My  teaching philosophy is to instill students with the excitement for scientific discovery, a curiosity for understanding how systems work, and a dedication to learning. I believe learning how to think and read critically, and to clearly communicate ideas verbally, are important skillsets regardless of a student’s career path. To achieve this goal, I provide students with a stimulating learning environment through a multifaceted approach that combines interactive learning in field and laboratory courses with quantitative problem sets and discussions of contemporary advances in science. Lastly, I seek to facilitate the development of students’ intuition about complex problems, which instills confidence and encourages creativity.


One of the greatest challenges we have as teachers is to awaken scientific curiosity. My goal is to present students with opportunities to appreciate that we have only begun to understand how systems work and that they too can become major contributors to exploring the unknown. Interspersing interactive learning exercises throughout my lectures and labs has been highly effective at engaging students. For example, in the classroom I often start class with popular news stories about scientific discoveries and offer video footage of exciting and strange patterns and behaviors in biology. I have found my capacity to provoke excitement in students is even greater in field courses, where students learn concepts during morning lectures then go out to the field to touch and see the phenomena in person.


To date, my mentoring experience includes serving as a co-advisor for four master’s students’ theses at Northeastern University (through my teaching appointment associated with a field course in Moorea) and as a mentor to undergraduate students during my PhD. Collectively these activities have led to three student-led publications (Boyer et al. 2009, Heinlein et al. 2010, Shantz et al. 2010). My success with these undergraduate and masters-level students (as well as others) has taught me that each student often requires a unique mentoring strategy that encourages their strengths and supports their efforts to grow in aspects of science with which they are less familiar.


Shantz A.A.*, Stier A.C., and J.A. Idjadi. 2011 Coral density and predation affect growth of a reef building coral.  Coral Reefs. 30: 363 – 367. PDF

Heinlein J.M.*, Stier A.C., and M.A. Steele. 2010. Predators reduce abundance and species richness of coral reef fish recruits via non-selective predation. Coral Reefs. 29. 527 – 532. Abstract. PDF

Boyer SE*, White JS, Stier A.C., and CW Osenberg. 2009. Effects of the fish anesthetic, clove oil (eugenol), on coral health and growth. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology. 369: 53-57. PDF