Simon Pearish, PhD, studies the behavior of fishes and uses ecological thinking to look for solutions to the eutrophication of our lakes and streams.
In the classroom, he promotes experiential learning of science and uses educational technology to increase student engagement and interaction. Pearish is originally from Indiana and completed his undergraduate degrees in biology and psychology at Indiana University in Bloomington. He was subsequently hired for a three-year stint at the University of Virginia, rearing Anolis lizards for an NSF-funded project on the quantitative genetics of limb morphology evolution. It was during this time in Charlottesville, Va., that he fell in love with the streams and forests of the Appalachian Mountains. He returned to the midwest to earn his PhD at the University of Illinois, Urbana, studying the evolution and ecology of personality. To that end, he studied the behavior of a three-spined stickleback. Stickleback are small fish that are distributed in marine and freshwater habitats throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The ancient colonization of freshwater habitats by three-spined stickleback remains one of evolutionary biology’s best “natural experiments.”
Pearish was delighted to return to the mountains when he joined the faculty of Norwich University in 2015. Since then, he has been busy working towards several goals. The first is to promote experiential learning by asking students to actually do science the way researchers do. He doesn’t believe that students should wait until they are seeking post-graduate degrees to engage in original research. That’s why you can find students from his ecology and natural history of vertebrates courses setting up experiments in labs, in the greenhouse, and in the rich natural areas that surround the Norwich campus. He is also a strong proponent of technology-enhanced learning. For example, he uses real-time student response systems that allow him to make larger classes, like microbiology and principles of biology seem much more intimate and interactive. He is a self-proclaimed NUoodle expert and loves to experiment with new ways to facilitate interaction between students via this course management platform.
On the research front, Pearish continues his work on the evolution and ecology of personality, but he has switched to a different stickleback. Brook stickleback, a close relative of three-spined stickleback, are abundant in the Dog River and surrounding wetlands that run through the Norwich campus. When the weather allows, Pearish and his students spend their days wading in beaver ponds or snorkeling in the Dog River in search of the answer to why personality exists and how it shapes the way animals live.
Finally, since moving to Vermont, Pearish has joined the coalition of researchers, conservation workers, and concerned citizens that are looking for solutions to the eutrophication of our lakes and streams, including Lake Champlain. At the center of his work in this realm are so-called treatment wetlands. Whether constructed in natural areas, in an urban setting, or in the form of an island floating in the middle of a lake, treatment wetlands promise to improve water quality, while providing natural beauty and improved habitat for wildlife. Pearish loves the energy students bring to research and encourages anyone interested in working on one of his projects to contact him via email.
1 (802) 485-2177