Helen Hess

Helen Hess
207-801-5713 | hhess@coa.edu

Helen HessHelen Hess received a B.S. in Biology from UCLA in 1985 and a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Washington in 1991. She has been on the faculty at COA since 1994. Helen teaches a variety of biology courses at COA, most of which involve a significant field or lab component. Her formal training as an invertebrate zoologist has lead her to develop courses that take her and her students wherever invertebrates are found, including local rivers, Maine's rocky intertidal shores, and Caribbean coral reefs. She also teaches a course in bio mechanics, where students explore how the laws of physics have played a role the evolution of living organisms. Helen also has strong interests in teacher education and spends part of every summer involved in courses and workshops aimed at K-12 teachers as well as COA students who are pursuing a teaching credential. Helen's research interests focus on the reproductive biology of marine organisms, and she has studied parental behavior in worms, mating systems in mouth brooding in fishes, and the evolution of self-fertilization in hermaphroditic invertebrates. While she mainly identifies herself as a teacher at COA, she also enjoys including students in her research activities. She is currently working with COA students on a project studying the reproductive biology of a large, local sea cucumber species that is the target of an emergent fishery. She is also involved in writing papers with COA students on research projects on cleaning behavior in tropical reef fishes and on the evolution of egg size in fishes. In addition to publishing in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, Helen also occasionally writes science articles for popular magazines.

B.S. University of California Los Angeles, 1985
Ph.D. Zoology, University of Washington, 1991

Courses Taught

ES011Biology I

This is the first half of a 20-week, two-term introductory course in biology, providing an overview of the discipline and prerequisite for many intermediate and advanced biology courses. The course provides an integrative view of the attributes of plants and animals, including cell biology, physiology, reproduction, genetics and evolution, growth and differentiation, anatomy, behavior, and environmental interactions. Weekly laboratory sessions or field trips augment material covered in lecture and discussion. Attendance at three lectures and one lab each week is required; course evaluation is based on quality of class participation, exams, problem sets, preparation of a lab notebook, and a written term paper. Level: Introductory. Prerequisites: College-level algebra (by course, assessment,) or Signature of instructors, chemistry helpful. Lab fee: $25. *ES*

ES019Biomechanics

Why do we get shorter and wrinklier with age? Were dinosaurs warm-blooded? How do grasshoppers hop? These diverse questions are all within the realm of biomechanics. A knowledge of biomechanics, or the ways in which plants and animals cope with the laws of physics, can promote an understanding of organisms at all levels of organization, from molecules to ecosystems. In this course we explore several areas of physical science, including mechanical engineering, materials science, and fluid dynamics, as a means of gaining insight into the biological world. Students attend two lecture sessions per week and one three-hour lab session for discussions of current research in biomechanics, review of homework assignments, and laboratory observations or demonstrations. Evaluations are based on participation in discussions, weekly problem sets, two term papers, and a final exam. Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Prerequisites: One college-level course in Biology and one college-level course in Math or Physics or signature of instructor. Class limit: 16. Offered every other year. Lab fee: $15. *ES* *QR*

ES550Genetics

This course will explore the many roles that genes play in the biology of organisms, the molecular basis of gene function, and the methodologies used in genetic research and application. Students in this course should already have a basic understanding from an introductory biology course of the structure and function of genes and chromosomes, the processes involved in gene expression, and patterns of inheritance. This course will explore these phenomena more deeply as well as delve into a range of other topics, including population genetics, quantitative genetics, genes in development, genomics, and using genetic data to understand human evolution. We will also discuss the use of genetic engineering in industry, agriculture, medicine, and research. We will meet twice weekly for lectures and once per week for discussion of readings and problem sets. Evaluation is based on short problem sets, take-home exams, an oral presentation, and a final paper. Level: Intermediate. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Biology I or permission of instructor. Class limit: 16. *ES*

ES092Invertebrate Zoology

This course is a phylogenetic survey of the major groups of animals without backbones. These animals range in size from single cells to giant squids, and they include the vast majority of animals on earth. Using text readings, assigned articles, and one afternoon per week of field/lab work, students gain an understanding of the classification, ecology, evolutionary relationships, and economic significance of this remarkably diverse collection of organisms. Students are evaluated on participation, lab notebooks, and performance on weekly quizzes and two tests. Level: Intermediate. Prerequisites: Biology I and II or Signature of instructor. Offered every other year. Class limit: 16. Lab fee $25. *ES*

MD037Islands Through Time

14,000 years of Human Ecology on the Coast of Maine:  The coast of Maine is an ideal location for studies of the effects of changing ecologies, landscapes, and cultures on the human experience. 14000 years ago, the entire area was covered with a dense ice sheet, and at present we are facing the uncertain future of Global Warming. Between these points, the coast and islands have experienced flood, fire, earthquakes, and an enormous range of human and non-human occupants. This team-taught course will use the inter-disciplinary lens of Human Ecology to examine the consequences, implications, and potential meanings of our dwelling within both this particular landscape and other landscapes perhaps initially more familiar to students. A strong emphasis will be placed upon developing a "sense of place" through the examination of a novel, scientific writing, music, and experiential venturing upon the land and seas, learning about the history, culture, ecology, oceanography and geology of the Maine coastline, both in and by the ocean. Although a substantial element of each day's work will take the form of field trips, students will also be responsible for readings, attending a series of lectures by faculty and local experts, and working with multimedia forms. Interest in music, writing, and ecology are strongly encouraged. Students will be evaluated based on class participation, a daily log of their experiences plus several short "response pieces" to assigned readings, and a multi-media presentation capturing some aspect of their learning. Students will receive narrative evaluations and a grade of CREDIT or NO CREDIT.

Level:  Introductory.  Prerequisites: Signature of Instructor.

ES481Marine Biology

This is a broad course, covering the biology of organisms in various marine habitats (rocky intertidal, mud and sand, estuaries, open ocean, coral reefs, deep sea), and some policy and marine management and conservation issues. The largest part of this course is focused on learning to identify and understand the natural history and ecology of the marine flora and fauna of New England, with an emphasis on the rocky intertidal of Mount Desert Island. The course meets twice per week with one afternoon for laboratory work or field trips. Evaluations are based on the quality of participation in class, one in-class practical, several sets of essay questions, and a field notebook emphasizing natural history notes of local organisms. This class is intended for first year students, who will have priority during registration. Returning students may take this course only with permission of the instructor. Level: Introductory. Prerequisites: Signature of instructor for returning students. Offered at least every other year. Class limit: 20. Lab fee: $30. *ES*

ES588Topics in Biomedical Research

This course covers a broad range of topics in genetics, cellular and molecular biology, and human and public health.  Research scientists from the Jackson Laboratory, Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, as well as clinical researchers will each run a week of the course.  The format will include two meetings per week; each visiting instructor will give a general seminar on their area of expertise and then lead a discussion on their specific research topic and recent papers from the primary literature.  Assessment will be based on a series of short summaries of papers during the term and a term paper on an area of interest to the student.  The seminar will be supervised on campus by Helen Hess.  

Level: Intermediate/Advanced.  Prerequistes: Genetics, Molecular Evolution Genetics, or Cellular and Molecular Biology or the permission of the instructor.  Lab fees: none.  Course limit: 10.  *ES*