Som Ale, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor
Building & Room:
845 W. Taylor St.
I am a teaching professor. I strive to provide a quality education for my students in the Biology Sciences department. My main responsibility lies in planning and developing curricula and teaching both introductory and advanced level courses. I continually reevaluate and improve my teaching approaches to enrich the students’ learning experience in a meaningful way including enhancement of students’ writing, expression and other skills pertaining to biological sciences.
My current portfolio includes teaching General Ecology Laboratory, Ecology and Evolution, and Biology of Populations and Communities.
General Ecology Laboratory (BIOS 331). I teach the BIOS 331 lab course in spring, summer and fall. This course combines lectures, discussions, hands-on activities, field-data analysis, and report writing. The goal is for students to learn and apply important concepts of population, community and ecosystem ecology – from a perspective of evolution – and to experience nature first-hand. As noted by evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. My ecology course applies its corollary: Nothing in evolution makes sense except in light of ecology.
Most of the theoretical concepts imparted in class revolve around the field trips to Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. From these all-day Saturday field trips, students write field reports using the data they collect in the field. Students also select a book from a provided list to write a book review, following the style of the journal, Ecology. In addition, students conduct an experiment on the foraging ecology of animals, take 5 quizzes and complete 4 homework assignments.
Ecology and Evolution (BIOS 230): I teach BIOS 230 in the summer. The goal of this lecture course is to learn and apply important concepts from ecology and evolution to understand how populations, communities, and ecosystems work, and how that understanding helps us to comprehend evolutionary processes and the bewildering biodiversity we see around us. Students are exposed to the larger questions of diversity of life, the distribution and abundance of species, fit of form and function, and procession of life. The course performance is based upon 4 comprehensive exams, 4 assignments, and 3 pop quizzes.
Biology of Populations and Communities (BIOS 120): This is a lab class that I teach in spring. The overall goal of this introductory course is to gain broad knowledge and understanding of biological populations and communities, and thereby appreciate their conservation and protection in real time. The first teaching objective of this large introductory lab course is to make students appreciate the diversity of life in time and space and within the diverse realms. Students will understand how organisms struggle to exist (ecology). That struggle for existence is everywhere - in occupying preferred habitats, avoiding predators, feeding, and choosing mates and so on. The second objective is to understand variation that characterizes individuals composing different populations. This is the realm of genetics. The third aim is to fathom how (genetic and phenotypic) variation matters in the struggle for existence and how over evolutionary time characteristics of populations change and species evolve. The students’ course performance is based upon exams, lab activities, pop quizzes, and homework assignments.
In addition, I also teach one course in Honors College in the fall: Contemporary Evolution (HON 133). This course examines the phenomenon of contemporary evolution – the evolution of adaptations and adjustment to the environment that can be investigated and documented in contemporary time. The course starts with a primer on Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and Mendelian and population genetics to get students on a standard level of knowledge and understanding. Students read selected papers published in primary scientific journals. The readings illustrate studies of evolution in contemporary time. The second part of the course is led by students, with student presentations on some aspect of Darwin’s contributions to other fields of science, popular culture, or governance.
Besides teaching, in the department I supervise independent study (BIOS 391) and Honors Capstone projects where students’ follow their individual research interests, particularly in conservation biology. For instance, one student’s quest, as an independent research project student, is to study populations of Himalayan tahr, a native mammal from the Himalayas, in Texas (U.S.) and Argentina. During the peak of pandemic another Capstone student conducted an independent study entitled “Is the Coronavirus a Deadly Epidemic or Just Another Virus?”
My past teaching experience includes General Biology, Mammalogy, and Field Methods in Research and Conservation of Vertebrate Populations.
My research focuses on mammals. I have an ongoing education, conservation and research project on mammals in the Himalayas. I study distribution and abundance of snow leopards and their interaction with biotic and abiotic environment. Studying prey behavior, e.g., vigilance behavior of Himalayan tahr and blue sheep, I study snow leopards’ whereabouts and their patterns of habitat selection. My research project focuses on theories inherent in predator-prey interactions and conservation biology. I integrate techniques of mud-and-boots field biology (e.g., searching for signs) to study rare and elusive predators, with those of foraging theory (e.g., adaptive foraging and vigilance behavior of prey).
Overall, the web of life is composed of two distinct threads – one that links organisms at any given moment in time through the flow of energy (ecology) and another that connects all biota through deep time via genetic information and shared common ancestry (evolution). Ecology and evolution, in a single theme, provide a robust scientific platform for understanding biodiversity and appreciating the big story of life.
I address, in my teaching and research, both patterns and processes.
My recent initiative in the quest of ecological and evolutionary patterns and processes has been to write a book, Evolutionary Ecology, with Drs. Tania Vincent (Fishery Biologist, Alaska Department of Fish and Game) and Joel S. Brown (Senior Member, Moffitt Cancer Center, Florida; Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois at Chicago). This book describes principles of ecology in light of evolution in a tight narrative for understanding pattern and procession in ecological systems. Throughout the book attempts to answer the larger questions of diversity of life, distribution and abundance of species, fit of form and function, procession of life, and role and position of humans. Each topic and subtopic is introduced through key concepts and their associated definitions. The book has been scheduled to be submitted to Taylor & Francis Group – England based academic books and journals publishing company – by the end of December 2022.
(Complete list of publications on Google Scholar)
- Ale, S. B. 2022. Ecology, a book review, “Writing Effective Ecological Reports: A Guide to Principles and Practice. By Mike Dean. Exeter (United Kingdom): Pelagic Publishing. $45.51 (paper). xiii + 214 p.; ill.; index. ISBN: 978-1-78427-241-8 (pb); 978-1-78427-242-5 (eb). 2021.” Quarterly Review of Biology 97: 157. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/720084
- Pandey B. P., Thami S., Shrestha R., Subedi N., Chalise M. K. & Ale S. B. 2021. Snow leopards and prey in Rolwaling Vallex, Gaurishankar Conservation Area, Nepal. Cat News74: 14–17. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/357394197_Snow_leopards_and_prey_in_Rol-_waling_Valley_Gaurishankar_Conservation_Area_Nepal
- Ale, S. B., Sathyakumar, S., Forsyth, D. M., Lingyun, X. & Bhatnagar, Y. V. 2020. Hemitragus jemlahicus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/9919/22152905#habitat-ecology
- Ale, S. B., Halloway, A., Mitchell, W. A. and Whelan, C. J. 2019. Does God roll dice? Neutrality and determinism in evolutionary ecology. Biology and Philosophy 34 (1):3 (2019). DOI: 10.1007/s10539-018-9657-8
- Ale, S. B. and Mishra C. 2018. The snow leopard’s questionable comeback. Science 359:1110. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6380/1110
- Schutgens, M. G., Hanson, J. H., Baral, N., and Som B. Ale. 2018. Visitors’ willingness to pay for snow leopard Panthera uncia conservation in the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal. Oryx page 1 to 10. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0030605317001636.
- Baral, N., Kaul, S. Heinen, J. T. Ale, S.B. 2017. Estimating the value of the World Heritage Site designation: a case study from Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) National Park, Nepal. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, Taylor & Francis publication, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09669582.2017.1310866.
- Aryal, A., Shrestha, U.B., Ji, W., Ale, S.B. et al. 2016. Predicting the distributions of predator (snow leopard) and prey (blue sheep) under climate change in the Himalaya. Ecology and Evolution 6: 4065-4075.
- Ale, S. B., Shah, K. B., and Jackson, R. 2016. Conservation of Snow Leopard in Nepal. In: Nyhuis, P.J., McCarthy, T., and Mallon, D. (Eds.): Biodiversity of the World: Conservation from Genes to Landscapes. 1st Edition. Snow Leopards. Elsevier Press, 2016, p. 471-479.
- Hillard, D., Weddle, M., Padmanabhan, S., Ale, S.B. et al. 2016. Envornmental education for snow leopard conservation. In: Nyhuis, P.J., McCarthy, T., and Mallon, D. (Eds.): Biodiversity of the World: Conservation from Genes to Landscapes. 1st Edition. Snow Leopards. Elsevier Press, 2016, p. 245-255.
- Ale, S. B. Shrestha, B. and Jackson, R. 2014. On the status of Snow Leopard Panthera uncia (Schreber, 1775) in Annapurna, Nepal. Journal of Threatened Taxa 6: 5534–5543. DOI:10.11609/JoTT.o3635.5534-43
- Dupuch, A., Morris, D. W., Ale, S. B., Wilson, D. J., and Moore, D. E. 2014. Landscapes of fear or competition? Predation did not alter habitat choice by Arctic rodents. Oecologia 174: 403-412.
- Ale, S. B., Brown J. S. and Sullivan, A. 2013. Evolution of cooperation: Combining kin selection and reciprocal altruism into matrix games with social dilemmas. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63761. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063761.
- Ale, S. B., Morris, D. W., Dupuch, A, and Moore, D. E. 2011. Habitat selection and the scale of ghostly coexistence among Arctic rodents. 2011. Oikos 120: 1191-1200.
- Morris, D. W., Moore, D. E., Ale, S. B. and Dupuch, A. 2011. Forecasting Ecological and Evolutionary Strategies to Global Change: An Example from Habitat Selection by Lemmings. Global Change Biology 17: 1266–1276.
- Ale, S. B. and Howe, H. F. 2010. What do ecological paradigms offer to conservation? International Journal of Ecology. Volume 2010, Article ID 250754, 9 pages — doi:10.1155/2010/250754.
- Ale, S. B. and Brown, J. S. 2009. Prey behavior leads to predator: a case study of the Himalayan tahr and the snow leopard in Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, Nepal. Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution 55: 315-327.
- Lovari, S., Boesi, R., Minder, I., Mucci, M., Randi, E., Dematteis, A., and Ale, S. B. 2009. Restoring a keystone predator may endanger a prey species in a human-altered ecosystem: the return of the snow leopard to Sagarmatha National Park. Animal Conservation 12: 559-570.
- Wolf, M. and Ale, S. B. 2009. Signs at the top: Habitat and snow leopard activity in Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal. Journal of Mammalogy 90: 604-611.
- Morris, D., Kotler, B., Brown, J. S., Sundararaj, V. and Ale, S. B. 2009. Behavioral Indicators for Conserving Mammal Diversity. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1162: 334-356.
- Ale, S. B. and Whelan, C. J. 2008. Reappraisal of the role of big, fierce predators! Biodiversity and Conservation 17: 685-690.
- Ale, S. B., Yonzon, P. and Thapa, K. 2007. Recovery of snow leopard Uncia uncia in Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) National Park, Nepal. Oryx 41: 89-92.
- Ale, S. B. and Brown, J. S. 2007. The Contingencies of Group Size and Vigilance. Evolutionary Ecology Research 9: 1263-1276.
- Lovari, S. and Ale, S. B. 2001. Are there multiple reproductive strategies in blue sheep? Behavioural Processes 53: 131-135.
PhD, University of Illinois - Chicago
MSc, University of Tromso, Norway