self portrait   Linden Higgins
 Department of Biology, University of Vermont

contact: Linden.Higgins<at>
NSF logoSupported in part through grants from the National Science Foundation

 Consulting: Education for Critical Thinking

Philosophy of teaching

Using formative assessments in a large lecture setting

On-line quizzes to teach problem-solving

Quizzes improve student outcomes: a test

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) for adults.
Scientists have the reputation of being terrible instructors, but in my time in college-level teaching, I've met few who did not deeply care about what and how their students learned.  The real problem may be that few graduate students in the sciences are ever taught about teaching and learning as is true in much of graduate education, we are tossed into the deep end to swim as best we can. We end up re-inventing many of education's wheels through this process, missing out on the wonderful tools that are available.

In seeking to improve my instructional techniques and thus provide better opportunities for students, I've done my share of re-invention. In completing a masters in educational leadership, I accelerated my learning by discovering the world of K-12 educational research. I learned many new techniques and approaches to learning as well as the correct implementation - and names - of techniques I'd discovered on my own. On my education web pages I provide some ideas and data demonstrating the efficacy of these techniques; click on the links to the left to learn more about my philosophy and research in education.

link 1 Nephila life cycle and natural history
link 1Web building and prey capture
link 1Studying Nephila clavipes in Mexico
Biological research - why I study spiders. 
We often think of each species having its particular "place" in the natural world. But many species survive and even thrive in diverse habitats perhaps the best known habitat generalist is Homo sapiens - ourselves.  Understanding of how organisms can survive in a variety of environments is the study of small-scale adaptation to local conditions. I have spent most of my professional career studying a widely distributed large spider, and this web site shares some of what I have learned.
link 1Student projects using Nephila
link 1 How to identify a great project and do your own science
link 1Links to interesting web sites in science
Residents and visitors to the Gulf Coast of the United States may recognize N clavipes with preythese spiders: they are the largest orb weaver in the US.  Nephila clavipes is one of only two species in the family Nephilidae native to the New World; the other - Nephila sexpunctata - is only found in the forests on the border between Brazil and Argentinia (a third has been introduced and is common in coastal Brazil). 

More about Nephila and the family Nephilidae, along with many fine photographs, can be found at Matjaz Kuntner's web site.

Using tools from diverse disciplines in biology,Juvenile
                  on web I study how one species of web-building spider persists in very different habitats with little obvious morphological  differentiation.  By focusing on a single species, I have been able to integrate biological processes across the scales from the molecular to the community.

Large numbers of students have worked in my laboratory on projects associated with understanding these spiders.  Click on the spiders to the left to learn more about Nephila and my research.