Alumnus Mike Tessler has been busy, post-Sterling College. He is finishing an M.S. at Fordham University this August, where he’s been working on moss ecology. He just had his first journal publication, and he is hopeful that he’ll be able to submit a second one soon. He’s also received a $10,000 grant to do research on moss ecology and cliff conservation in the Shawangunks of New York.

But Sterling connections stay strong, so Tessler will be coming back to Craftsbury Common this summer to teach a course on spore-bearing plants, such as ferns and mosses.

“I’m very happy to come back,” Tessler said. “It’s a great place, and one of my favorite academic places.” He cites faculty member David Gilligan as being instrumental to bringing him back on campus to teach.

He hopes to teach Sterling College students the diversity of the area in terms of seedless plants. “Ferns aren’t that diverse in northern Vermont, but mosses are very diverse and pretty difficult to identify,” Tessler said. “They almost exclusively need microscopes to identify them.” One of Tessler’s goals for the class is to teach microscope skills to the students.

The class is a field course, but because ferns aren’t all that diverse in northern Vermont, there will be trips to see collections, as well. “There’s a plant collection at UVM—they have a pretty good collection of Vermont plants, so I am hoping to go through their databases,” Tessler said. However, he points out, there’s “tons of stuff just on Sterling’s campus!”

Another goal for the class is to give an overview of the biology of spore-bearing plants, as well as discussions of modern classifications for these plants. “Club moss, for example,” Tessler explained, “are not related to mosses. The classification is largely around the evolutionary trees of these mosses, and we’ll be discussing why that’s important.”

After his class this summer, Tessler will be starting a Ph.D. program at the American Museum of Natural History’s Richard Gilder Graduate School.

Is he hoping to continue his work with mosses and ferns?

Tessler laughed. “My research at the museum is going to be on leeches,” he said. “A complete switch!”


Filed Under: Alumni Common Voice Ecology

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