I endorse our departmental teaching vision “A community of teachers and life-long learners contributing to natural resource conservation as professionals and active citizens.” This powerful vision can be realized if I adhere to my own first principles of teaching. I review these principles often and share them with my students.
I believe that I can learn from my students.
Each student brings different talents and learning styles.
I encourage questioning of my ideas and debating key principles.
I realize that we live a society where knowledge is distributed and information must be shared for society to function.
People learn better if they can find personal meaning in learning by placing new information in existing knowledge frameworks.
I provide a rationale for course assignments and activities.
I encourage students to learn from one another in cooperative learning groups.
I require significant amounts of time spent in study activities designed for out-of-class time.
Peer reviews are required.
Instructional Events are sequenced.
There must be a balance between your “know how” and “know what” knowledge.
I believe in the ability of students to succeed and perform well.
I can create learning activities that will motivate students to learn.
I enjoy teaching and learning.
I care more about students mastering the concepts.
I am able to sense when students are struggling by using frequent assessment.
I expect students to help each other learn.
These principles guide my decisions on creating lessons and assessment instruments. My teaching role varies from facilitator, organizer, expert, motivator, coach, questioner, and gatekeeper. Students understand that I am striving to be true to these principles. Similarly I encourage them to be true to their own principles and not be discouraged by mistakes. The classroom is a place where mistakes are made and I tell students that I will be making mistakes in class; therefore, it is their responsibility to correct my mistakes. I believe that students develop intellectually, professionally, and socially in a place where they develop a strong bond among their peers and faculty. Therefore, in addition to formal teaching I highly value opportunities to monitor and influence curriculum and instructional strategies, academic and career advising, and campus climate and life. I have been a member of several faculty study groups, which have studied active learning techniques, peer coaching, group dynamics, and other teaching related issues. My teaching continues to evolve and change in response to what I learn from my colleagues and my in-classroom inquiry. For further information see Orth, D. J. 2000. Professor Firehose takes a vacation: Creating a climate where everyone learns more. Fisheries 25(5):24-27.
Here I share some artifacts of my teaching at Virginia Tech and reflect on what I have learned through the process of teaching. I have taught subject related to Fisheries Science since 1980, including courses titled Fisheries Management, Fish Population Dynamics and Modeling, Stream Habitat Management, among others. Currently I teach Ichthyology, the study of fishes, Stream Habitat Management (graduate), and First Year Experience in Natural Resources and Environment (Invent the Sustainable Future).
Students of Ichthyology 2013 show off their field guides.
As John Dewey once wrote, "We don't learn from experience, rather we learn from reflecting on our experience." What I have learned about teaching did not come from any courses I took in graduate school. Rather I learned from reflecting on my experiences teaching. Each year I modify the course activities based on what I learn. I have published a few reflections about teaching over the years.
My first essay in 1995 was entitled "Pogo was Right! Let's change the way we teach fisheries management." Here I raised the question whether failures of fisheries management reflected failures of education practices. There are many reasons for management failures, however, in some ways the enemy is us. Here I discussed contextual thinking and the importance of integrative thinking and broad array of soft skills that are needed by the effective manager.
Later I further developed my teaching philosophy and arsenal of teaching practices in "Professor Firehose Takes a Vacation: Creating a climate where everyone learns more." My teaching philosophy is organized around four principles: Respect, Intentionality, Optimism, and Trust (RIOT). My arsenal of teaching practices included authentic tasks that place me in the role of facilititator, coach, and guide and the student in the role of active learning. Whereas Professor Firehose tended to drown out too many students, the teaching of Millennials makes the student part of the story they create.
Ph.D.-Zoology (Environ. Science Option, Statistics minor), Oklahoma State University, 1980
M.S. - Zoology, Oklahoma State University, 1977
B.S. - Environmental Biology, Eastern Illinois University, 1975
Certified Fisheries Professional, American Fisheries Society, expires December 2017
2003 – present Thomas H. Jones Professor of Fisheries, Virginia Tech
1999 – 2006 Department Head, Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, Virginia Tech
1993 - 2003 Professor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
1995 - 1996 Visiting Scientist, Environmental Science Div., Oak Ridge National Laboratory
1980 - 1993 Associate Professor (1986-93), Assistant Professor (1980-86), VPI&SU
FIELDS OF INTEREST:
Population and community ecology, stream fish ecology and behavior, regulated rivers, modeling and simulation, instream flow and stream habitat assessment, fisheries management, fish population dynamics.
Ichthyology, Stream Habitat Management, First-year Experience: Invent the Sustainable Future
HONORS AND AWARDS:
VT CNRE Outstanding Faculty Award (2013); Making a Difference Award, Instream Flow Council (2008); USFWS Regional Director’s Conservation Award (2006); Certificate of Teaching Excellence (1999); Outstanding Faculty Award, College of Forestry and Wildlife Resources (1998); W.F. Thompson Award, American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists (1993), Student Paper; Outstanding Faculty Award, School of Forestry and Wildlife Resources, VPI&SU (1989); Best Paper Award, Transactions of the American Fisheries Society (1982); Fellow, American Institute of Fisheries Research Biologists; Fellow, Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute.
President-elect, Virginia Chapter American Fisheries Society (2013-2014), Editorial Board Member for Rivers: Studies in the Science, Environmental Policy and Law of Instream Flow (1988-2002), Transactions of the American Fisheries Society (1984-86), North American Journal of Fisheries Management (1989-91), President, Education Section, American Fisheries Society (1991-92), President, National Associate of University Fisheries and Wildlife Programs (2003-2006), Ecohydraulics Committee of ASCE Environmental and Water Resources Institute (2010-present).
Dynamics and role of blue catfish Ictalurus furcatus in tidal rivers of Virginia. Orth, D. J., and Y. Jiao. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 2012-2016. $786,674.
Investigation into smallmouth bass mortality in Virginia’s rivers. Orth, D.J., K. A. Alexander, E. Frimpong, W. Henley, and J. R. Voshell. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. 2008- 2009. $185,425.
Life history and stream occupancy of Clinch Dace (Chrosomus sp. cf. saylori) in the upper Clinch River system, Virginia. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. 2010-2013, $73,000.
Restoration ecology of fishes in regulated rivers. Orth, D. J., and C. A. Dolloff, North Carolina Cheoah River Fund Board, 2007-2011, $97,841.
Stream flow classification for environmental flow standards and analysis. Orth, D. J., R. A. McManamay, J. Henriksen, and J. Heasley. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. 2010-2011, $31,000.
This I believe
I believe in resilience, by Donald J. Orth
I believe in resilience and resilience thinking. I have seen devastation and I have seen that devastation can stimulate new growth. Moments of devastation occur on our planet as well as in our own lives. Dante Alighieri, in Inferno, wrote “Midway in our life’s journey, I found myself in dark woods, the right road lost.” I have found myself there and “to just think of it, renews the fear.”
As a young boy, I watched with naïve fear when Dad was laid off from a job he held for 22 years. Decades later I was helpless as I tried to communicate with Mom, her short-term memory damaged from dementia. But never was I more personally devastated that when I stood with my three children as we watched their Mom die from a cancer that literally choked the life from her. I was broken, impaired, lost in a world I had never anticipated. Yet I am alive and well today.
Among the many places to which I retreat for renewal and recreation, the seashore is my favorite. I was once isolated and trapped on Cape Hatteras after storm surges pummeled the coast and washed away the only access road. Barrier islands are great opportunities to study disturbance and resilience. Returning later I will find the shoreline boundaries shifted yet the same communities present and thriving.
In psychology, resilience is an individual’s tendency to cope with stress and adversity, to bounce back to normalcy or falter temporarily or perhaps even bounce back better than expected. Resilience is that process of change and yet that change is not automatic or guaranteed. Only through resilience thinking did I take actions to bounce back at all. Through resilience thinking I would connect with others instead of isolating, set goals, accept change, act in positive ways, care for myself, and maintain a positive outlook.
I believe in social resilience. Groups and communities must also cope with disturbance whether from social upheavals (shootings of 33 students on Virginia Tech campus ), political transition (post Ghadafi Libya), or environmental disaster (aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, or a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti).
I believe in ecological resilience. I do not believe in the restoration of the wilderness of a planet inhabited by 100,000 humans. I live in a planet that now supports a growing population of 7 billion humans. I believe in social resilience and ecological resilience and I believe that when the two are linked we are best able to mitigate, innovate, and adapt to the change while minimizing the suffering of others.
I am Don. I depend on my family, my neighborhood and professional communities, my bioregion of the southern Appalachian mountains, my nation, and the world. I believe that resilience thinking helps us as individuals and communities to adapt to an ever-changing world.
Donald J. Orth, PhD Certified Fisheries Professional
Thomas H. Jones Professor
Fish and Wildlife Conservation (MC0321)
Cheatham Hall, Room 106D, Virginia Tech
310 West Campuis Drive
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061
(540) 231-5919 Don_Orth@vt.edu Website Follow me on Twitter @DonaldOrth
Blue Striped Grunt (Haemulon sciurus) Belize (2010) Photo: DJ Orth
Silver Shiner Notropis photogenis. Specimen from New River, Virginia. Photo by DJ Orth
First Year Experience
Invent the Sustainable Future
This is a first-year experience course in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. This course is part of a university initiative to so that each first year student has access to A Pathways to Success Course
The course learning objectives focus on problem solving, inquiry, and integrative knowledge through many activities that assist the student in the transition to college-level studies. The syllabus and schedule are posted here as well as two blog posts. You may follow us on Twitter @FYECNRE13.
Flickr: The Ichthyology Class at Virginia Tech. This site is used to archive fish photos for student study and review. Students learn to tag fish photos with correct common and scientific names, and annotate specimens with diagnostic characteristics.
Central Stoneroller Campostoma anomalum. Photo by DJ Orth.
Students create an ePortfolio to archive and reflect on what they have learned in Stream Habitat Management. The ePortfolio platform allows them to go beyond text and include video and photographs to document their learning.
With permission, here are a few student ePortfolios
In 2013 we began to use Twitter to enourage more interaction with students. A blog post in the Ubiquitous Librarian describes this strategy. Follow us @FYECNRE13.
We train and use peer mentors to facilitate instruction in our first year experience class. The peer mentors gain experience in leading discussions and responding to student questions. They provide substantial support to first year students during their transition to college. In 2012, we surveyed first-year students about the effectiveness of peer mentors (below). Read more about use of peer mentors at Virginia Tech.
Living the motto “Virginia Tech: Invent the Sustainable Future”
We live in unprecedented times, and are making increasing demands on natural resources, resulting in rapid, extensive, and pervasive changes in Earth’s systems. Having enrolled in this course you have demonstrated your commitment to work toward a more sustainable future. The course purpose is to facilitate the transition of the first-year students as they explore career and academic planning, while adjusting to and benefiting from campus life at VT. The course will help you develop a sense of identity, relate to the College as your home, and encourage proactive planning of your involvement in high-impact teaching practices, such as undergraduate research, internships, study-abroad, and engagement programs. We also encourage the development of the ‘habits of mind’ that characterize a life-long learner, thereby applying your learning strategies so you understand how the systems on which we depend will be altered by changes in climate, land use, biodiversity, and a host of related environmental attributes.
Photo by Kim H. Cowgill
Student evaluations of instruction have been done using a new online survey tool since 2011.