Discipline-based Education Research
My interest in discipline-based education research began with wanting to improve biology laboratory education by infusing more of the scientific process into the teaching of labs. I started by developing new lab experiments based on a guided-inquiry approach. Then, Dr. Larry Blumer at Morehouse College and I developed the bean beetle (Callosobruchus maculatus) as a model system for inquiry-based labs in biology. Over the years, we have worked with faculty in the Bean Beetle Curriculum Development Network to introduce them to the bean beetle and guided-inquiry in lab courses. They have developed additional lab modules that we have made available on the bean beetle website (www.beanbeetles.org). Through this network, we studied how faculty instructional practices influence student learning gains in terms of their understanding of the nature of science, their ability to reason scientifically, and their ability to design experiments.
More recently, we have been working on how aspects of course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) influence student outcomes. We are investigating the importance of student autonomy in framing research questions on student self-efficacy and science identity, and whether these relations vary among students, institutions, and course levels. To this end, in collaboration with Dr. Nicole Gerardo at Emory and Dr. Larry Blumer at Morehouse College, we have developed a national-level CURE exploring the microbiome of the bean beetle Callosobruchus maculatus.
Evolutionary Ecology Research
My research training is in evolutionary ecology with an emphasis in life history evolution. Although my doctoral work was with amphibians, I have shifted to using the bean beetle as a model system. In the past, students in my lab worked on questions related to the effects of resource quality on life history traits. In particular, they have examined the effect of host bean type on lifespan in male and female bean beetles. In addition, they have explored whether higher quality hosts mediate the costs of mating in both male and female bean beetles. Currently, we are beginning experiments to explore factors that lead to differences in the microbiome of bean beetles.
Although undergraduate students who work in my lab, typically work on bean beetles, I am open to students pursuing their own questions in ecology and evolution. Over the years, I have had honors students research things as diverse as the effect of English ivy on native plant communities and population viability of sawfish. If you are interested in the possibility of conducting research in my lab, feel free to contact me.