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Len Reitsma

 

I am an Associate Professor in the Natural Science Department at Plymouth State College, Plymouth, New Hampshire, USA. I received my PhD. from Dartmouth College in 1990 during which time I worked on nest predation in northern hardwoods forest (at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest) and the ecology of two species of migratory warblers on their wintering grounds in Jamaica, West Indies. Currently, I am working on migrant warblers in Puerto Rico and in New Hampshire. In the photo, a former student and collaborator and I examine the plumage of a Northern Waterthrush with a transmitter that is about to be released.

I teach undergraduate and graduate biology and my specialty areas are conservation, vertebrate ecology and behavior, and avian ecology.

My family and I make our home in an old farmhouse in Canaan, N.H. We have a garden and heat our home mostly with wood from our own 115 acres. I have been the Chair of the Conservation Commission in my town (Canaan, NH) since 1999. We have an excellent proactive commission and have accomplished much over the last many years.

The New England Institute for Landscape Ecology (NEILE) is a non-profit research and education institute founded in 1993. It has had an uninterrupted sequence of years of funded avian ecological research since its founding and has recently begun to do environmental education as well. I am co-founder and president of NEILE.

 

 

Undergraduate Courses:

General Biology I and II:

This course fulfills the Science perspective of PSC’s General Education program. It is currently under significant revision in order to meet guidelines for a newly established General Education program and also because the biology majors will be placed into a separate section from the non-majors. This course represents an exciting opportunity to expose many students of different disciplines to the science of life. The lab is co-requisite to reinforce the experimentation focus of the discipline.

Conservation:

Conservation is a 200 level biology course that fulfills the Technology general education perspective. Consequently, the course typically has a mix of majors and first year to senior year students as well. This is one of my favorite courses to teach because it probes the link between human lifestyle trends and what is happening to non-human species around the globe. We examine the biological and geopolitical mechanisms responsible for species decline and the methods being used to address this decline.

Vertebrate Zoology:

Vertebrate Zoology is a 200 level biology course required of the B.S. in Environmental Biology major. The course covers the evolutionary history of vertebrates, and then introduces population, community, and behavioral ecology of vertebrates. Labs include close examination of extinct and extant vertebrates and outdoor examination of vertebrate behavior including American woodcocks, spring peepers, and red-winged blackbirds. We end lab with a big day vertebrate species count and usually detect over 50 species in a single morning.

Ornithology:

Ornithology is a 300 level biology course that is offered in alternate (even years) springs. It is a "W" course meaning it fulfills the writing requirement that is part of the PSC general education curriculum requirements. The course has a strong field component and the lecture stresses interpretation of data. The course is approached from an ecological perspective.

Tropical Biology:

This is a 300 level biology course that is offered in alternate (even years) Winterim sessions – during January. It is also a "W" course and is taught in the tropics on location. Students work in small groups of two or three on developing a question of interest into a testable hypothesis. They design their own field measures, collect data, analyze the data on laptops with statistical software, write scientific-style papers, and present their data to the class. This entire process occurs twice: once in a rainforest and once in a coral reef ecosystem.

Current Environmental Issues

CEI is a 400 level capstone course for Environmental Biology majors taught in seminar manner. Each meeting we discuss a specific set of environmental issues and our discussion is prompted by readings in four texts as well as hand-outs. Students keep a semester-long journal writing their reactions to current issues they read about, hear on the news, or are exposed to through any other source.
Biology of Sex Roles

Sex roles is an integrative course that focuses on evidence for and implications of gender-specific behaviors rooted in our respective evolutionary histories. We openly discuss the evidence for a biological basis for sexual orientation and gender dysphoria. At least half of the classes are discussions based upon specific readings. Many hand-outs accompany two main texts: Ridley’s The Red Queen and Buss’ The Evolution of Desire.

Cultural Ecology and Natural History of East Africa

This is also an integrative course that was offered once to date in July of 2002. The course began on campus with two days of lectures and discussions. We then spent 11-31 July out-of-country mostly in Tanzania. One week was spent collecting data on a game ranch in Northern TZ and one week was spent on safari visiting Tarangire and Serengeti National Parks and Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. We compiled a group research paper on community-based conservation that included an ethnographic and ecological case study.

 

 

Dancing with Maasai warriors near Ndarakwai, Tanzania.

 

 

 

 

 

Dining on fresh goat at a Maasai boma in Tanzania.

 

 

Graduate Courses:

Below are courses I teach in the M.Ed. in Environmental Sciences degree program at Plymouth State College. These courses are a mix of lecture, oral presentations, experimentation with data analyses, and written work. We spend a good deal of time outdoors either observing or testing hypotheses.

The World of Life: The Biosphere

Terrestrial Ecology

Avian Ecology

Conservation Biology