Michael Noonan, PhD

Professor of Animal Behavior

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Teaching

It has been a privilege to make my living teaching the wonderful undergraduate students of Canisius College.

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As a teacher, I am a story teller, and whenever possible, a story maker.  That is because I have come to recognize the inefficiency of long lectures crammed with facts.  Instead I have learned to take advantage of the fact that we humans have a far better system for episodic memory than for semantic memory.  So my approach is to tie as many lessons as possible to first-hand experiences for the students, or at least to vicarious experiences via stories.  I have found that it is the episodic memories of experiences that students actually retain years later, and it is very gratifying that they also often recall the academic lessons that were tied to them.

As a consequence, much of my coursework involves day trips to the zoological parks and natural areas that lie within short distances of our campus.  More significantly, my teaching also incorporates as many trips as possible to more distant locales.  I have hiked with students tracking wolves in Ontario, and I have boated with them to observe whales in the waters off British Columbia.  I have traveled with students to study orangutans in Indonesia, and to follow chimpanzees in the forests of Tanzania.  In all, I have spent nearly three years of my life on the road with students, and I would not trade those days for anything.  Such travel has expanded the horizons of the students involved—literally of course, but also intellectually and spiritually.  Through firsthand experiences, it has involved them personally in the richness of the natural world, and it has helped them to appreciate nature in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.

 

My track record so far includes:

Courses taught: 222
Students taught: 5224
Days on the road with students: 1045
Day-long off-campus excursions: 260
Distant field trips: 111

My awards include:

Peter Canisius Distinguished Professor 1999
Kenneth L Koessler Distinguished Faculty 2003
Animal Behav Soc Distinguished Teacher 2006

 

I consider my career as a professor to have been a gift.  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to touch the lives of so many young people in positive ways.  That, through them, I may have been involved in curving the arc of mankind’s relationship with nature in a more positive direction, is more gratifying than I can say.

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