Introducing Dr. Sarah Parsons, Thompson Writing Program Lecturing Fellow

Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Sarah Parsons

Sarah Parsons is an entomologist with a special love for the interaction between plants and insects.  Her research is focused in the area of urban ecology.  She studies how urban environments affect insects, as well as plant-insect dynamics. Dr. Parsons received her doctorate in Entomology at NC State University.  She also has a Master in Environmental Management from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, and a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Emory University.  Dr. Parsons is excited to be a part of the Thompson Writing Program team.  She will be teaching a Writing 101 section, "It's a Bug's World," which will focus on helping students dissect scientific journal articles about insects and communicating research to a variety of audiences, including scientific peers and policy makers. Students taking her course will learn to be thoughtful consumers and communicators of science.  Dr. Parsons lives in Raleigh with her family.  Her hobbies include taking candid insect photos on the Raleigh Capital Area Greenway, hiking on the Appalachian Trail with her friends, and foraging for pawpaws. 


Title:  It’s a Bug’s World

Course Description

Insects are largely responsible for making the world work.  World-renowned entomologist and writer E.O. Wilson once surmised that “the world would go on with little change” were humans to disappear form the planet.  However, the disappearance of invertebrates, especially insects, would change the world drastically.  In this course we will learn about the many ways in which insects contribute to our well-being, our ecosystems, and our economies.  In addition to reading broad works about insects, we will read several scientific journal articles about world-wide insect biomass decline, an area of concern for many conservationists, who worry a loss of insects means a loss of the ecosystem services that insects provide. You will learn how to critically read and evaluate research articles, digest rebuttals of  research articles, form well-reasoned opinions about articles, and write reflections in the form of a short essay (750-1000 words) and an op-ed (750-1000 words).  For the op-ed assignment, you will evaluate, critique, and give feedback on the op-eds of your peers, and we will vote as a class on one op-ed to submit to a local news outlet of the student’s choosing.  Submission of the chosen op-ed to a news outlet is optional, not mandatory.  These readings and assignments will highlight how scientific discourse advances science, give you the skills to be a part of the discourse in a future scientific career, and help you communicate science to a broad audience.  As a part of a larger project in the course you will research an insect-related issue of your choice, construct a short reflection outlining your chosen topic (750-1000 words), compile a short literature review (3-4 pages), and write a well-informed policy memo (3-4 pages) to a local elected official or leader in your community outlining potential solutions.  You will have the option, if you choose, to share your policy memo with your local elected official.  You will also do a short presentation connected to your policy memo at the end of the semester.  From this course you will learn valuable skills in how to dissect and evaluate research articles in scientific disciplines, specifically in entomology, conservation biology, and ecology, articulate a position in response to primary literature, and communicate and write about science to different kinds of audiences, including the general public, scientific peers, and policy makers.  The skills you learn in this course can be applied broadly across disciplines, and will enable you to communicate research in science and beyond to readers who are not experts in a specific research field.  Throughout the semester you will receive feedback from either the instructor or peers on all assignments before you submit final drafts.  This class is online and synchronous.  It is expected that you attend classes remotely via Zoom during the class times assigned to the course.  If you are unable to meet synchronously, however, arrangements can be made to accommodate you.  Please let the instructor know as soon as possible, if you are unable to meet synchronously during assigned class times.