Short Course

Short course for biology students and faculty

It is not always practical to develop a sufficient background in a subject that you may need for your research by taking full-semester courses.  Biology students (at any level) rarely have 1) time or 2) access to suitable courses that provide the essential climate and weather knowledge they may need in their future work.  Even when meteorology programs exist within a university most of the courses have either a forecasting or research focus and are aimed at meteorology students.  The introductory courses usually offered for non-meteorology majors to satisfy general science course requirements are not adequate for biology (or geography) students who may later carry out research in biogeography or ecology.  Some courses exist in agricultural meteorology (especially in farm states) but this knowledge, despite its value, is not always transferable to other parts of the world or to “non-agricultural” environments.

While it is clear that it would be desirable for biology students and researchers to have essential climate knowledge available to them, it is not practical or affordable to have such a climate specialist as part of every biology program in the country.  Even within meteorology programs such individuals are infrequent.  These conditions, together with my personal interests in teaching and background in aspects of the biological sciences, has led me to offer specialized short courses in climate and weather for the biological science community.  The content of the course (tentatively, since such a course has yet to be carried out) is given here.  Some details of such a course, including estimated cost and requirements, are described below.

Audience  The lecture material is aimed at senior-level undergraduate students who may be taking a biogeography course and graduate students in biology or allied fields who wants to better understand how atmospheric processes modulate the biosphere and its associated processes.  Faculty members who are carrying out research that involves climate variables (e.g environmental niche modeling) would also benefit from the material presented.The course emphasizes physical understanding of key atmospheric processes, and most of the concepts can be explained without recourse to advanced mathematics (as is usually done in meteorology courses for meteorology majors).  The required concepts from physics will be covered as needed.

Duration of course  One week (5 days) is probably ideal, since this allows for two lectures per day without major disruption to most student’s schedules.  I can work irregular hours as needed to maximize attendance.  One week also allows some time for one-on one discussions with students or staff about specific applications of meteorology to biology.  In some cases I would be willing to present the material over a period longer than 5 days; this would incur some additional costs; per diem and lodging.  This can be negotiated.

Credit  I leave this up to the institution; in many countries such short courses traditionally offer certificates or diplomas, but in such a short course there is no easy means to evaluate the participant’s comprehension of the material.   Participants ideally should attend for the thirst of new knowledge!

Class size  There is no limit on the class size, provided the institution can arrange the required space.  If you can fill a stadium with interested biologists I will charge no more than if you fill a small classroom.  My objective is impact – the larger the audience the better.  My only request is that each participant is serious in trying to get the most out of the course, and that they attend as many of the lectures as possible.

Cost   Since a 5-day course really takes an additional two days travel time and there is some preparation time (I try to tailor the material to the specific needs of the audience), I would charge for 2 effective weeks work at a rate comparable to my last NOAA salary rate.  Economy RT airfare, accommodation in a hotel used by normal university visitors, and the US per diem rates (food) for the city.   A course offered overseas would incur some additional costs; these can be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Needless to say, I leave it up to each institution to determine how to cover the costs of the course.  If the participation is spread over several departments (for example Biology and Geography) the cost to each one is naturally less.

Note that if there are possibilities of joint research, or if your university is located in a highly desirous location to visit for a week, I might be willing to defer much of the cost of the course.   Most important is the interest level of the audience.  If you can convince me that follow-on collaboration is likely or the course material will have a high impact it’s more likely I’ll be motivated.

The cost of the course includes:

1)  The lectures, together with copies of the lectures (usually powerpoints with supplementary notes).  Since much of this material can be traced to prior support from US Gov’t funding, I have no intention of copyrighting it and the material can be used by your faculty as needed in your future courses.

2) Consultations with the instructor by faculty and graduate students during the week of the course.  If time permits, I would be happy to answer questions from undergraduates as well, outside of the lectures.

3)  My email response to questions by course participants for the following year (no real time limit to this, though interest or need for questions naturally tends to drop with time).