Increasing Environmental Awareness
I have a strong interest in helping to raise environmental awareness. I believe that it is important to educate people about the environment in their own back yard, so I collaborated with Nancy McIntyre, Lew Densmore, and Loren Smith on a book chapter entitled "The Wildlife of the Llano Estacado". I am currently working on a book (tentatively titled "San Solomon Springs: A West Texas Oasis") examining the hydrology, geology, ecology, and organismal diversity of San Solomon Springs at Balmorhea State Park in Balmorhea, Texas.
In addition, I have developed a PADI -approved distinctive specialty diving course "Natural History of San Solomon Springs". I have received a grant from the PADI Project Aware Foundation to develop and disseminate educational materials about San Solomon Springs to all PADI dive shops, scuba clubs, and other interested parties in Texas and New Mexico.
Mate Choice in Humans
Jenni Brumelle, and undergraduate Biology Major, and I will soon be initiating a studying examining the role of pheromones in mate choice in humans. Other researchers have conducted "t-shirt studies" (where females rate the "attractiveness" of a male's odor that has been trapped on a t-shirt) and have found that females generally agree about which male smells the most attractive, suggesting that pheromones may play a role in human mate choice. Because there are evolutionary reasons to think that females might prefer to mate with older males (e.g., they have proven the quality of their "survival genes" for a longer time or they may have had more time to accumulate resources), we will conduct a t-shirt study to examine whether females can differentiate between the smell of younger (18 0 20 years) and older (28 - 35 year) males.
Plant Ecology Research Interests
Functional Ecology of Wind-Dispersed Fruits. The dispersal of wind-dispersed fruits is related to the speed at which they fall to the ground (their terminal velocity) which depends on the size of the dispersal structure and the fruit mass. I have conducted field and lab experiments examining how variation in fruit characteristics affects dispersal effectiveness.
Modeling the Optimal Allocation of Resources to Dispersal Structures in Wind-Dispersed Plants. I developed a model to examine how the optimal investment in dispersal structures should depend on seed mass in pappus-dispersed fruits. The results of tests of the prediction of these models suggests that plants are able to adjust their allocation to dispersal in a manner that maximizes fitness return per unit invested, but that phylogenetic constraints may limit the opportunity for this to happen with in a genus or species.The Effect of Fruit Morphology and Substrate Characteristics on Secondary Dispersal. Seed dispersal may continue after fruits fall as fruits may be blown along the ground (secondary dispersal). We have studied the effect of substrate characteristics, fruit morphology, and fruit density on secondary dispersal and the ultimate dispersion of propagules.
Science Education and Curriculum Development
I remain interested in developing novel approaches to science education, particularly the education of non-science majors. A paper discussing what I learned transferring a course that I initially developed for Honors students to non-majors biology students is in press in a new journal, Honors in Practice.
Currently, most of my curriculum development efforts focus on developing course for students in the Natural History and Humanities (NHH) major.
For several years I have been interested in working with science teachers
to improve the quality of science education.
I originally became involved as an instructor in the Coordinated Thematic
Science Institutes offered in collaboration in Region 17 Educational Service
Center. These summer institutes
were designed to provide content background in the sciences to practicing
intermediate school teachers. The
foci of these workshops have included Energy, Change Over Time, Systems and
Processes, and Environmental Interactions.
I also attended Annual Meetings of Regional Collaboratives for Excellence
in Science Teaching in Austin in July 1996 & 1997.
I have also been involved in developing the Multidisplinary Science
Masters Degree for Teachers offered by the Graduate School at TTU.
This degree allows practicing teachers to earn a Masters Degree while studying
at night and during the summer. Teachers
take courses in biology, geology, geography, physics, chemistry,
mathematics, and education. I teach
"Ecology & Evolution for Teachers" in this program. For
more information about this Masters Degree Program contact Dr. Jeff Lee firstname.lastname@example.org.
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