Dr. Burns teaches Principles in Ecology, BIOL 351/451 and the Principles in Ecology Laboratory, BIOL 351L/451L.
Why are some species abundant and others rare, some widespread and others restricted in their distribution? Ecology seeks to explain the interactions that lead to these patterns of distribution and abundance. For example, the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) is an endangered species, and an enormous amount of effort is expended in conserving this species. We use the tools of population biology on the loggerhead sea turtle as a case study, to better understand how these tools can improve our understanding of the ecology of the loggerhead, and perhaps make better conservation decisions as a result. The lecture course includes many active learning modules, so come prepared to participate in class and small group discussions, including my personal favorite, a (mock)"cocktail discussion."
Stormwater runoff from local communities can have large effects on the ecology of our streams and lakes. In the Priciples in Ecology Laboratory, we conduct several field research projects, including a service-learning project on stream habitat quality at West Creek, near Parma, Ohio. The West Creek laboratory is conducted in collaboration with Cleveland Metroparks. We learn how to conduct a rapid habitat quality assessment on primary headwater streams, analyze and interpret the results, and present these results as collaborative poster presentations to an audience including the Cleveland Metroparks. The data the class collects for this project will help the metroparks in their research to determine the best methods for mitigating stormwater runnoff at West Creek. Not only are we learning basic ecological tools, but those tools have important conservation implications, and we are making a real contribution to local conservation efforts.
Many of the activities in these classes involve service learning, where students perform a service in the community (see right) in order to reinforce concepts and bring them into the "real world". These projects are organized by undergraduate stewardship liaisons, who work for the community organization, and bring what they have learned into the classroom.
In 2013, undergraduate Deanna Drenten facilitated service learning in our courses, including Principles in Ecology and Aquatic Biology.
These projects are supported by grant funds from The Environmental Protection Agency to GLISTEN (the Great Lakes Innovative Stewardship Through Education Network) grant# NE 00E01029, CFDA# 66.951 to the University's National Center for Science and Civic Engagement (NCSCE) and by the Small Business Administration and the Western Reserve Resource Conservation and Development Council. Special thanks to Glenn Odenbrett for securing these funds.
Opportunities for senior capstone projects (BIOL 388S) and other independent research opportunities for students are often available. Please make an appointment with Dr. Burns to discuss research opportunities. Please do not sign up for research in the Burns Lab (e.g. BIOL388S), without first discussing it with Dr. Burns at least a semester ahead. Capstone research projects in ecology cannot be designed at the last minute.
Letters of recommendation
Dr. Burns only writes letters for students who have worked in the lab doing independent research or as research assistants. If you have only taken a course with Dr. Burns, please do not expect a letter of recommendation. A course simply does not give enough experience to write a strong letter of recommendation.