Students hope addition to biology course offerings will help overall class variety

The Department of Biology (pictured above) will offer three new courses for the fall 2019 semester. The courses will include oceanography, marine biology and science communication (Josie Kwan/ Assoc. photo editor).

The biology department has announced the addition of three new experimental classes taught by two recently hired professors. Logan Peoples will be teaching the oceanography class and Mackenzie Gerringer will be teaching the marine biology and science communication class.

The science communication and oceanography classes are 200-level courses, while the marine biology class is a 300-level course, according to information sent out by the biology department.

Peoples is a microbial oceanographer, so he focuses on how physical and chemical parameters influence ocean biology. Logan has done research on the Mariana Trench, according to the Schmidt Ocean Institute. 

Peoples described the oceanography class in a statement as “an overarching introduction to oceanography, crossing between disciplines and touching on physical, chemical, and biological oceanography. This will include topics such as the patterns and causes of ocean circulation, distributions, and budgets of heat, salt, and other chemical components, and hopefully a section on climate change.” Peoples also wants to incorporate data analysis into the class.

Peoples is excited to work with students who are passionate to learn and says that the best part of science for him is working with students and conducting fieldwork.

Gerringer’s studies have focused on the physiology and ecology of deep-sea animals. She earned her PhD from the University of Hawaii, and she specifically studies the adaptions of animals to live in deep-sea waters, according to her personal website.

“[The marine biology class will] talk a lot about different adaptations to the marine environment and different habitats within the marine environment. Then we’ll also focus a lot on biodiversity,” Gerringer said in a phone interview. “It sounds like there’s lots of interest in human impacts on the marine environment as well. So we’ll talk some about climate change and, you know, shoreline effects, to kind of connect it back to human impacts.” 

 The class will be lecture style with some computer-based content. 

The science communication class will be partly discussion-based and broken up into three different sections, starting with writing. This will consist of discussion about science writing and peer editing. The second section will focus on presentations and will consist of different strategies for presenting science. The third section will be broadly defined and consist of things like museum exhibits and social media science communication. Gerringer says she is ultimately looking for people to be creative and participate.

Gerringer is looking forward to meeting more Geneseo students after those she met during her interview, as well as working with biology faculty.

“It seems like a lot of the students and most of the students are very dedicated and very passionate about the different subjects,” Gerringer said. “So I’m looking forward to teaching in those small classes and being able to work with students that really want to learn. I am also interested and excited in collaborating with a lot of the biology faculty. There are some really great people on staff working on undergraduate education as well as a lot of really cool science.” 

Gerringer’s research will start in the fall and will focus on studying fish morphology. She plan’s on using CT scans to create three-dimensional reconstructions of fish skeletons to study skeletal data.

Biology students are excited about the new options and the possibilities that are gained by hiring two new professors.

Students are happy that these classes are unique to the department.  

“It’s always good to get a new perspective on things, especially in sciences that don’t have a lot of representation here,” biochemistry major junior Ashley Montgomery said. “Geneseo previously hasn’t had a large marine biology department or anything like that. Obviously, we still don’t have a marine biology specialty, but it is good that we’re getting more representation of something that’s important for the future of the earth.” 

Students showed the most enthusiasm about the science communication class, which many felt was extremely important and interesting.

“The most important thing about science, being a scientist and being a researcher, is being able to communicate what you find,” biology major junior Jake Converse said. “So as a science, communication class is always going to be beneficial for people, especially if they struggle at it.” 

Students feel that adding extra classes and professors could also help solve the problem of congestion in biology classes just by giving a few more options of electives.

Upper-level classes like anatomy and physiology are extremely difficult to obtain a seat. This is because the class sizes are so small, but many people are trying to get into the most popular upper-level courses, explained business and biology major junior Ryan Dwyer.

“Having those new professors is going to be really good for all that congestion,” Dwyer said.

Biophysics major sophomore Kristen Zarcone agreed with this sentiment, saying that the new classes would allow students to have more flexibility in choosing classes and making their schedule, which would help alleviate congestion.

Students also commented on the benefits of the new and interesting research opportunities the professors are bringing. 

“I feel like research is the goal for most people in science-related fields, especially biology,” Zarcone said. “So I think it’s really awesome that there are new professors that are coming here that are excited to do research, [especially] different kinds of research.”

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