Document Type


Publication/Presentation Date

January 2020

Conference Location

Montpelier, France


With so much public discussion of gender issues in the US, it is important to introduce students to the breadth of reproductive expressions in the biological world early in their university education. I do this in two ways: first by centering a first-year research project on the reproduction of hermaphroditic snails, and second by focusing a second-year writing seminar on “Varieties of Animal Reproduction.” The laboratory component of our Foundations of Biology I course is a semester-long investigation where students are guided through the process of scientific research. With support from instructors, each team frames a question, writes a proposal, carries out experiments, analyzes data and presents a poster. This year, all students in one lab section worked with my research organism, the freshwater snail Planorbella trivolvis. This focus not only challenges them to think about hermaphroditism as a natural phenomenon, but also provides valuable pilot data for ongoing work in my lab. In the seminar course, I provide background information about the diversity of animal mating strategies and sexual expressions (simultaneous and sequential hermaphroditism, same sex courtship, behavioral gender reversals, polygamy, etc) and students each choose a subtopic about which to write a review paper. While the course is focused on developing critical reading, writing, and communication skills, we also emphasize the connections between biology and society – so challenge them to broaden their views of what is “natural” and consider how an understanding of biological diversity might (or might not) be relevant to appreciation of human diversity and dignity.