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A Necessary Evolution

Kalisz in the fieldHow did they do it?! Many people are asking how we managed the changes in teaching, research, and administration required to keep everyone as safe as possible while doing our jobs and serving our students. Instead of a quiet time of catching up on research and writing, members of our department used “spring break 2020” to become a hive of activity. Faculty and graduate students sprang into action and emerged at the end of the week with online versions of all of EEB’s spring term courses.

Faculty created lectures using voice-over techniques of the PowerPoint images usually presented in class. They posted the presentations, along with readings and videos, to Canvas course websites and made them accessible for viewing at any time. We facilitated interactive class discussions via Zoom and smaller breakout discussions in Zoom chat rooms. Faculty even gave quizzes and exams simultaneously online. Finally, we created a buddy system for each class so that students could finish their courses even if an instructor fell ill.

The EEB front office staff moved fully to telecommuting while handling purchase orders, hiring, payroll, generating budget spreadsheets, and much more all from home. To maintain social distancing and the safety of all, new research efforts are on hold and most labs are dark. Instead, faculty and students are analyzing data, writing papers and grant proposals, while creating new course material for their online offerings.

Essential personnel in the greenhouse and live animal facilities continue their on-campus efforts to ensure that plants and animals used in teaching and research remain healthy. We have all become more adept at Zoom—lab meetings, faculty meetings, student-advisor meetings, graduate student committee meetings, and more are all virtual. 

With school and daycare closings, work hours have flexed and the pace of work has changed as people take on the important 24/7 roles of caring for children and other family members. The EEB buildings may appear quiet, but our community is alive and well, caring not only for the education and research, but also for the non-work needs of everyone in the department. The speed, quality, and thoughtfulness of EEB’s response to the coronavirus-induced shutdown of our lives speaks to the dedication and humanity of all the people who work in this amazing department. I am grateful and proud of Team EEB!

Wishing you and your family health,

Susan Kalisz
Professor and Head
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology