Teaching ecology is my passion

To do so in an international context would be my dream job. I am interested in both teaching abroad and in providing U.S. students with a global perspective through study-abroad and other cross-cultural opportunities. My research focuses on the fitness implications of individual variation in body condition among crimson finches (Neochmia phaeton).

I am also a birder, a sometime vagabond, and a connoisseur of fine pastries.

Olga Milenkaya, Ph.D. (please call me Olya)

Current position

Biology Instructor, Laredo Community College

Laredo, Texas USA
August 2014 – present

Research

Crimson Finch Project

My Ph.D. research was a joint project between Virginia Tech and Australian Wildlife Conservancy, conducted from 2007–2013. See the project archive for details:

Project archive
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Dissertation

Milenkaya, O. 2013. Validating body condition indices as indicators of individual quality: does condition explain intraspecific variation in reproductive success and survival among crimson finches (Neochmia phaeton)? Ph.D. thesis. Department of Biological Sciences. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA.
View dissertation

Invited seminar speaker

Milenkaya, O. & J.R. Walters. 2013. Testing the condition-quality hypothesis: is body condition a meaningful proxy for individual quality? Radford University, Radford, Virginia, USA

Peer-reviewed publications

Milenkaya, O., Catlin, D., Legge, S., & J.R. Walters. In prep 2014. Body condition indices predict reproductive success but not survival in a sedentary, tropical bird.

Catlin, D., Milenkaya, O., Hunt, K., Friederich, M., & J. Fraser. In press 2014. Developmental effects and conservation: can river management improve a species' long-term prospects? Biological Conservation.

Milenkaya, O., Legge, S., & J.R. Walters. 2014. Body-condition indices are repeatable across short, but not long, time periods in crimson finches Neochmia phaeton. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 87(4): 550–558.
View publication

Milenkaya, O., Weinstein, N., Legge, S., & J.R. Walters. 2013. Variation in body condition indices of crimson finches by sex, breeding stage, age, time of day, and year. Conservation Physiology 1: doi: 10.1093/conphys/cot020.

Milenkaya, O., Legge, S., & J.R. Walters. 2011. Breeding biology and life history traits of an Australasian tropical granivore, the Crimson Finch Neochmia phaeton. Emu 111(4): 312–320.
View publication

Maurer, G., Double, M.C., Milenkaya, O., Süsser, M., & R. Magrath. 2011. Breaking the rules: sex roles and genetic mating system of the pheasant coucal. Oecologia 167: 413–425.
View publication

Hall, M.L., Murphy, S.A., Churchwell, R., & Milenkaya, O., 2010. Interspecific feeding across feeding guilds — male purple-crowned fairy-wren feeds nestling crimson finches. Corella 34: 49–50.

Doody, J.S., Milenkaya, O., Rhind, D., Eastley, T., & K. Penrose. 2010. Varanus mitchelli (Mitchell’s Water Monitor) diet and foraging behavior. Herpetological Review 41: 233–234.

Conference presentations

* Milenkaya, O. & J.R. Walters. 2013. Testing the condition-quality hypothesis: condition indices are repeatable but do not predict reproductive success or survival. Oral presentation, Wilson Ornithological Society Meeting, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA. 
* Awarded best student oral presentation

Milenkaya, O. & J.R. Walters. 2012. Condition indices among Crimson Finches are repeatable but do not predict reproductive success or survival. Oral presentation, North American Ornithological Conference, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Milenkaya, O. & J.R. Walters. 2012. Interpreting condition indices as individual quality: a cautionary tale. Poster presentation, Virginia Tech Research Day, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA.

Milenkaya, O. & J.R. Walters. 2012. Condition indices do not predict survival in a wild passerine. Poster presentation, Society for Integrated and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting, Charleston, South Carolina, USA.

Milenkaya, O. & J.R. Walters. 2011. Variation in avian health parameters across age, sex, year and breeding stage. Poster presentation, Virginia Tech Research Day, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA.

Milenkaya, O., Legge, S., & J.R. Walters. 2010. Life history and the evolution of clutch size in a tropical granivore. Poster presentation, International Ornithological Congress, Campos do Jordão, São Paulo, Brazil.

Milenkaya, O., Legge, S., & J.R. Walters. 2009. Breeding biology and life history traits of a tropical granivore, the Crimson Finch. Oral presentation, Australasian Ornithological Conference, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia.

Teaching experience

Instructor of record at Laredo Community College

2014

I am developing and implementing new curriculum for introductory biology courses that emphasize critical interpretation of primary scientific literature and creative scientific thinking. In addition to teaching the following courses, I am currently mentoring five students through the Honors Program.

Biology for Science Majors I
1 section
23 students
Biology for Science Majors II
1 section
21 students
Biology for Non-Science Majors I
1 section
22 students
Biology for Science Majors Lab I
1 section
22 students
Biology for Science Majors Lab II
1 section
21 total students
Biology for Non-Science Majors Lab I
3 sections
54 total students

Guest lectures

"Populations" (over two days)
in Ecology
130 students
2012
in Ornithology
40 students
2012
in Ecology
130 students
2012
in Ecology
130 students
2011
in Ornithology
75 students
2011

Instructor (Teaching Assistant) of labs at Virginia Tech

Ornithology

2 sections, 20 students each 
2011, 2012, 2013

Under the supervision of a professor, this class was cooperatively designed and taught among four and two teaching assistants in 2011 and 2012, respectively. We collaboratively designed the curriculum, syllabus, activities, lectures, assignments, and exams. The course objectives were to use hands-on field and laboratory experience to learn avian anatomy, phylogenetics, natural history, and field identification in order to achieve an integrated understanding of avian biology, ecology, physiology, and evolution. To this end, we used museum specimens, almost-weekly field trips including a mist-netting demonstration, lectures, and a research project.

Principles of Biology Laboratory

3 sections, 24 students each 
2008, 2012

I designed a syllabus around predetermined laboratory activities, wrote lectures and exams, and taught a broad range of biological topics including the scientific method, evolution, pH and buffers, cell membranes, photosynthesis, and mitosis and meiosis.

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Proposed syllabus: Behavioral Ecology

Download PDF

Selected teaching evaluations

“[Olga] made the class relevant.”
“This is by far one of my favourite classes…fantastic!
“[Olga] has been a great TA. She keeps energy high at 7:00 A.M. and keeps students engaged. She is a fair grader and has a lot of concern for students.”

Teaching philosophy

My goal is to develop critical thinkers that will be able to answer the big questions in both science and society. To this end, I create a learning environment where students (1) have agency over their education which is coupled with high academic standards, (2) develop the skills needed to independently interpret science, and (3) understand how knowledge is formed through the scientific method.

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Contact me

Olga Milenkaya 
1610 Santa Cleotilde Avenue 
Laredo, Texas 78040 USA