My interest in fire was ignited by a semester abroad with the Organization for Tropical Studies in South Africa. I knew nothing about fire-adapted landscapes 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 using experiential learning in my teaching. I am also committed to increasing undergraduate science communication skills, which are critical for following through on their scientific curiosity. These commitments culminated in several experiences:
Creating research opportunities for undergraduates: Each field season I 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.
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.