My interest in fire was ignited by a semester abroad with the Organization for Tropical Studies in South Africa.  During the first month, we followed officials through an experimental burn plot in Kruger National Park.  I frankly knew nothing about fire-adapted ecosystems before arriving in South Africa; however, seeing the remarkable post-fire recovery of plant life piqued my interest.  Spending that semester immersed in an experience-based curriculum was critical to my development as a young scientist.  The hands-on experiences undoubtedly helped me discover a scientific curiosity for asking questions about the natural world.  I pay that experience forward by incorporating experiential learning in my teaching.  I am also committed to increasing undergraduate communication skills, which are critical for following through on their scientific curiosity.  These commitments have culminated in several experiences:

Research opportunities for undergraduates: I always hire undergraduates to assist me with data collection in Wyoming.  I teach the undergraduates critical field skills including how to establish a sampling plot, identify tree species, and navigate with a GPS.  Further, hiking from plot to plot provides time for discussing science and experiencing post-fire landscapes outside of a classroom setting.  I am also a mentor for the Department of Geography’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Connection and the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates in Climate Science at Penn State University.

Graduate writing tutor: I am a graduate tutor for the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS) writing center at Penn State University.  We work to improve undergraduate communications skills by facilitating one-on-one tutoring sessions and professional development workshops. Additionally, we organize the EMS Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition, which allows 40 undergraduates to gain firsthand experience with presenting research in a professional setting.

Classroom teaching: I teach undergraduates in multiple settings (discussion sections, labs, online, and flipped classrooms) and cover content ranging from human-environment systems to physical geography. Despite the wide range, I always emphasize two skills in my classroom: writing and critical reading. A comprehensive list of courses taught can be found on my CV. I also hold the Graduate School Teaching Certificate from Penn State University. 

Undergraduate field assistant collects GPS point