Featured Faculty: Dr. Gabe McNett is Devoted to Teaching, Even In the Summer
Dr. Gabe McNett doesn’t let summer break deter him from his love of teaching or field study. For three years, the biology professor and Division Chair of Natural and Mathematical Sciences at Westminster College has led summer butterfly walks at Prairie Garden Trust (PGT) in New Bloomfield, MO.
Founded by Henry and Lorna Domke, PGT offers more than 200 acres of natural prairies, ponds, and wooded paths for nature lovers such as McNett to explore, which is something the native of St. Marys, OH, began doing not long after arriving at Westminster in 2007.
McNett would bring his students to PGT to birdwatch, conduct ecological sampling, search for insects, and, more recently, extensively study the diversity of insects found there. A few years ago, the Domkes asked him to lead their annual butterfly walk.
“I was happy to help,” McNett says. “I’ve done it since and really enjoy it.”
The walk is an effort to document and count the butterflies, a task the Domkes have undertaken since 2002. “I help the participants learn how to identify different species and share various aspects of their biology. We also highlight other conspicuous and interesting species, from dragonflies to plants,” McNett explains.
The groups McNett leads are relatively small, often between 10 to 20 people, much like the personalized courses taught by all faculty members at Westminster.
And as the 2021-2022 Academic Year draws near, McNett anticipates staying busy with the various classes he teaches at Westminster, which include Animal Behavior, Biodiversity, Ecology, Entomology, Evolution, and Ornithology.
When he isn’t teaching, McNett enjoys spending time with his wife and three children at their home in Columbia, which is also home to a dog named Gus and two cats named Scout and Hope.
Of course, he also enjoys hiking, camping, and exploring the woods and streams around central Missouri. And he truly looks forward to seeing his students at Westminster.
“This semester I’ll be teaching Ecology, where most weeks for lab, we’re outdoors in the field, sampling organisms, taking data, trying to answer questions … it’s a lot of fun,” McNett reflects. “I feel lucky that I get to share these passions with my students.”
For more information on the Department of Biology at Westminster, please visit the department page on the College’s website.