Apply or Nominate for 2014 Kansas Outstanding Biology Teacher Award!

I am excited to announce that it’s that time again…

The new criteria for the 2014 Kansas Outstanding Biology Teacher Award is available!! If you would like to apply, please start working on the application (attached below). There is no need to let me know ahead of time that you are applying since we have always allowed self nominations.

If you would like to nominate someone else for this award, feel free to send me their name and I will contact them with the information.

Being either self-nominated or peer-nominated is not weighted differently in the committee evaluation process. All applications and letters of recommendation are due by FRIDAY, APRIL 25.  Click here for the application information: OBTA requirements_2014

Here’s a ditty from NABT about this fantastic award:
Every year, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award (OBTA) program attempts to recognize an outstanding biology educator (grades 7-12 only) in each of the 50 states; Washington, DC; Canada; Puerto Rico; and overseas territories. Candidates for this award do not have to be NABT members, but they must have at least three years of public, private, or parochial school teaching experience. A major portion of the nominee’s career must have been devoted to the teaching of biology/life science, and candidates are judged on their teaching ability and experience, cooperativeness in the school and community, inventiveness, initiative, and student-teacher relationships. OBTA recipients are special guests at the Honors Luncheon held at the NABT Professional Development Conference, receive microscopes from Leica Microsystems, gift certificates from Carolina Biological Supply Company, and award certificates and complimentary one-year membership from NABT.

Please let me know if you have any questions!
Kelley Tuel

Travel Award to attend NABT in Atlanta

Travel Award to attend NABT (National Association of Biology Teachers) Conference – Atlanta, GA (Nov. 20th – 23rd)

Motivated, energetic, enthusiastic science instructors at the high school and community college levels are invited to apply for travel awards to attend the 2013 Professional Development Conference of the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), to be held in Atlanta, GA from November 20th through 23rd.

The awards are sponsored by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) and the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, which will cover all expenses (transportation, lodging, food and meeting registration).

The goal of this program is to identify talented, enthusiastic instructors who are excited about evolution, provide them with the opportunity to acquire new knowledge and pedagogical skills at the NABT conference, and then have them share this with their students (through classroom activities) and colleagues (through professional development activities).

Applicants should be high school or community college instructors with a passion for learning about and teaching evolution.  They should have a proven track record of successfully covering evolution-related topics in their courses in innovative ways.  In addition, they should be able to demonstrate a long-standing commitment to instructor professional development – both their own, and that of their colleagues.

If you’re interested in becoming a NESCent/BEACON Evolution Scholar and helping to bring cutting edge evolutionary science to your institution, please visit

If you have questions, please contact Dr. Jory Weintraub at


A professional opportunity from NABT


The information and instructions are on the NABT website at

Biology Educator Leadership Scholarship (BELS)

The Biology Educator Leadership Scholarship (BELS) program was established to encourage and support teachers who want to further their education in the life sciences or life science education. The award recipient is required to be a practicing educator who is also enrolled (or anticipates enrolling) in a graduate program at Masters or Doctoral level.

KABT Fall Meeting: Web 2.0 at the University of Kansas

BLOGS, WIKI’s, and Facebook–oh my…

Plan on attending KABT’s fall meeting scheduled for Sept. 13th at KU. We’ll meet on the first floor of the school of education’s JRP building just west of the football stadium at 8:30 a.m. for preregistration. We are charging a modest $10 registration fee. There is no registration form but leave me a comment to this post if you think you are coming so we can get an idea of the numbers. KU’s school of education tech department has graciously made their computer labs available for this meeting. Most of the meeting will feature hands-on computer explorations of WEB 2.0 applications and their impact on biology education. The day is scheduled in 45 minute blocks. Two blocks have concurrent sessions.

Continue reading “KABT Fall Meeting: Web 2.0 at the University of Kansas”

Special Places

Sacred places, special places, magical spots…as humans we have a tendency to identify specific or particular natural locations or sites with some sort of significance that sets these places apart from others.  I have a feeling that this is an essential human feature; part of our never ceasing endeavor to recognize patterns in the natural world.  Often these places touch or tweak something emotional, deep inside.  We feel a greater sense of connectedness and awareness when we are in these special places.  If Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis has merit then I suspect that we are simply recognizing specific areas with a high degree of biological importance to us humans–but I also think that personal memory and experience also contribute to create places that are so very special.  When you have memories, experiences and biological importance then I think you have something really special…..

As a kid growing up in central Kansas, one of my special places was a wash out downstream from a concrete bridge that held water only after a significant rain.   We called this pool the Tadpole Pond and I can guess that you have a good idea why.  After every spring and summer rain when there was water in the pool, several of us in the neighborhood would round up our seines, jars, nets, and coolers in preparation of the big event–catching tadpoles by the hundreds along with the occasional crawdad, treasured green sunfish, black bullhead or snake.  For me and my friends the Tadpole pond was our African Water Hole–we learned a lot of biology in the mud and muddy water.  Who would have thought that a concrete bridge could create such a special place.

I have a new but similar special place where I keep track of the Kansas Aquatic environment and it too seems at first to be an unlikely spot:


This is a low-water bridge for the lake outlet as it crosses one of the main trails in Johnson County’s Kill Creek Park.  Remarkably, unimpressive as a natural area isn’t it?  I started building my own personal memories here about 6 years ago when I would coax my son into playing hooky from his PhD studies and convince him to bring his new daughter, Emma out for nature hikes with Grandpa.  One mid-May day at this particular site, Scott heard an unusual call that he thought was a warbler of some type.  While Emma and I played  on the concrete bridge Scott tracked down the calling warbler which he knew all along was a Black-throated Blue–he just didn’t want to make a bad call.  For me this has always been the BTB crossing….

This spring I stopped by this crossing on three separate days about 2 weeks apart.  On a whim in April I stopped after a significant rain–not planning on stopping at the crossing but when I got there I realized that I had picked a good day.  As I sat down next to the outlet tubes I observed in the thin water good numbers of darters and minnows making their way upstream to spawn–just like the more famous salmon.  The orange-throated darters would congregate just below the concrete apron and heave themselves in a mad dash in the fast current.  Because the concrete was so level I was able to get good views of darters, creek chubs and stone rollers as they made there way upstream.

This may be a pimephlales minnow followed by a male orangethroated darter.


Male orange throated darter Etheostoma spectabile

Male OT darter


two females

I had a great time for the next couple of hours taking pictures and observing this early spring migration.

Later, in May I went back, the water was down and very clear.  I could see several green sunfish displaying to each other  in the pool, a black bullhead and a number of minnows.  Not thinking I’d see much else I was about to leave when I suddenly became aware (notice I didn’t say I observed them) of several Northern Water Snakes.  Once I was aware, I was astounded at the number of smallish water snakes that kept swimming upstream to this pool.  I never saw more than 6 at any one time but over the hour I was there, I estimate that I saw and average of a new snake every 1.5 to 2 minutes.  Most swam up the stream, to the pool and then tried to swim the concrete culvert–unsuccessfully.

water snake

This one decided not to swim…

water snake on a rock

I have no idea what the snakes were up to but it was another great day.  Actually, I do have an unproven hypothesis–I think the smaller snakes move upstream on these intermittent streams to access the new food resources that will be available  in the developing habitat and to exploit the pools as they dry up.

I returned two weeks later after another rain.  This time the water was cloudy and again I thought I really wouldn’t see anything but I was wrong.  While trying to get a picture of a young 5-lined skink on the same rock as the snake in the picture above, I happened to look down in the boiling muddy water in a small eddy just as a large common snapper (ever hear of a small one? 😉 lifted its head out of the water with an open gape just inches from my elbow–again I was too slow with the camera.   Each time I’ve visited the BTB crossing this spring, I’ve had an eventful day and like the darters I plan to return next spring for more of the show.