Instruction for the Field Biology Quarters is provided by faculty from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. These faculty lend their extensive expertise to help students meet the challenges of conducting research in the wild. Here are some of the faculty that teach the FBQs:
It would be hard to overstate the value of getting students out into nature to design their own research projects. I like to take students to tropical rainforests where there is a great diversity of interesting creatures to study. I view my FBQ class as a crash course in the whole process of doing field research in animal behavior, from wondering how or why an animal does something, to developing methods for answering the question and collecting the necessary data, to writing up the results and relating one's own findings to the published literature. Few things are more satisfying for me than seeing students overflowing with enthusiasm for their own discoveries! It is also gratifying to know that, for most students, the FBQ is an exciting and rewarding experience that they will never forget, wherever their career path leads.
My own research examines the evolutionary causes and consequences of animal behavior, with an emphasis on the evolution of visual signals (primarily coloration). Behaviors of particular interest to me include mate choice, aggression, and territoriality. Over the years, I have studied insects, harvestmen, fishes, birds and primates, and this research has taken me to field sites in Mexico, Trinidad, Ecuador, Sumatra and the United States.
I find teaching the Field Biology Quarter is highly rewarding. Not only do I have the opportunity to introduce students to some of the most biologically rich regions of the world, but by helping students design their own research project I can assist them to explore their own natural curiosity and creative passion in science. Students who are more familiar with the regimen of the classroom often find it challenging to conceive of, and carry out, a project of their own. However, students are often transformed the experience. For most, it is something they carry with them for the rest of their lives.
My own research focuses on the evolutionary ecology, speciation, and conservation of vertebrates, especially in the tropics. I have spent more than 25 years working in the rainforests of Africa, Australia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Hawaii. As founder and Director of the Center for Tropical Research, a center in the UCLA Institute of the Environment, I oversee a host of research projects and direct the research of a large number of graduate students and postdoctoral scientists on projects based in tropical countries around the world.
I study animal communication, anti-predator behavior, and social behavior in birds and mammals (mostly marmots, kangaroos, and wallabies). While I've worked in Australia, Canada, Germany, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Russia, and the US, most of my fieldwork now is focused on continuing a long-term study that began in 1962 on yellow-bellied marmots at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory near Crested Butte, Colorado.
I'm keen to work with FBQ students to study and understand the diversity of behavior. I view teaching FBQ as a scientific collaboration and I'm particularly excited to work with the highly motivated students that enroll in the FBQ. Because we hit the field intellectually prepared, and work hard while in the field, many student-generated studies are remarkably successful and about half ultimately get published. Of course the ultimate success of the project is of little importance. The main things I hope to share with my FBQ students are the excitement of conducting research and learning together how to ask novel scientific questions.
How do desert animals do it? Their habitat seems way too dry and hot to live there permanently, but they somehow not only make a living, but get enough extra resources to raise a crop of babies, too. By using techniques such as isotope washout rates, miniature radio transmitters, field observations of behavior, and chemical analyses of foods, excrement, and urine, we are able to measure central aspects of food, water and energy use by wild, free-living desert animals throughout the year. Comparison of such information for a variety of kinds of desert reptiles, birds and mammals living on different continents reveals a rich variety of adaptations for living successfully in deserts.
Currently, we are focusing on Desert Tortoises here in California, out of concern for their rapid decline towards extinction in the Western Mojave Desert. We are using our knowledge about their physiology, ecology and behavior to design "head-start" programs that will allow repopulation of depleted desert areas with healthy, robust juveniles that are big enough to survive well after release. We have three "hatchery/nursery" enclosures that are predator-resistant and can protect and nurture hatchlings that emerge from eggs obtained from nearby wild female tortoises. More pens are being planned, also to be located in restricted-access areas such as military bases. Both FBQ and graduate students have contributed to this effort to help save a unique species of desert denizen
As a teacher, I am a strong believer in fostering students' curiosity and facilitating their own natural inclination for learning. To do this, I favor a participatory approach to the teaching of science, so that students learn by direct involvement in research. I strive to serve as a role model, conveying my enthusiasm for the process, while allowing students to focus on those aspects of the subject matter that interest them most. The FBQ is the perfect environment for this type of learning. Students often come in completely na•ve to field research and leave with direct experience in every stage of the process, from concept to design, implementation to analysis and interpretation to communication of their results. No course that I've been involved in is more "hands on". FBQ is truly a transformational experience both professionally and personally.
My own research lies at the interface of behavioral ecology and conservation biology. In particular, I am interested in understanding how social and ecological processes shape the development of survival skills. I use this information to design effective and efficient translocation and captive breeding/reintroduction programs to facilitate the restoration of ecosystems. My research has taken me through central and southern California, New Mexico and abroad to Uzbekistan.
Field research is a creative, collaborative and interactive process. I want students to come away with a good sense of this challenging but rewarding process, so I prefer to let them devise their own questions and research plans while limiting myself to an advisory capacity. The thing I find the most inspiring about teaching FBQ is how transformational it can be for the students, not just on an academic, but on a personal level. During FBQ's I've seen students go from being afraid of their wild surroundings to intrepidly wading at night in the chest deep water of an Amazonian swamp to complete a project. Students carry these experiences with them for the rest of their lives.
My own research focuses on animal behavior - especially environmental influences on mating and reproductive behavior - and conservation. I've worked with a diverse array of animals including birds, dragonflies, and zebra. My research has taken me to California, Panama, Australia, Cameroon and most recently, Kenya.