Dr. Alice Boyle, Associate Professor
Alice joined K-State in October 2012. She is Canadian, grew up in Winnipeg, did her undergraduate at the University of British Columbia, a PhD at the University of Arizona with Judie Bronstein and Courtney Conway, and post-docs at Western with Chris Guglielmo and at UBC with Kathy Martin. She followed a very non-traditional career path for a scientist, and is thrilled the path has led here.
I came to science round-about, getting into birding after moving to Costa Rica to play in the CR National Symphony fresh out of undergrad. Eventually, I did my PhD research on altitudinal migration in Costa Rica which set me firmly on a path of a tropical biologist, and my interests continue down those tropical paths. I have also worked on fruit-frugivore interactions, high elevation birds and elevational gradients, Tree Swallows, and other miscellaneous topics. Since moving to Kansas, I added major branch to my research program, focusing on grassland systems. These highly variable environments have shaped bird behavior and population dynamics in fascinating ways. Unfortunately, they are also highly threatened; my research addresses both basic and applied questions about grassland-dependent birds. Read more about these projects and results of this work.
Mentorship is the best part of my job. I strive to create the circumstances and provide support necessary for each student to thrive, to be challenged, grow in intellectual independence and maturity, and to be respected and valued for who they are. People chose their educational path for diverse reasons; I support that diversity and I will celebrate successes of many types. I expect students to think hard, to collect good data, and to devote the time and effort to publish their work in a timely fashion. However, this does not mean I expect students to work all the time; maintaining a healthy work-life balance (and swing!) is critical. I expect students to communicate openly and honestly. From me, students should expect regular and substantial guidance, to receive prompt feedback on written work, and honest but respectful evaluation at all stages of your career. If you have the misfortune to experience harassment, discrimination, or disrespectful behavior in a professional setting, I will be your advocate.
Teaching and outreach
I regularly teach Ornithology (BIOL 543; spring semesters, lecture and lab) and more recently, co-teach a hands-on course in called Applied Methods in Population Ecology and Statistics (BIOL 697 C, cross listed in STATs, spring semester). This course is designed to train through doing, and engage beginning undergraduates in the process of doing science. Students learn practical field skills while collecting long-term mark-recapture data, and learn data analysis, interpretation, and presentation skills by asking new questions of real data. I additionally have contributed to teaching Population Biology (BIOL 640, fall semester). As an undergraduate research mentor, I am an active contributor to training students in summer research (via REUs, the Developing Scholars and McNair programs, or other funding mechanisms). I believe that scientists today must work hard to reverse societal misconceptions about what we do and why we do it. Therefore, an integral part of my work and my approach to training is to communicate in diverse ways to broad audiences.
When I’m not working, I try to maintain my sanity and make other people happy by playing fiddle (and sometimes, viola or banjo). I play with the band STEAM!, and with Robert Rosenberg (guitar) as Kaw Creek which combines my love of the prairies with my musical side. We also join various other musicians for dances and local shows. I love to contra-dance, hike, and wistfully remember the days when I went on long backcountry trips and traveled around Latin America, birding, botanizing, and snorkeling out of my VW bus.