PhD (2003), Botany, University of Wyoming
MS (1998), Biology, Georgia Southern University
BS (1995), Biology, The Pennsylvania State University
Science of Environmental Issues (EES 4), Conservation & Biodiversity (EES 28), Ecology (EES 152), Wetland Ecology (EES 386), Reconstructing Environmental Change (EES 459), Advanced Topics in Paleoecology (EES 497)
Understanding and anticipating ecological responses to environmental changes, including climate variability, altered disturbance regimes, and changes in land use, is a pressing and critical challenge for ecologists and earth-system scientists. As a broadly trained ecologist interested in the effects of environmental variability on the structure and function of communities and ecosystems, much of my research program has been focused on meeting this critical challenge. Our research group exploits the “natural experiments” of the past to better understand the causes and consequences of environmental change and variability. The primary source of information that we use for these investigations is the paleoecological record derived from peatlands and lakes, although when possible we couple these studies with investigations of contemporary and historical ecology in an effort to better interpret past changes and bridge the gap in our understanding between long-term (i.e., millennial) and short-term (i.e., subdecadal) ecological processes. We have also pioneered the development of an important and increasingly applied tool in studies of global change – the use of testate amoebae in ecological and paleoenvironmental studies. Recent and ongoing research projects are aimed at better understanding the ecology and biogeography of testate amoebae in an effort to refine and extend the use of these organisms in answering global-change questions.
My teaching philosophy is based on six general ideas. First, because learning is facilitated by experience and engagement, I provide a range of learning avenues by employing a variety of methods (e.g., collaborative and group learning activities, case studies, problem and inquiry-based learning, discussions, social media, and traditional lectures). Second, I strongly believe that teaching in the earth and environmental sciences should provide students with an understanding of how science is actually practiced and provide them with applied skills. I am convinced that the best way to do this is to give them experience actually doing science, and this often means getting the students into the field to observe, question, and develop/test hypotheses first-hand. My own experience in a field botany course was what convinced me that I wanted to be a field-based research scientist. Third, my primary goal as a teacher is not just to convey the essential subject matter, but also to promote the development of critical thinking and communication skills. Effective communication and critical thinking, particularly the ability to evaluate evidence and competing hypotheses, are essential tools in all career paths. Fourth, I strive to incorporate interdisciplinary training into my classes whenever possible. Scientists that are capable of working and thinking across disciplinary boundaries are increasingly needed in both scientific and societal contexts. Fifth, I continually strive to foster an inclusive environment in the classroom, where students from diverse backgrounds and differing personalities feel comfortable contributing to discussions and the learning environment. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I try to convey my own enthusiasm for ecology and environmental science to the students. Generating excitement is critical to attracting and maintaining students, and given the magnitude of environmental problems facing our planet’s life-support systems, we need a generation of passionate, well-informed, and creative planetary stewards.
More information on my research and teaching programs can be found on my personal website: http://www.lehigh.edu/~rkb205
Quaternary Research 89: 156-177
Quaternary Research 85: 204-210
The Holocene 25: 1102-1110
Quaternary Science Reviews 71: 85-95
Ecology 93: 1841-1852
Journal of Ecology 100:586-596