Science education is a central part of the Willette Lab of Applied Ecology. Through traditional classroom teaching, hosting summer intensive workshops, mentoring students in independent research projects, and engaging with community partners and local schools, we believe education is critical for finding solutions to current environmental challenges. Here are some of the projects we are working on.
Dr. Willette teaches courses in Introductory Biology, Introduction to Marine Science, General Ecology, Biostatistics, Human Anatomy and Physiology, Applied Plant Ecology, and Illegal Marine Fisheries.
BIOL 111 – General Biology Lab I - This course examines the morphological, functional, and environmental issues that influence biodiversity. An underlying theme is the central role of evolutionary processes – descent with heritable modification – in generating and maintaining biological diversity. The course is divided into three 5-week module, one focusing on bacterial, plant, and animal biodiversity. As a lab-based course, students develop practical laboratory skills, immerse themselves in a wide range of hands-on activities and experiments, and grow their ability to obtain, interpret, and communicate scientific data as a biologist.
BIOL 112 – General Biology Lab II - The goal of this course is to provide students with a laboratory-based experience of how biologists examine the real world. Students engage in an “authentic” research experience, working on a project analogous to that which would occur in a research lab. They participate in the multiple facets of scientific inquiry, from maintaining a laboratory notebook, carrying out experiments and analyzing data, to collaborating and presenting your results. The term project involves bacteria that reside in the rhizosphere (region associated with the surface of the root) of plants, with particular emphasis on Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPR), which have a beneficial effect on plant growth.
BIOL 318 – Principles of Ecology – In this upper division course, students learn the basic theories explaining distribution and abundance and the evidence supporting the theories. To better understand the link between evidence and theory, students learn about scientific method, as well as data analysis and interpretation. Students conduct a multi-week original field experiment and statistically analyze the results, as well as share and exchange ideas among their peers. Concepts will be introduced in pre-lecture reading assignments, then expanded upon in lectures and labs with presentations, interactive computer simulations, active learning activities, and during both on-campus and off-campus field trips, including an awesome and intensive hiking, snorkeling, and kayaking 3-day/2-night trip to Catalina Island.
BIOL 398 - Applied Plant Ecology - The primary objective of Applied Plant Ecology is to explore how ecological principles and theory can be applied to solving local and global environmental problems. This course is designed to be integrative; focusing on the foundational role of plants in ecosystems, the ecology and evolution of the habitat-associated animals, and the geological and chemical influences of abiotic processes. Themed modules in the course include (a) environmental assessment, (b) conservation biology, (c) habitat management, (d) ecosystem restoration, (e) biological invasions, and, (f) ecological adaptation and mitigation for global climate change. The course requires active student participation and appropriate preparation before class, including critical reading of the primary literature. Students will partake in class discussions, give presentations, and demonstrate their proficiency in applied plant ecology through effective writing for scientific and general audiences. To gain some ‘real-world’ perspective, students will interact with guest ecologists, and contribute to an on-going plant restoration project.
BIOL 490 – Biological Teaching – This is a mandatory training course for BIOL 111 and BIOL 112 Teaching Assistants and provides instruction, guidance, assessment, and constructive feedback to TAs throughout the academic semester in which they are teaching.
BIOL 599 - Ecology, Policy, and Pirate Fishing – This seminar examines the major transformations occurring across the world’s marine fisheries, investigates historical and current trajectory (and associated drivers) of these fisheries, and explores how emerging national and international actionable science and policy may work to reverse the decline of catch fisheries. Using the primary literature and various government and NGO reports, this seminar will discuss what a fishery is, what is IUU fishing, types of management approaches and fishery assessments, current national and international fishery policy and regulations, and existing and emerging molecular genetic tools that may help guide sustainable marine fisheries policy. A particular emphasis will be on the role of actionable science for fisheries and natural resource conservation. Students will develop evaluating skills through in-class activities, presentations, and by participating in joint class writing project.
HHSC 150 – Human Anatomy and Physiology - This non-HHSC majors course provides an introductory knowledge of the development, structure and function of the human body with an emphasis on how the body works across organ systems to maintain homeostasis. Additionally, the course will introduce the Scientific Method with a culminating term project using this approach.
HHSC 255 – Human Anatomy and Physiology - This course is part two of a two-semester investigation into human anatomy and physiology for pre-health professional majors. It is intended to provide students understanding of the structure and function of body systems for application to professional and personal life. By the end of the course, students will be able to: a) demonstrate medical vocabulary in anatomy and physiology; b) properly use anatomical terms that describe body regions, body sections, and anatomical positions and directions; c) identify both macro- and microscopic anatomical structures; d) describe the functions of the body’s organ systems; and e) effectively express how positive and negative feedback are involved in maintaining homeostasis.
Biol 300 – Biometrics - This course serves as an introduction to statistics for biology students. Biology students will utilize statistics throughout their academic track while at CSULA and a solid understanding of what statistics are and how to appropriately apply them will be of great value in upper division courses. Here, we will take a gradual, step-by-step approach to learning and practicing simple statistical methods. Emphasis will be placed on descriptive statistics, inferential statistics, and the use of statistics for experimental design. Weekly assignments and laboratory activities will complement lectures. Exams, homework and lab assignments will all be used to assess students’ understanding of statistical concepts and ability to apply statistical analyses to experimental data.
Honors 331 - Global Climate Change - This course examines the major transformations occurring on the Earth due to global climate change, the causes of these transformations (both anthropogenic and natural), and the foreseeable consequences for Earth’s ecological environments. The course will discuss climate change in the context of fisheries, agriculture, terrestrial ecosystems, marine ecosystems, biodiversity, trophic food webs and productivity, and sustainability. A central theme in this course will be how to evaluate the validity of scientific claims for both policy decisions and informing the global citizen. Students will develop evaluating skills through in-class activities and group assignments. Students will demonstrate this understanding by planning, creating and producing a short 4-6 minute documentary film on a course topic, with a focus on Southern California.
Biol 360 - General Ecology - Ecology is the study of organisms in relation to each other and their surrounding environment. Students of ecology seek to understand the life history of organisms, how organisms are distributed both spatially and temporally, how like and distinct organisms interact, compete and depend upon one another to survive, and how the environment influences these processes, as well as the evolution of organisms. Further, given our substantial footprint on the planet, humans have come to play a varying role in many of these processes through things such as biodiversity loss, land transformation, and climate change. Because of the complexity of the field, ecology is multidisciplinary and ecological theory is highly synthetic, putting together knowledge from many other disciplines to formulate ecological explanations. Ecological research draws upon statistics, behavioral science, physiology, genetics, and even physics to describe the structure and function of individuals, populations, communities, and ecosystems.
EEB 109 - Introduction to Marine Science This course is designed to provide an introduction to the physical and biological world that covers 70% of our planet: the oceans. This course is designed to be integrative; focusing on the geological evolution of seas, the physical and chemical properties of water, and how these abiotic processes shape environments and the ecology and evolution of marine organisms.
M1W – The Ocean’s Response to the Human Element - In this course, we will explore and discover the different ways in which our world’s oceans are responding to us, the human element. Topics we will research and discuss including overfishing, marine sources of energy, tourism, coastal development, and plastics at sea. We’ll also learn about organizations dedicated restoring and protecting the oceans. Lectures will be supplemented by video documentaries, peer presentations, and several field trips to our nearby coastal ecosystems.
AC 301 - Natural History & Identification of Marine Organisms - Natural History and Identification of Marine Organisms covers functional morphology, behavior, and identification of organisms from tropical marine habitats. Emphasis is placed on marine vascular plants, benthic and pelagic inshore macro-fauna and flora. Some planktonic and interstitial microorganisms will also be examined. Students apply basic methods/techniques of field observation, data collection, and record keeping, in an inquiry-driven approach to marine field-biology, specifically to habitat descriptions.
AC 303 - Marine Research Methodology and Practicum - This course introduces students to project design, proposal writing, sampling techniques, data collection, data analysis and scientific writing. Students develop and carry out independent research projects and participate in ongoing research in conjunction with their regular course work.
AC 305 - Tropical Marine Ecology & Conservation - Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation analyzes the relationship between marine ecology and resource management. The ecology of marine ecosystems forms the foundation for an interdisciplinary examination of coastal conservation issues in the Caribbean. Economic and social requirements for environmental conservation will be introduced to the students, who then outline potential conservation strategies. Extensive field surveys provide students with an experiential approach to marine biology. Organized interactions with people dependent on marine resources enhance the student's exposure to issues of marine conservation.
Workshops and Short Courses
Marine Molecular Ecology - Molecular ecology, as taught here, merges the fields of molecular genetics, population genetics, systematics, and ecology to examine evolutionary patterns and origins of organisms from the cellular level. This course will provide you with training in the theory and techniques of molecular ecology. The course begins a lecture series on molecular genetics theory, as well as introductory lectures on oceanography, larval dispersal, and Next Generation Sequencing. Next, time will be spent learning and training in the actual laboratory for conducting marine molecular ecology research. Laboratory training will be hands-on and participants will work in small groups to complete a phylogeography pilot study on a marine species of interest.
!Genomic Workshops at Catalina - With collaborators Dr. Eli Meyer (Oregon State University) and Dr. Carly Kenkel (University of Southern California), Dr. Willette co-leads a two-week summer intensive workshop to train biologist with little or no Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) experience in the use of two methods, 2bRAD-seq and Tag-Seq. Participants work with samples from their own study systems and shared samples for a group project. The workshop starts with raw genomic DNA in a tube, moves through library preparations, and concludes with data analysis using simple command line tools on a high-performance computing cluster. Held at the Wrigley Marine Science Center on beautiful Catalina Island, the workshop has brought together graduate students, post-docs, and faculty members from institutes and universities in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Taiwan, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates. 2018 is the fifth year of the workshops!
Leveraging Actionable Science to Combat Illegal Fishing workshop - The United States is the world’s largest fish importer. Recent reports, however, indicate that 25-30% of wild-caught seafood imported into the US is illegally caught, heightening concerns over the country’s significant role in driving the global challenge of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. Sponsored by the U.S. Fulbright Program and LMU’s Seaver College, this multi-nation workshop aims to 1) foster scientific collaboration among scientists, implementers and fishery stakeholders to promote evidence-based decision making with cutting-edge technology; and 2) use education to increase awareness and training in how to engage in applied conservation research. The initiative recently supported the first LMU-UCLA Seafood Traceability Forum on LMU’s campus in April 2017, and is integrated into Dr. Willette’s current Fulbright project that teams up scientists, students, and stakeholders from the Pacific nations of the Philippines, Ecuador, Thailand, and the United States.