Chris Petersen

Chris Petersen
207-801-5705 | cpetersen@coa.edu | faculty website

chris petersenChris Petersen has been a faculty member at COA since 1990, where he teaches a range of classes in marine biology, evolution, field ecology, molecular biology and policy. He also is actively engaged in research with students and with researchers at other universities. He has worked with undergraduates on Mount Desert Island, at multiple locations in the Caribbean, and the Pacific Northwest, and is currently collaborating with researchers from the University of Padova, Italy, UC Santa Barbara, and Scripps Institute of Oceanography as well as several groups in Maine including the Penobscot East Resource Center and Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory. Current student research projects include work on the ecology of local estuarine and anadromous fishes, historical ecology in Frenchman's Bay, and collaborative policy development with local communities, while continuing his broader work on the reproductive biology of fishes. Chris has published over 50 papers in a variety of professional journals and books, including recent papers with COA students as coauthors.

B.A. University of California, Santa Barbara, 1976
Ph.D. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, 1985

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*

ES459Evolution

This course provides students with the opportunity to put their knowledge of ecology and diversity into an evolutionary framework. The emphasis is on how populations of organisms are currently evolving, with a focus on the ecological context of natural selection. Topics in the course include the genetic basis of evolutionary change, selection and adaptation, reproductive effort, co-evolution, the ecology and evolution of sex, behavioral ecology, speciation, and applied evolutionary ecology. In addition to a textbook, students read several original research articles. The course has two lectures and one discussion section per week. Evaluations are based on exams and short essay sets. Level: Intermediate. Prerequisite: Biology I and II or equivalent. Offered every other year. Class limit: 20. *ES*

ES191Field Ecology and Data Analysis

This course teaches students how to collect data in the field (outside), how to descriptively and quantitatively analyze these data using spreadsheet and statistical programs, and how to present the information in the form of a report or scientific paper. Some of the projects are experimental, while some are observational. There are four field projects during the term, and the tentative project areas are one terrestrial plant, one terrestrial animal, one marine, and one independent project. The methods learned will most likely include measuring population and demographic parameters, quantifying behavior, and estimating community composition. In addition to taking data in the field, students spend a substantial amount of time learning and applying statistical techniques to describe and analyze data. Lecture material includes designing data collection procedures, statistical analysis, and problem solving. Evaluations are based on write-ups of field exercises, homework on statistical techniques, oral presentations of work, and class participation. Level: Advanced. Prerequisite: Signature of Instructor; intermediate level Ecology or similar courses are helpful. Offered approximately every other year. Class limit: 15. Lab fee $ 20. *ES* *QR*

ES1028Marine 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:  $60.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES483Molecular Evolutionary Genetics

This is a hands-on laboratory course in molecular genetics, focusing on genomic DNA isolation, genomic library construction and amplification of molecular markers by polymerase chain reaction. The course will be taught over the two-week spring break period (8 hour days, Monday through Friday), with additional meetings during spring term to discuss results, work on papers or posters and continue with some advanced reading. Participants in the course will be introduced to a variety of molecular techniques that can be used to investigate population genetics of animal species. In particular, we plan to have students apply newly learned techniques to marine species, with an emphasis on shark and skate species. The curriculum will mix hands on laboratory work with lectures and potential seminars by leading molecular ecologists. The course will meet at Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory during spring break and at COA during the spring term and will culminate in research presentations to the MDIBL and COA community. Student evaluation will be based on required attendance over the entire short course, knowledge and practical use of the molecular techniques, and participation in the laboratory and the class presentation. Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Lab fee: Paid through INBRE grant. Prerequisites: Signature of Instructor. Class limit: 12. *ES*

ES479Probability and Statistics

This course provides an introduction to probability and statistics. Its goal is to give students a good understanding of what kinds of questions statistical analyses can answer and how to interpret statistical results in magazines, books, and articles from a wide range of disciplines. The course begins with understanding probability and how it can often lead to nonintuitive results. Types of statistical analyses discussed in the second part of the course include comparisons of averages, correlation and regression, and applying confidence limits to estimates of studies from both the social and biological sciences. Application of statistics to specific research problems is covered in greater depth in more advanced courses such as advanced statistics and field ecology and data analysis. Evaluation is based on class participation, problem sets, and quizzes, and an independent project. Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Offered approximately every other year. Class limit: 20. Lab fee $10.00 *QR*

ES305Tropical Marine Ecology

This course in tropical marine ecology explores topics including organismal diversity, natural history of fish, invertebrates, algae, habitat diversity (coral reefs, mangroves, etc.), fisheries, and conservation. Students meet as a class weekly, alternating between a single three-hour evening seminar session and individual meetings with the instructors to discuss primary readings and research projects. In addition, this course includes a required 18-day field trip to the Yucatan over winter break. Field work is based out of Akumal on the Yucatan peninsula. Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Prerequisites: a strong performance in previous classes (especially biology), the ability to work well as a member of a group, and enthusiasm; permission of instructors required. Class limit: 8-14 students. Lab fee: estimated at $1200. *ES*

ES519Tutorial: Advanced Evolutionary Ecology Seminar

This advanced seminar takes a topic within evolutionary ecology and examines it using a wide range of sources staring with classic evolutionary texts and moving forward to current primary literature. Students need to be capable of reading and critiquing primary literature, understanding statistical tests of hypotheses, and be ready to move among diverse taxonomic groups and theoretical work. Readings include papers in evolutionary biology, behavioral ecology, and life-history theory. The seminar will meet twice weekly. Assessment will be based on student participation in the seminar and multiple short writing assignments. Level: Advanced, Permission of Instructor required, Class Limit: 5

ES522Tutorial: Advanced Marine Resource Policy Seminar

This advanced tutorial brings together professors, students, and individuals from outside the college to discuss current issues in marine resource policy. Working with individuals from the Penobscot Bay Resource Center as well as others with knowledge of marine resource policy, the goal of this seminar is to examine one specific topic each year of the seminar and produce a policy white paper summarizing the findings and conclusions of the group that will be made publicly available. The initial goal is to have 2-4 professors, 1-5 students, and 2-4 individuals from outside the institution research current information on a topic, potentially conduct their own research, and apply meta-analyses or other appropriate analytical tools to the collected data and write a summary document that can help inform the management of marine resources. The group will typically meet twice per week, with additional meetings of subgroups throughout the term. Because the topic of the seminar changes between years, students may take this seminar for multiple years for credit. Pre-requisites: Background in environmental policy and biology. Permission required. Class limit: 5