(June 24, 2020) --
The first session of University Programs summer courses is about to end and the second session begins. It's been a summer of firsts for the students and faculty, as the courses have been taught virtually.
Huntingdon College's Dr. Paul Gier is teaching the Marine Behavioral Ecology course. It's a course he's taught for a number of years during the summer sessions. Gier explained he's had to adapt a number of aspects of the course including the lab dynamics.
Gier did have a few lab techs helping out. His wife, son, and daughter are helping to set up the experiments and videos for the students.
A popular lab Gier does with his students is giving them the opportunity to conceptualize a study of marine behavior. The students did the same this summer. However, instead of breaking into groups for the study, the students submitted a short research proposal for their peers to vote on. Then, Gier's family set it up, carried it out, and shared the data with the students.
The winning proposal, to see if the aggressive displays of blue crabs were dependent on the size difference between "rivals".
"We paired them up in either male-male or female-female dyads, and manipulated the difference between their sizes, so that some were evenly-matched and others were ridiculously mismatched in size," Gier explained. "The students' hypothesis was that aggressive displays and fights would be more common when the size difference was smaller."
The conclusion, size disparity had a weak effect on aggressive displays.
Gier also took a bit of time during the session to answer our Facebook friend's questions about blue crab moods. You can check that out here.
“Covid-19 forced teachers to get creative and figure out how to make distance-learning interesting and relevant, and not everything I tried was a hit. But the students in my class were great, and they made the most out of the virtual labs we provided,” Dr. Gier said. “There was even an unforeseen bonus; they got to do group projects on public-domain data. They used data collected by scientists around the world, to do their own analyses and test their own hypotheses. We had projects on fish behavior in South Pacific coral reefs, cetacean movements off California, and great white shark migration off the Eastern Seaboard, just to name a few. We’ve never done projects like those before, so that was a nice addition to the course.”