Since growing up in India I have been a passionate naturalist and a kind letter from Gerald Durrell led me to study Zooology at Aberdeen University. As an undergraduate I became involved in research on Europeean Otters and was fortunate to rear an otter cub in my flat in Aberdeen. I also took part in two biological expeditions, one to the Outer Hebrides and the second to Ghana in West Africa. On graduating I was offered five Ph.D. scholarships including one at Cambridge, but I had to come to Australia as it is the only place (with New Guinea) that has all three Sub-Classes of mammals. Ironically I ended up working on amphibians. I worked on conservation biology in Uppsala, Sweden for seven years, and then ran my own ecotourism business on the west coast of Scotland, before returning to Australia at Flinders University.
I have a First Class Honours Degree from Aberdeen University, Scotland for my research on the ecology of the Orkney Vole. I first visited Australia after winning an A.N.U. Ph.D. Scholarship and although I started to work on mammals I gained my doctorate for research on the role of acoustic communication in female mate choice and male fighting in an Australian frog.
I teach fundamental biology in several core topics and am a key contributor to the Animal Behaviour degree. I believe in empowering students and as such have taken groups of Flinders undergraduates on life-changing field projects in southern Africa to experience African conservation and community issues while acquiring key skills that will bolster their future careers. I have recently initiated a new topic, BIOL2704 Biology Practicum, that will enable these students to gain academic credit for their efforts.
My teaching expertise is in bioacoustics, animal behaviour, evolutionary ecology,physiology, biodiversity, conservation and ecotourism. I have research experience in most of these topics and hence can leaven my teaching with annecdotes and personal experiences that seem to annimate and enthuse the students and faciltate their learning. Biology is extremely rich in facts and this intimidates most students and overwhelms them. I utterly reject the common believe that in our data rich world with fast search engines there is no need to learn most facts, but this leads to a very narrow viewpoint and it is then impossible to grasp concepts and frameworks. Thus I emphasise core concepts explained in simpler terms, and once they understand them I show how they can be easily expanded to cover more complex examples. A further issue is that biology has a rich vocabulary of unfamiliar words that have Greek and Latin roots. It is essential to learn some of these words and I help them overcome their fear by showing the meaning of the roots and how by learning a few prefixes and suffixes they unlock many key words. My overall aim is to engender critical thinking, especially the ability to see through all the detail and grasp the core concepts.
I am an active member of Birds SA, the oldest ornitholical association in Australia, and was the President for five years. I have a keen interest in promoting an understanding of science in the community, especially in young people. I have been an active contributor to the South Australian Museum Out of the Glass Case programme that takes science to communities around SOuth Australia. I was an invited bird guide at the Fraser Island Bird Week for seven years in which I taught bird watching skills and gave lectures on current topics in ornithology. I have collaborated with a local artist, Indiana James, on a programme in schools, museums and the community in which we demonstrate that the fundamentals of creative thinking are the same in the arts and the sciences.
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