, Con, Dante, Itzel, Alan, Verónica, Efraín, Ana Lucia, Ricardo, Cecilia, Ivan y Ivan) were an inspiration. Their excitement for learning was overwhelming (literally! they wouldn't leave at the end of the day!). They were also wonderful people whose commitment to helping one another was humbling and the reason I love to teach. I wish these kids all the best. They are the future of science, not just in Mexico, but in world. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had the chance to meet them.