Teaching

Evolutionary Endocrinology

In this course, we will examine the ways in which animals evolve physiological adaptations to the environment in which they live.Hormones coordinate the (co)-expression of genes and phenotypes in response to both intrinsic and extrinsic cues. Hormones regulate nearly all aspects of the phenotype and hormone systems are subject to natural selection. Yet, despite the key roles that hormones play in mediating evolutionary phenomena, hormones are rarely integrated into evolutionary models and analyses. Using literature that spans across vertebrate taxa from reptiles to birds to mammals, we will focus on exciting new ideas about the evolutionary significance of hormones in shaping life-history evolution, facilitating or constraining adaptation, and mediating maternal effects. The objectives of this class are (1) to provide an overview to some of the exciting research areas in Evolutionary Endocrinology, and (2) to help bring advanced undergraduates up to graduate level in their reading, understanding, and writing about hormone-related topics. Emphasis will be placed on critical thinking and clear and concise writing.

 

Life History Theory

Life history theory tries to explain how evolution designs organisms to achieve reproductive success. These designs are a dynamic solution to a set of ecological problems posed by the environment while still being subject to constraints intrinsic to the organism. In this seminar, we will take an in-depth look at the literature on life history evolution. We will explore the literature on life history theory, fundamental tradeoffs, intrinsic constraints, and life history strategies. We will also focus on several key resource allocation decisions that organisms must make focusing specifically on non-human primate and human life history theory. The objective of the course is to enable students to understand the theoretical background of life history evolution and to critically read and assess the primary empirical literature on each of the topics mentioned. The course will focus on the data emerging from humans and non-human primates, but will draw upon other animal examples where necessary.

 

Grantsmanship: How to write a grant proposal that will be funded 

This is a graduate seminar that is organized around each component of scientific writing focusing specifically on grant writing and the anatomy of a grant proposal (mainly NSF and NIH). Students will learn how to: (1) develop and conceptualize a project/question, (2) formulate hypotheses, questions, specific aims, (3) lay the foundation for a project with the background, (4) demonstrate the feasibility of a project with preliminary data, (5) describe experimental plans in the research design and methods, (6) appropriately cite and reference previous work, (7) write in an organized and convincing way that will sell the idea to a grant reviewer, and (8) how to step back from the details of a proposal to understand the larger significance of the research. Additionally, students will learn about the different components of NSF and NIH grant proposals and the review process.

 

Primate Behavioral Ecology

This is an advanced undergraduate/graduate course examining the ecology and behavior of non-human primates. Using mainly primary research articles, we will explore several themes in primate behavioral ecology including reproductive strategies, sexual selection, behavioral endocrinology, cooperation and conflict, cultural transmission, and primate cognition. The objectives of this class are (1) to provide an overview to some of the exciting research areas in primate behavior and (2) to help bring advanced undergraduates up to graduate level in their reading, understanding, and writing about primate-related topics. Emphasis will be placed on critical thinking and clear and concise writing.

 

Hormones and Behavior

In this course, we will examine how hormones can produce changes in behavior, but also how behavioral interactions can alter hormones. We will primarily discuss hormone-behavior interactions in mammalian systems with an emphasis on humans and non-human primates. Throughout the course, we will explore the hormonal influences on sex determination, sexual behavior, parental behavior, dominance and aggression, responses to stressful stimuli, immune function and homeostasis, biological rhythms, learning and memory, maturation, ageing and senescence, and several behaviors relevant to humans such as motivation and mood. The course will be taught as a mixture of lecture, discussion, and student presentations.

 

Mechanisms of Animal Behavior

In this graduate seminar, we will take an in-depth look at the literature on mechanisms that mediate adaptive behavior in primates and other animals. We will explore such mechanisms as hormones, neurobiology of behavior, phenotypic plasticity, immunology, animal learning, spatial orientation, communication, and cognition. The objective of the course is to enable students to (1) understand the connections across different levels of biological organization, (2) critically read and assess the primary literature in this subject, and (3) gain an understanding of current methods of data collection with respect to these mechanisms. The course will focus on mechanisms that mediate adaptive behavior in primates, but will draw upon other animal examples where necessary.

 

The Evolution of Primate Social Relationships and Cognitive Abilities

This is a graduate seminar that will cover some of the most current research in primate studies. The seminar will be organized around weekly inter-departmental primatology lectures given by some of the leading experts in the field. Each week we will read and discuss several current publications of the visiting speaker. We will then meet with the speaker to ask questions and further discuss their research after attending the lecture on Friday afternoon.