As educators it is our responsibility to inspire learners to take on the opportunities and challenges we face. I believe that the time spent in the classroom only represents a small part of teaching. To me a big part of the learning experience includes activities such as interacting with mentees on field trips or other less formal activities, where people tend to feel less pressure than in a big classroom setting. This is of course more difficult in times of COVID 19, but one on one video conference sessions are an effective substitute I use now. I genuinely enjoy helping students (regardless if I am their instructor/mentor or not) as well as colleagues, which is reflected in the wide variety of topics I have published on with over 150 colleagues so far. I especially enjoy helping when it comes to technical aspects of our work, as I am in the fortunate position of having a background in electrical engineering and software development, which allowed me to develop a technical skillset that is often very helpful to others. I often help colleagues and students with their analysis, ranging from simple linear regression over complex hierarchical models in a Bayesian framework, to global prioritization analysis requiring high performance computing.
I have been recognized as a UBC “Student Leader” by the President’s Office for this in 2012 and received a UBC Killam Graduate Teaching Assistant Award in 2013. An important aspect of teaching to me is learning from others, both students and instructors. To achieve this goal, I regularly engage with students to discuss teaching methods they find useful and less useful. I do the same with course instructors and try to learn from their experiences. Being involved in course development and dissemination in 28 courses and workshops since 2008 has been an invaluable learning experience for me. I often discuss teaching methods and develop curriculum materials with co-instructors, and in many cases I have planned, organized and lead several field trips, or developed and lead multi-day workshops independently.
Whenever possible I employ hands on exercises in data collection and analysis to help students put their findings in the context of current research and concepts in their fields. In my teaching assignments I often cover sophisticated analytical methods that I find to be underrepresented in undergraduate courses, but widely used in these professions. These are topics that students struggle with repeatedly. Making analytical techniques more accessible and teaching methods to solve complex problems related to planning is therefore very important to me. The main goals of my teaching are for students to leave with a better understanding of the topic areas covered in class, to be better able to confront challenges with an improved analytical understanding, and to be better able to critically think about issues in their work. Ultimately, I want my students to be more confident in their abilities to actively contribute to science in future.
One technique I use to achieve my goals is to present cutting edge, applied research in a manner that makes complex issues in our fields more approachable for students. I believe an effective approach to achieve this is to directly interact with students in small groups, which also happens to be my favorite way to teach. In many of the courses and workshops I have been involved in, I have been able to spend a substantial amount of time with smaller groups, both in the field and in the lab. In a lab setting I try to help students finish their tasks by providing ample opportunities to discuss their approaches, guiding them through the process without directly telling them what to do. In more advanced stages of student projects I focus on discussing what others have done or what has worked for myself and colleagues in the past. In a field setting I like to combine (often spontaneous) natural history lessons with hands on experience of current research methods. Both in class and in the field, I also make time and encourage (as appropriate) discussing issues and barriers students are facing both course specific and broader ones.
I am well-qualified to teach courses in ecology, statistics, and planning. I am also keen on developing interdisciplinary courses for students to design and implement interactive data science approaches to make information more accessible to users. I will build on materials that I developed for courses at Carleton, UBC, and UNBC, which were very well received by students. I would also like to develop a graduate-level course that focuses on advanced analytical methods to tackle resource allocation problems in conservation planning. Finally, I am interested in creating learning opportunities that allow students to gain a deeper understanding of decision science for applied conservation problems.
I have a wealth of experience communicating science to academic and non-academic audiences, as well as mentoring young scientists. I also believe that my passion for science and ability to motivate people would be a great asset to my future teaching career.
To improve my skills in this respect I participated in the “Instructional Skills Program for International Teaching Assistants” at UBC, where we learned about effective teaching methods, philosophies and also held practice lectures with ample feedback from course instructors and fellow participants to become more confident and effective as instructors.
I’ve had the good fortune to be able to develop and improve my teaching skills as a teaching assistant, main instructor, lecturer and guest lecturer for a total of 19 university courses. As main instructor I was responsible for syllabus and content development, instructing, as well as evaluating. I have also developed a total of 9 workshops on systematic planning, statistical analysis, introduction to R, and advanced occupancy and abundance modelling, typically 1-2 days in length. I often incorporate current research from myself and colleagues to expose students to current work in the field. I hope to instill excitement for the work in them by also talking about or have guest speakers talk about their experiences and journey as researchers. The topics I cover range from animal behaviour, over forest diversity and management, to statistics, including Bayesian hierarchical modelling.
I mentored 10 graduate and 10 undergraduate researchers since 2010. I thoroughly enjoy working with these early career scientists and did my best to empower them to think for themselves and be creative problem solvers. I always strive to create an environment for students to feel they have ownership of their projects, and their ideas are developed in their research. I primarily try to guide them and help them think critically about their approach. I help them as I can with their analytical approaches and provide help and guidance as needed, from the conceptual to the practical, hands on, of how to operationalize their ideas. In the 25 letters I received from students and staff nominating me for the UBC Killam Graduate Teaching Assistant Award, they mentioned my ability to communicate concepts effectively, provide guidance, and making field trips engaging and enjoyable.