About Meghan Duffy

I am an ecologist at the University of Michigan. My research focuses on the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases, particularly in lake Daphnia populations.

Technician and lab manager positions available in the Duffy Lab at Michigan!

In addition to having two postdoctoral positions available (more info here, review of postdoc applications begins on March 1st), the Duffy Lab at the University of Michigan is searching for a technician and a lab manager. The technician and lab manager position applications will be available until Feb 26 2021. The projected start date for both positions is June 2021 in Ann Arbor.

Technician position:
The responsibilities for this position include maintaining Daphnia, algae, and parasite cultures, field sampling of lakes in the Ann Arbor area, carrying out lab experiments, helping to develop and test protocols, assisting with general lab maintenance and upkeep, and organizing and maintaining protocols. This position requires an Associate’s degree or higher; a Bachelor’s in biology, ecology, microbiology, or environmental science is preferred.

More information, including on how to apply, is available here. Any questions can be directed to Meghan Duffy (duffymeg@umich.edu).

Lab manager position:
The responsibilities for this position include many of the same responsibilities as those for the technician position, but also include working independently to analyze data, coordinating the field sampling and lab personnel, supervising hourly employees, and leading development and testing of protocols and equipment. This position requires a Bachelors degree in science with 1-3 years of experience; a Master’s degrees in biology, ecology, microbiology, or environmental science is preferred.

More information, including on how to apply, is available here. Any questions can be directed to Meghan Duffy (duffymeg@umich.edu).

A flat bottomed rowboat loaded with oars, pfds, and sampling equipment, on the edge of a large lake on a calm day. Big puffy clouds are visible in the sky and reflected in the lake's surface
Photo credit: Bruce O’Brien

Postdoc positions available in the Duffy Lab at Michigan!

Two postdoctoral positions focusing on host-symbiont interactions in inland lakes are available in the laboratory of Dr. Meghan Duffy in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan. The Duffy Lab studies the ecology and evolutionary biology of host-parasite interactions, using the aquatic crustacean Daphnia and their microparasites as a model system. The successful candidates will have access to a vibrant intellectual community and state-of-the-art facilities in the new Biological Sciences Building at Michigan.

In addition to being super cute, Daphnia are a great system for studying the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases at scales ranging from genes through ecosystems!

There is a lot of flexibility in terms of what successful applicants can work on, and postdocs will be encouraged to develop projects that are well-suited to their strengths and interests. Some themes of ongoing work in the lab include:

  • characterizing the diversity of symbionts in zooplankton in inland lakes
  • understanding the drivers of shifts between mutualism & parasitism
  • investigating the ecosystem-level impacts of shifts along a mutualism-parasitism gradient
  • discovery of the factors that allow parasites to move between host species
  • characterization of the distribution of parasites in the water column of lakes
  • interactions between symbionts (including parasites) within host individuals and at the population level
  • how host diversity influences parasitism
  • impacts of predators on host-parasite interactions
  • how symbionts alter Daphnia interactions with phytoplankton, and how phytoplankton influence Daphnia-symbiont interactions.
Mill Lake, one of our beautiful study sites in Southeastern Michigan!

The successful candidates for these positions will be expected to carry out independent research relating to aquatic symbiosis, using Daphnia and their symbionts (especially their microparasites) as a model system. Projects will be developed based on the strengths, interests, and expertise of the successful candidates. The projects will likely involve field and lab work. Depending on interest and abilities, postdocs will also have the ability to work on mathematical modeling of disease.

These positions will also involve mentoring of undergraduate researchers in the lab.

How to Apply
Interested individuals should send a CV, a brief description of research accomplishments and future goals, and the names and contact information for 3 references to Meghan Duffy by e-mail (duffymeg@umich.edu). Review of applications will start on March 1, 2021 and will continue until the position is filled. The University of Michigan is an equal opportunity / affirmative action employer.

Required Qualifications
PhD (by start date) with experience in aquatic ecology, disease ecology, community ecology, eco-evolutionary dynamics, evolutionary ecology, microbiology, protistology, mycology, or a related field.

Desired Qualifications
Experience working with Daphnia and/or isolating parasites from the field would be beneficial, but is not required.

Other information
Preference will be given to applicants who can start by mid-summer 2021, though start dates as late as Fall 2021 are possible. Funding is available for each postdoc for at least two years, but is contingent on satisfactory progress in year one. The anticipated starting salary for the positions is $48,500 per year plus benefits.

The University of Michigan is an equal opportunity / affirmative action employer.

After slogging through 5 exams, each two weeks apart, how did Intro Bio students feel about frequent exams?

When thinking about how to adjust Intro Bio for the realities of Fall 2020 teaching, we made a few changes to the course. One major change is that the class is now fully flipped — the students watch asynchronous lectures on their own (we made these using lecture recordings from previous semesters, which had the advantage of having responses to questions previous students asked when they first learned the material) and the synchronous (but recorded for asynchronous viewing if needed) sessions are used for “active learning sessions” where we work through old exam problems and activities to help students organize information (e.g., a table comparing and contrasting gene flow and genetic drift). I think the active learning sessions have been really helpful for student learning, and all of the student feedback about them has been positive. They love the active learning sessions! But that’s not the focus of this post.

The focus of this post is another change we made: moving to more frequent exams. In previous semesters, students had two low stakes quizzes a week, and four high stakes exams across the semester. (The four exams together were worth ~75% of the final grade.) This year, students had one low stakes quiz a week, and six exams. The six exams together are worth about the same amount as last year’s exams — ~76% of the final grade — so each exam on its own is lower stakes (while admittedly still not trivial!), which is part of inclusive course design. We had several reasons for wanting to give six exams vs. four, including:

  • By lowering the stakes on each exam, we hoped that a student illness or any other life event or disruption would have less of an impact on how the student did in the course overall.
  • By lowering the stakes on each exam, we hoped it would reduce exam anxiety and the temptation to cheat (we did other things to try to reduce these two things, too).
  • Having six exams meant we could down-weight the two lowest exams and up-weight the two highest (as opposed to what we did with four exams, which was to down-weight just the one lowest and up-weight just the one highest).* 
  • Each exam could be shorter and, unless a student had accommodations that gave them extra time, meant the exams could fit in the normal class period, rather than being in the evening.
  • Students would get feedback on their study strategies and preparation earlier in the semester and more often.

At the beginning of the semester, I had the impression that students mostly seemed to like that we were going to have six exams, but I didn’t have a great sample. Our first exam was in week 3, and exams 2, 3, 4, and 5 were in weeks 5, 7, 9, and 11, respectively. It turns out that fitting in six exams in the semester makes for a schedule that is kind of intense.

This intensity was definitely felt by the instructional team. The point that seemed the most ridiculous to me was when, on the same day, I was giving exam 3, entering exam 4 questions into Canvas so that exam 4 could be vetted, and writing exam 5 questions. It was a lot.

As my co-instructor, Cindee Giffen, and I discussed it, we realized we didn’t really have a good sense of how students felt about the number of exams. Did they like having 6? Did it feel like too much? What would they do if they were in charge and we were just starting the semester?

So, when we released exam 5 grades, we also included a survey (with students getting an extra credit point if they filled out the survey, to incentivize participation). I was surprised by the responses, and figured they might be of broader interest, so I’m sharing the results here. (414 students responded to the survey.) 

Here are the key results:

At the beginning of the semester, students mostly thought 6 exams would be a good thing (41%) or weren’t sure whether it would be good or bad (41%). Only 19% thought 6 exams would be a bad thing.

Pie chart showing results indicated in text above the figure (in point 1)

How did those views change over time?

A) 68% of students who thought they would like six exams at the beginning of the semester felt the same after five exams (green part of left bar in figure below); equal numbers liked six exams more (14%; orange part of left bar in figure below) and less (14%; gray part of left bar in figure below).
B) Students who thought they would not like six exams at the beginning of the semester were more mixed after five exams. 39% said they were now even less in favor of six exams (gray part of middle bar in figure below). 31% said they were now more in favor of six exams (middle bar, orange), and 24% felt the same (middle bar, green) as they did at the start.
C) Of students who weren’t sure at the beginning of the semester (right bar in figure below), 43% still weren’t sure after five exams (green) plus 6% were not sure if their feelings changed (blue); 30% were now less in favor of six exams (gray), and 21% were now more in favor of six exams (orange).

Results of question asking “Now, after 5 exams, has your impression changed?” , with answer options of “I’m now MORE in favor of 6 exams than I was at the beginning of the semester” (orange), “I’m now LESS in favor of 6 exams than I was at the beginning of the semester” (gray), “My opinion is about the same as it was at the beginning of the semester” (green), and “I’m not sure” (blue). Answers are split based on whether students said they thought, at the start of the semester, that six exams would be good (left bar), bad (right bar), or weren’t sure (middle). Percentages are given in the paragraph above.

After 5 exams, about half of students felt 4 exams would be much worse (19%) or a little worse (32%) than 6 exams. 9% said it wouldn’t make a different and 5% weren’t sure. A bit over a third of the class said 4 exams would be much better (11%) or a little better (24%) than 6 exams.

Pie chart showing the percentages given in the paragraph above.

When asked how many exams they would prefer to have if they were to retake the course, the most common response was 6 (44%), followed by 5 (28%), then 4 (20%), with 8% saying they weren’t sure.

Pie chart showing the results from the paragraph above.

So, overall, they seemed to prefer having more than 4 exams, even without the benefit of distance from the intensity of the frequent exams. I was definitely surprised that the most common answer was preferring 6 exams! I was not surprised that there was variation in the opinions (sometimes strong variation!) One thing that is abundantly clear when teaching a class this size is that there is no strategy that is best for all students.

What are some of the things they liked about 6 exams?
We included some options of things we thought were upsides of 6 exams, and also gave the option of them entering their own answers. I haven’t had a chance to go through the free responses yet, but here are the percentages that chose the options we gave them:

  • Ability to upweight & downweight two exams (93%)
  • Lower stakes on each exam (81%)
  • Exams during class time rather than in the evening (75%)
  • 80 minute exam vs. 120 minute exam (67%)
  • 6 exams helped me to stay on top of the material (51%)
  • Feedback on study strategies earlier in the semester (36%)
  • 6 exams is less stressful. (34%)

An option that I forgot to include but should have is that there was less material to focus on for each exam. The exams were semi-cumulative (exam 2 built on exam 1, exam 3 built on exams 1 & 2, but then we reset and exam 4 focused on just unit 4 material). In conversations with students, they have said that being able to focus in on just four lectures was helpful for studying. I also think that was helpful for them. 

What are some of the things they disliked about 6 exams?
Here are the percentages that chose the options we gave them:

  • If I got a little behind, I didn’t have as much time to catch up (73%)
  • Less time to learn and synthesize information (68%)
  • 6 exams is more stressful (47%)
  • I’d prefer fewer exam days, even if that means each exam is higher stakes (28%)
  • I’d prefer evening exams (6%)

Something I didn’t think to include but that has come up in discussions with students is that, to do six exams, we need the exams to be done via Canvas, rather than as printed exams done in person. Not being able to easily mark up the exam is definitely a drawback of exams taken digitally (and I wonder about inequities that result from this — having a tablet or easy access to a printer probably helps a lot).

Based on all this, what would I do if I was starting the semester over again?
Probably 6 exams, but 5 would be tempting, to try to have it feel like there was a little more time to catch up on things. I think that would have especially helped students around exam 5, but some of the problem there was that there were major covid-related changes around then (including a shift to mostly remote classes, with many students moving around the same time). So, a little more time would have helped some students then….or, alternatively, it might have meant that the exam that came at a particularly hard time was worth more of their final grade.

I also still haven’t decided what I think would be best once we’re able to do things in person again. There are some things I really like about online exams (including the ability to offer them during class time and to give more exams), but there were also definitely downsides (including that most students were taking them on screens, which made things like phylogenies and pedigrees much harder). So, I’m not sure what would make the most sense. But it definitely is useful to know that, overall, students prefer having more than four exams!**

Have you tried different numbers of exams? Did you also find there were tradeoffs? How are you balancing them? I’d love to hear thoughts from others in the comments!

*This semester, each exam is out of 80 points. I will take the two lowest exam grades and rescale them to be out of 65 points, and take the two highest exam grades and rescale them to be out of 95 points. There was one year when we dropped the lowest exam, but that had the unfortunate effect of having students who were happy with their grade heading in to the last unit check out for that unit, so, since then, we’ve down-weighted rather than dropping.

**Someone asked me if I have considered not giving any exams. I have, but can’t really figure out how to make a class like this work with no exams.

Guest post: Undergraduate mentorship in the time of COVID-19: What we’ve learned

This is a guest post by Jonathan Barros, Briana Martin-Villa, Lexi Golden, Jonathan Hernandez, & Callie Chappell.

I. Introduction

During this challenging time of COVID-19, our lives have been turned upside down. Jobs have been lost or radically altered, loved ones have fallen ill, and our daily routines have been upended. In light of these challenges, our research (especially if it is not COVID-related) may not seem that important. In this blog post, we would like to highlight why right now, undergraduate research experiences are especially important, and how good mentorship practices can help students through this challenging time. This post was written collaboratively by a team of undergraduate researchers at Stanford University and their mentor, a Ph.D. student. Based on our experiences working together over the summer, we would like to share some suggestions and best practices for mentors collaborating with undergraduate researchers working remotely. 

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Embracing the Paradox: Lessons Learned from Teaching Virtual Field Courses

Intro from Meghan: This is a guest post from Alicia Farmer and Stephanie Shaulskiy from the University of Michigan’s Biological Station.

This is Stephanie and Alicia. We work as staff* for the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS), a teaching and research field station located near Pellston, Michigan in the state’s northern lower peninsula. 

When coronavirus forced our home institution’s instruction online in March, UMBS was less than two months away from welcoming several hundred researchers, instructors, students and staff to our Northern Michigan site for our usual field season. In a normal year, we offer 20 – 25 field courses, divided among a 4-week spring session, an 8-week summer session, and a 2-week late summer session. Once the university approved us to offer classes on-line, we gave our instructors the option of adapting their northern-Michigan, place-based classes to a fully remote and virtual environment, or canceling their class for this year. To our surprise and gratitude, fifteen instructors signed on. 

Because we had already been assessing outcomes and impacts of the UMBS field experience, we were set to pivot to an assessment of this year’s online instruction. What follows is a distillation of actions and lessons learned from our focus groups and individual interviews with faculty and students participating in our 2020 remote field courses.**


as piloted by UMBS Spring/Summer 2020 Faculty

C = Builds Community
E = Heightens student Engagement with the content
F = Especially important to courses with a Field component
P = Builds sense of Place
S = Important consideration for course Structure or Syllabus 

1. Incorporate Physical Materials (C, E, F, P, S)

Students in one course wrote letters to each other. One faculty member sent the students items for an assignment; package “unboxing” happened in a Zoom session. Several lab classes (including Chemistry, Ecology, and Fishes) had UMBS staff assemble and mail lab kits to students.*** These enabled students to sample and study their local environments, including their residences. 

Materials sent to students in Biology of Fishes class

[Image caption: Materials sent to students in Biology of Fishes class. Image description: Items spread out on a table surface include a bucket, a minnow trap, a bundle of flags, flagging tape, a tape measure, rope, latex gloves, bait, plastic bags.]

2. Take advantage of and take into account students’ diverse locations (E, F, P, S)

For some classes, students sampled water and soil in their own kitchens, yards or neighborhoods. In other classes, students took photos or made sketches wherever they were living and added these to a common Box folder or Slack channel to share with each other. The instructor for the Biology of Fishes, where students were spread across the country, observed that everyone in the class enjoyed examining the regional data on fish communities that they could build by combining everyone’s individual data. Another faculty member observed that for many students, these excuses to be outdoors during the pandemic brought a “source of restoration and a calming during this moment.” 

That said, it helped to have flexibility built into assignments to accommodate students’ varying locations and access to the out-of-doors. In a pollinator lab, students needed to adjust the methods around what flower(s) were available where they were. In Plant Biology, the online identification resources were richer for some student locations than others. Assignments also needed to accommodate students who were unable to safely go outside. In a biology project, a home-bound student focused on doing a statistical analysis of the group’s data instead of collecting it. An art class student substituted kitchen produce for living plants to illustrate features like branching and spirals. 

Some faculty made (or asked staff to make) videos of specific habitats that students wouldn’t get to visit in person. Others used guest speakers to bring the wider world to the class environment.


[Image caption: A student heads out into the field for her Fishes Class. Photo credit: Sophia Margaritis. Image description: A young person with a mask covering her mouth and nose and a handful of orange flags stands in front of a lake. Everyone included in a picture gave permission for their image to be in this post.] 

3. Create Collaborative Teaching Teams

Spring faculty invited summer faculty to meet with them weekly. This allowed spring faculty to share what was working or not as summer faculty were planning their courses. It also gave spring faculty a venue for sharing their successes, frustrations and questions. 

4. Set Clear Expectations for Online Communication (C, E)

Faculty recommended

  • surveying students in advance to see how many can attend synchronous sessions;
  • surveying students in advance about wifi/connectivity;
  • being explicit about what expectations are for course participation: is it okay to turn off cameras? to miss a discussion if you are feeling “Zoomed out?”;
  • having a discussion with students in the beginning of the course to create ground rules (e.g. is Zoom Chat for Q&A only or for sidebar conversations? Who decides who speaks next?).

5. Keep Student Autonomy in Mind / Use Specific and Clear definitions of concepts (F, S) 

In a traditional field course, the instructor or GSI typically guides students through field work. In the virtual setting, students have more control over when and how they conduct their field work. Faculty perceived that students were empowered by this freedom; however, if students didn’t understand exactly what they were supposed to be doing, they might make mistakes that were hard to identify or correct after the field work was complete. For example, plant and fish identification often rely on looking at a specific part of the organism, but students might mis-identify because they were looking at the wrong structures. 

Several instructors noted that students collected less data on their own (and generally the data collected by the class spanned a wider geographic area) than they would have at UMBS. So while students were still able to participate in field work and the research process, their data required different analyses and conclusions than in a typical lab/project. 

Additionally, spring term instructors noted that if given the choice, students worked in individual and small group (2-3 students) projects, instead of forming the larger groups that are the norm in field courses. Rather than helping the usual 5 or 6 groups with their research ideas, instructors were working with closer to 10-15 group/individual projects. This required the instructor to spend much more time giving help and direction to different projects. 

6. Schedule Time and use different platforms to Build Community (C, E, F, S)

Some activities that let students and instructors get to know each other better included

  • informal lunch gatherings where faculty ate their lunch with any students who wanted to come; sometimes faculty discussed things like their own career path or invited a colleague to talk about race or gender in the field;
  • scavenger hunt where students had to find something that told the class something about themselves, such a book they’re reading or game the’re playing or their favorite thing in nature;
  • on-line Adventure Race where teams of students worked together to solve clues that introduced them to Northern Michigan field sites;
  • faculty v. GSI head-to-head online challenge (e.g. pipetting) with students picking sides in advance and watching a live competition;
  • using side channels like discussion boards or chat channels as venues for ongoing and wider-ranging topics between course sessions.  

However, not all of these had high participation. It was the observation of some faculty that students didn’t want to be on Zoom any more than they had to. Platforms that allowed asynchronous interaction (chats, photo galleries) had more robust participation than extracurricular synchronous events.

Everyone used Canvas as the academic home for the course. But most faculty tried to approximate the more informal and immersive experience of field camp by engaging additional software:

  • Slack for fun field photos, chats.
  • Zoom for informal activities like a virtual campfire, a scavenger hunt, and brown bag  lunches where guest speakers shared their experiences as young scientists.
  • Box for group collaboration and portfolios

[Image caption: The General Ecology class meets for a “virtual campfire” to just hang out and talk. Photo credit: Hannah DeHetre. Image description: A laptop screen view shows a Zoom call in progress. The dominant image is of a campfire with a lake in the background. Participants’ screen views are minimized along the side. Everyone included in a picture gave permission for their image to be in this post.]

7. Check-in and Revise as necessary (C, E)

Ask students early and often how things are going. Venues our faculty used for this included Google forms, one-on-one meetings, GSI-led video discussions, and text group chats (on Slack channels and Canvas discussion boards). Be prompt and flexible in responding to students’ concerns. One instructor developed a daily to-do list after receiving feedback that students wanted more clarity on daily course requirements. Another reduced the amount of weekly Zoom meetings when students complained of burnout and loss of focus. They reworked the class to allow more work to be done asynchronously and saw the quality of synchronous meetings improve. Other classes added late-night office hours (staffed by GSIs) in response to students’ requests for help at times when they were working. 

8. Consider the Amount of Content (E, S)

Material takes longer to teach in a virtual setting compared to an in-person setting and students take more time to orient themselves when they are on their own without being directed by an instructor. In particular, any sort of experiment or guided learning takes longer and requires more time for explanation. Build in more time to explain assignments and go through expectations (and check in with students) than in a traditional semester. But don’t be surprised if students can have pretty thoughtful and thorough discussions. They are paying attention! One faculty described the coverage as “less material, more in depth.”

9. Be cautious when using analytical software programs (E, S)

Software was harder for students to use remotely. Many students struggled with R (a statistical program) and Excel, especially if this was their first time using them. In a remote setting, faculty can’t walk around a computer lab and peek over students’ shoulders. Especially in an asynchronous class, students can go a long way down an erroneous path without someone on hand to answer questions, catch errors, or ensure the software is doing what students think it is (e.g. one group ended up running a regression on text). If you’re using software, build in extra tutorials, open labs and office hours to address confusion. Faculty also found that students worked better with simpler and more straightforward data sets


Additional topics came up repeatedly as we talked with faculty. We suspect you are hearing about these from other sources, so we won’t belabor them here. But they are worth being aware of. They get more to the heart of self-care, for students as well as instructors. Everything that’s true of students here is true of instructors whose non-academic lives are merging with work, too.

  • Especially if students are attending classes from home or another off-campus location, the rest of “life” (e.g. family, employment, home and neighborhood concerns) is more in the foreground than when they live on campus.  
  • Mental health issues may be more common and/or more severe while also being harder to detect in remote formats.
  • Students expect 24/7 responsiveness more than ever. Many instructors stressed the importance of clearly communicating and then sticking to the hours they were available. Some tried to replicate the camp feel by holding late night office hours (usually staffed by GSIs) or being broadly available during waking hours; others maintained office hours as they do in a regular semester. 
  • Even in a virtual environment, students could still learn a lot about the research process—how to interpret significant findings (or not finding significance) and when to use different kinds of statistical tests.

A final note from Alicia, Stephanie, and Meghan

While we did not specifically ask about how instructors considered accessibility and inclusivity in their courses, UMBS faculty discussed being flexible (e.g., giving parallel assignments depending on what environments were available near students), considering accessibility (e.g., working with students who did not have a good internet connection or working with students who could not go outside to do fieldwork because their country implemented a pandemic lockdown), and getting to know students (see “Schedule Time and use different platforms to Build Community” above). These are all practices that get recommended on lists for inclusive teaching. Accessibility and inclusivity are important topics that should be considered when designing all courses and the three of us wanted to make sure this was noted in this post. This resource has information on Access to Remote Instruction for Students and Faculty with Disabilities and this is a guide to inclusive teaching (aimed at UMich, but useful more broadly).


*Stephanie is the Program Evaluator and Alicia is the Program Manager for UMBS’s Transforming Learning Program.

**The courses and instructors included in this analysis:

  • Art in Nature, Cathy Barry (UMich)
  • Biology and Ecology of Fishes, Amy Schrank (UMN)
  • General Chemistry Lab, Levi Mielke (UIndy)
  • General Ecology – 4 sections, Curt Blankespoor; Paul Moore (BGSU), Bob Pillsbury (UW-Oshkosh), Brain Scholtens (College of Charleston)
  • Great Lakes Arts Cultures and Environments (GLACE) Program (AMCULT/NATIVEAM 311, ANTHRCUL 298, ENGLISH 221, ENGLISH 320) – Ingrid Diran (UMich), Kendall Babl, Jennifer Metzger (UMich), Daegan Miller, Margaret Noodin (UW-Milwaukee)
  • Intro Biology Lab, Cindee Giffen (UMich)
  • Plant Biodiversity in the Digital Age, Charles Davis (Harvard) and Susan Fawcett

***If someone other than the instructor is assembling and distributing the kit, they should send a kit to the instructor, too, so they know what materials students have to work with.

Supporting BIPOC researchers in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Note from Meghan: This guest post is a revised version of one that briefly appeared last month.

Over the past few months society has once again had to face the stark inequities that disproportionately affect Black, Indigenous, and other racial minorities. The senseless murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Chantel Moore highlighted police brutality against Black and Indigenous people, and ignited protests across the globe. The disproportionate impacts of COVID 19 on people of color are highlighting systemic racist structures in access to health care and other social networks.

These events have prompted renewed calls to examine systemic racism in all sectors of society, including academia and its many subdisciplines. The fields of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) are overwhelmingly white. Minorities in the biological sciences and EEB face many different types of discrimination. Personal stories shared on Twitter using hashtags such as #BlackinSTEM and #BlackinNature have highlighted the unique risks of conducting field work as a Black scientist. Within ecology we need to confront not just the current systematic bias, but also the legacies of colonialism.

Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) have once again faced calls to educate the majority on how to address these problems. Doing so can require revisiting deep wells of pain and trauma. Much has been written about what has to change, on how to be a better ally, and on how to self-educate. This is important and necessary, yet much of what has been written centers whiteness, and focuses on the work the dominant majority should undertake.

What remains unsaid is how current BIPOC researchers can navigate their careers while biased and racist structures are not yet dismantled. An unspoken premise for the careers of BIPOC is that they will figure out on their own how to navigate systemic bias, while also performing unpaid or unacknowledged labor to help educate their scientific peers about these issues.

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Academic Parenting During a Pandemic

Post authors: Dana Turjeman, Sondra Turjeman, and Meghan Duffy

This began as a subsection of the post from last week on going back to a new normal as academia begins to reopen, but it became so lengthy that we made it its own post. Students who are parents are often an overlooked group, and advisers who are parents might keep their personal and work lives pretty separate. Certainly, we know from conversations with other academic parents with school-aged (or younger!) children that many of us are trying to figure out how to juggle this new and ever-changing situation. There can be a sense of being alone in trying to figure this out, and sometimes there is little acknowledgment from our institutions or colleagues about the additional challenges for parents with children. We hope that sharing resources, strategies, and concerns will be useful to parents, and will also give people who are not currently home with children a little more insight into some of the things their colleagues are juggling — a little empathy can go a long way.

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Guest post: 8 Lessons for Teaching over Zoom

Post author: Morgan Tingley

It has been a long ten weeks. As SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, was spreading rampantly across the United States in late March, most colleges and universities were returning from spring break, looking forward to finishing the academic year and the relief of summer. Here at the University of California – Los Angeles, however, we are on a quarter system, and our new “spring term” started on March 30th, just two weeks after campus officially closed and all classes moved online. As campuses shuttered across the country, an incredible diversity of resources were shared online for how to teach remotely. These resources often included conflicting advice, and also frequently assumed that instructors had months or years to re-design courses around online education.

After quickly becoming both overwhelmed and frustrated with the available advice, I figured that if I just entered the term with a sense of both humor and empathy, the students and I would be able to figure it out. Ten weeks later I’ve emerged mostly unscathed and feeling vastly more proficient at remote lecturing. So for those of you who are currently enjoying your summer breaks, but are starting to feel nervous about the fall (or spring 2021) semester, I’ve assembled below my top lessons for teaching over Zoom.

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Going back to (a new) normal: reflections from three academics as universities and society begin to re-open

Post authors: Dana Turjeman, Sondra Turjeman, and Meghan Duffy

This blog is directly connected to a post two of us (Dana and Meghan) published on March 15, right as things in the US were beginning to shut down due to COVID-19. In many places, discussions on re-opening the economy are at full speed (even though many places are still seeing significant, and even rising, levels of infection). We’re now moving into a phase where more people are going back to work (including in labs and doing fieldwork), and where people are increasingly moving about. 

While there are important benefits to a slow, thoughtful re-opening, this doesn’t mean everything is back to normal. The virus is here to stay at least until a vaccine or a cure, or both, become widely available. As things reopen, members of the scientific and academic communities will likely face challenges that will surface for the first time (even as we recognize how fortunate we are that we still have paying work). Here we raise some of the potential challenges that are likely to arise in the coming months. This time, we’re excited to add a third author, Sondra Turjeman, a PhD student in EEB at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

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Guest Post: A personal account of why science needs inclusion

This is a guest post by Lynette Strickland, who just defended her PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She will be moving to Texas A&M Corpus Christie to do a postdoc, and also has an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship lined up. (Congrats, Lynette!) Lynette is also a co-first author on this Science article on how, without inclusion, diversity initiatives may not be enough.

Here’s Lynette’s post:

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