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From the College of Natural Sciences
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Ruth Buskirk: Biologist and Teacher

Ruth Buskirk: Biologist and Teacher

From Costa Rica to Painter Hall, biology faculty member Ruth Buskirk has impacted the lives of countless students.


You teach a number of difference courses here. Tell me about one of your favorites.

I teach a Costa Rican Maymester course called Land Use Issues in Rainforest Conservation, where we go to the rainforest in Costa Rica. We study the national parks, which are a public system, versus their private reserves. We look at management issues and then we also look at sustainable agriculture, because there are trade-offs. And then Costa Rica has ecotourism, which is booming. It’s the number one economy now. We look at all the economics and the effect on the people there. The class is interdisciplinary, and I love the way everything fits together about it. It’s pretty fun.

Do you still do any research?

I do some work on spiders in Costa Rica in the summers. Actually, I’m starting to research my students, to better understand how students learn and what helps them learn concepts in biology.

What are you most proud of doing at UT?

A lot of my accomplishments were started by other people. I’m very happy with the work David Laude [Senior Vice Provost for Enrollment] started, and Sacha Kopp [Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education] is continuing, to get natural sciences students into small group environments. I think we’re actually making a difference in having structures that get students to appreciate each other.

What do you do when you’re not working to relax and recharge?

I like guitar music and all different kinds of music. The last couple of weekends I’ve gone to classical guitar performances here in Austin and it’s pretty neat. But, most of the time I really like being with my family. My children are grown up now, but that’s alright, I still like being with them.

What inspired you to go into biology?

I’ve always liked nature and being outdoors. We went on camping trips a lot when I was a kid. We went around and visited the national parks, so I know that made a difference. Also, my college, even though it was small, was very strong in biology, and I got to do undergraduate research. I was very fortunate. I like the way everything ties together in biology. That would be a general pattern for me. I like seeing how things fit together.

Buskirk is a Distinguished Senior Lecturer in Biology and the holder of the Worthington Endowed Professorship for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in Plan II.

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Tuesday, 31 January 2023

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