Stefan Sommer

Sommer
Research Assistant Professor

Phone: 928-523-4463
Email: Stefan.Sommer@nau.edu
Office: Peterson Hall, bldg. 22 room 228
More info: Association of College and University Museums and GalleriesMerriam Powell Center for Environmental ResearchColorado Plateau Museum of Arthropod Diversity 

Research/teaching interests

  • insect community ecology
  • behavioral ecology
  • pollination ecology
  • pedagogical research in environmental and cross-cultural education

Academic highlights

  • PhD: Biology Department, Univ. of New Mexico, Albuquerque, 1993
  • MS: Department of Zoology, Univ. of Maryland, 1986
  • BS: Univ. of California, Berkeley, 1980

I have broad interests in understanding how the world works and how to effectively communicate that understanding to people of different cultures. My recent focus has been on communicating effectively about biological diversity to people of different subcultures within the United States.

While we all speak basically the same language, people of distinct subcultures define and use words differently and construct different value systems that lead to alternate chains of reasoning.

Much of this work has been focused on museum outreach programs such as traveling exhibits and it has also included science kits for children, educational video documentaries for public broadcast, and multimedia science games for families.

The successes of this program on biodiversity are now leading to similar projects in rural Kenya as well as the development of a new project in the United States focused on sustainability.

My interests in museum work have also included curatorial work with insects and arthropod collections. These repositories of biological knowledge are critical to the documentation of biological diversity before it is lost, and their importance to people will continue to grow exponentially.

I have been a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of College and University Museums and Galleries for the past five years and currently serve as the Vice President.

My research interests have included work in plant-insect interactions, Chihuahuan desert plant communities, pollination ecology, osprey foraging ecology, and the behavioral ecology of spiders.

I teach the honors section of the introductory biology course for majors and the Skills for Success in Science course for minority students. I have taught a wide range of courses including General Ecology, Field Ecology, Community Ecology, Organic Evolution, Evolution of Social Behavior, Conservation of Natural Resources, and a diversity of natural history and teacher recertification courses.

Selected publications

Dissertation: Formation and Structure of Insect Communities on the Introduced Tumbleweed: Salsola kali L. (Chenopodiaceae).

Thesis: Pollination Ecology and Breeding System of Witch-Hazel: Hamamelis virginiana L. (Hamamelidaceae).