I teach a variety of classes in biology, with an emphasis on marine biology and policy, evolution, and field methods/research design/statistics.  Below are quick descriptions of those classes, but you can see all of my official course descriptions by going to my classes on my COA academic course description list.

Courses in marine biology, marine policy, and ichthyology

Marine Biology. This is an introductory course that is typically taught every fall to about 20 first-year students.  It combines learning about 75-100 local marine organisms with lectures and discussions on marine environments around the world and the threats to those environments.  Both Helen Hess and I teach this course.  Next offered: Fall 2013 and most fall terms.

Marine Policy. This is a multidisciplinary class taught by Ken Cline and myself.  This is a relatively advanced class that focuses on US marine policy, the laws, the biology, and the successes and failures of those policies.  We also do some international marine policy. Students do small group projects in this class.  Next taught: Winter 2015.

Fishing, Fishermen and Fishing Communities. New course to be first taught in the spring of 2015.  This will be a team-taught course with Natalie Springuel from Maine Sea Grant and will focus on downeast Maine fishing communities.  Stay tuned for more information as we develop this class.

Tropical Marine Ecology. This advanced class is a seminar-style class during the term and then at the end of the term students go on an approximately two-week trip to the Caribbean.  Students read primary literature and design projects before going to the field.  Past sites for this course include Akumal in the Yucatan Peninsula and Tobago. This class has been taught alone or as part of a monster course (all students take all the same courses for the term).  The projects from the last monster course to Tobago can be found at the Integrated Marine Studies in Tobago website.  We taught this as a field course in the Fall of 2011 with a winter break trip to Belize. We aren’t sure when we are teaching it again.

Biology of Fishes. This intermediate class is a lecture and lab course that reviews the  systematics, ecology, evolution, physiology, and just about anything you can think of related to the biology of fishes.  This class is not in a regular teaching rotation, so it is not offered on a predictable schedule.

Advanced tutorial in marine resource policy. This class was taught 3 times, in 2009 and 2010, and a third time in 2012. These classes were made possible by a grant from the Long Cove Foundation.   For more information, please go to this link.

Statistics and Field ecology

Probability and Statistics. This introductory course is true to its name, we spend the first few weeks going over probability, and then the lion’s share of the course learning basic parametric and nonparametric statistics, but also introduce other ideas such as Bayesian statistics.  The class is becoming more and more about descriptive statistics and looking at effect size, and less about p values, reflecting the general trend in this field.  Although many of the examples are from the sciences, it is a useful class for students in the social sciences and humanities as well. Next offered: Spring 2014.

Field Ecology and Data Analysis. This advanced course reviews research design, data collection, and statistical techniques.  Students often come into the class with data they have collected from their internships or senior projects or using a data set they have access to that they want to analyze, design studies that they want to do in the future, or write grants to support their future work.  Next offered:  Stay tuned.

Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, and Cell and Molecular Biology

Biology 1. This is the introductory cell and molecular biology class at COA. It is taught every winter, mostly to first-year students and I teach it occasionally.  I enjoy the challenges in this class of teaching students with highly divergent backgrounds some of the basics.

Evolution. This is an intermediate course that is taught most years at COA, with professor Steve Ressel and me alternating who teaches the class.  I think that this is a fundamental course for anyone wanting to focus on the biological sciences.  Next taught: I am up to teach this the winter of 2014.

Molecular Evolutionary Genetics. Every year COA offers an intensive methods course over spring break that focuses on some aspect of cellular and molecular biology.  During the spring of 2011, the class will be on Evolutionary Developmental Biology, so this course is taking a year off but will be taught again on spring break 2012.  I typically co-teach this course with Dr. Charlie Wray from Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL).  Students learn DNA isolation, pcr, sequencing and the course focuses on 1 or 2 projects.  Students typically present their posters in April at the Maine Biological and Medical Sciences Symposium at MDIBL.  Past projects using microsatellites to do population genetics of estuarine fish and sharks, paternity analysis in sharks, and evolution of specific genes at a superfund site. For the spring of 2014 we are considering a class in personalized genomics.

Cellular and Molecular Biology at COA. In addition to taking classes at COA, students interested in this area of study typically do work at one of the local laboratories, either the Jackson Laboratory ( or Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (
Students work in labs during the academic year, as well as working in the summer.  Much of this work is supported by a grant from the National Students get support for this work from a grant from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), and part of the National Institute of Health (NIH).  This collaborative grant partners COA with several institutions in Maine, and is call the INBRE grant (IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence).   The maine INBRE webpage for the collaborative project can be viewed here (  For more detailed information on cellular and molecular biology at COA, click here.

Topics in Biomedical Research.  For the fall  2013 we are experimenting with a new seminar-style course, the lectures will be from visiting scientists, mostly from the Jackson Laboratory and Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory.  This class is being co-organized by Helen Hess and me.

Random extra stuff:

Tutorials and Independent Studies. I occasionally do an advanced tutorial in either marine policy or evolution, depending on my time availability and student interest.  Professor Dave Feldman and I have also done advanced statistics tutorials.  I will also do independent studies with students, especially when they are involved in research projects during the term.  I have been averaging at least one tutorial every year lately, and 1-4 independent studies per year.  As a general rule I only do independent studies with students that I know from classes, and don’t do independent studies that repeat course material that a student has missed.