Middlebury

 

Tom Root

Professor of Biology

Email: 
Phone: work802.443.5434
Office Hours: Wednesday 8:00-11:30.(Please make appt)
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My teaching and research interests are broad, but are primarily in zoology, physiology and neurobiology and specifically on the neural control of behavior.

Since 1979, our lab has worked on varied questions with many different animals, but primarily involving the neural control of behavior and invertebrates as subjects. Our approach is the progressive study of an animal’s sensory abilities and movements, and how those permit an animal to locomote, feed, escape or behave in other effective ways. While I have published in the past almost exclusively on arachnids, and my students have published studies ranging from clams and turtles to humans, our lab has explored new directions over the past two decades including studies of bird song, animal senses and currently, discrimination and learning in octopuses. In the octopus studies we are examining the visual, chemical and tactile abilities of these amazing animals, how they move, how use those senses to direct exquisite and precise movements, and how they learn to make a choice and adapt their learning for effective behavior. Therefore, as with all animals we study, we examine an animal’s behavioral abilities from several different perspectives to appreciate both its complexity and its beauty.

 

Courses


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indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

BIOL 0201 - Invertebrate Biology      

Invertebrate Biology
The study of invertebrate animals, which comprise more than 90 percent of all animal species and represent the most diverse approaches to life on earth. A wide variety of protozoans cnidarians, echinoderms, mollusks, crustaceans, arachnids and insects are examined. Animals are studied primarily in the field for the first half of the course and the lab in the second. Emphasis is upon their ecology, evolution, behavior, and taxonomy. Specialized topics include regeneration, parasitology, sociality, and adaptations to freshwater, marine, and terrestrial habitats. Oral, written, and independent projects are required. (BIOL 0140) 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. lab

SCI

Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

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BIOL 0216 - Animal Behavior      

Animal Behavior
The behavior of animals primarily from an ethological perspective, with respect to genetics, physiology, evolution, and other biological factors. The course follows the history and methods of studying individual and social behaviors like feeding, courtship, mating, parental care, defense, predation, and migration. We examine live animals in the field and lab to illustrate such processes as instinct, learning, and communication. Discussion topics include behaviorism, intelligence, and sociobiology, analytical methods from tracking animals in the field to computerized motion analysis in the lab are utilized, and students design their own research projects. Oral, written, and independent projects are required. (BIOL 0140 or BIOL 0145) 2.5 hrs. lect./1 hr. video screen./3 hrs lab

SCI

Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

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BIOL 0270 / BIOL 0470 - Neural Disorders      

Neural Disorders
Neuroscience is one of the most rapidly progressing sciences, and recent scientific and clinical studies alter how we view both the brain and ourselves. In this course we will examine the human nervous system and problems that arise when the nervous system goes awry. Readings and discussions will include popular writings as well as primary literature to focus on disorders such as multiple sclerosis, autism, Alzheimer's disease, depression, and Parkinsonism. Students read for each meeting from the current literature, and prepare in-depth class presentations on topics of their choosing. (BIOL 0145 or PSYC 0105; not open to students who have taken BIOL 0470)

SCI

Winter 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2015

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BIOL 0370 - Animal Physiology      

Animal Physiology
This course examines the body functions of animals and humans using general physiological principles and a comparative approach. Lectures will cover the function of each of the major physiological systems (nervous, endocrine, muscular, etc.) and will describe how animal physiology has been shaped by evolution to allow animals to survive in a wide range of environmental conditions. Lectures will focus mainly on physiological processes occurring at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels. Occasional journal article discussions will provide case studies of current topics in animal physiology. Laboratory exercises, reports and oral presentations emphasize experimental design, analysis and independent study using various methodological approaches including electrophysiology, neurotransmitter manipulations, nutritional analysis, and exercise physiology. (BIOL 0145 and BIOL 0140 or BIOL 0216). 3 hrs. lect/3 hrs. lab.

SCI

Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2013

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BIOL 0480 - Neurobiology      

Neurobiology
Only recently has it become possible to study brain function and behavior at the level of cells and neural circuits. We study neurophysiology by examining how neurons, their connections, circuits, brain pathways and regulatory centers help form behaviors. By focusing primarily upon recent research on simple animals or simpler human brain circuits, we learn about neural controls and extrapolate to human behavior. Topics include genetic, developmental and molecular neurobiology, sensation, learning and the control of motion, feeding, and escape. Students present topics on current neurobiological literature and learn techniques from the literature. (BIOL 0145 and BIOL 0216 or PSYC 0301) 3 hrs.sem/ 3 hrs lab.

SCI

Fall 2010, Fall 2011

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BIOL 0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study
In this course students complete individual projects involving laboratory and/or field research or extensive library study on a topic chosen by the student and a faculty advisor. Prior to registering for BIOL 0500, a student must have discussed and agreed upon a project topic with a member of the Biology Department faculty. Additional requirements include participation in weekly meetings with disciplinary sub-groups and attending all Biology Department seminars. This course is not open to seniors; seniors should enroll in BIOL 0700, Senior Independent Study. (Approval required) 3 hrs. disc.

Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015

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BIOL 0700 - Senior Independent Study      

Senior Independent Study
In this course students complete individual projects involving laboratory and/or field research or extensive library study on a topic chosen by the student and a faculty advisor. Prior to registering for BIOL 0700, a student must have discussed and agreed upon a project topic with a member of the Biology Department faculty. Additional requirements include participation in weekly meetings with disciplinary sub-groups and attending all Biology Department seminars. (Approval required; open only to seniors) 3 hrs. disc.

Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015

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BIOL 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Seniors majoring in Biology who have completed one or more semesters of BIOL 0500 or BIOL 0700 and who plan to complete a thesis should register for BIOL 0701. In this course students will produce a written thesis, deliver a public presentation of the research on which it is based, and present an oral defense of the thesis before a committee of at least three faculty members. Additional requirements include participation in weekly meetings with disciplinary sub-groups and attending all Biology Department seminars. Open to Biology and joint Biology/Environmental Studies majors. (BIOL 0500 or BIOL 0700 or waiver; instructor approval required for all students) 3 hrs. disc

Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015

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INTD 1044 - Arachnophobia/Arachnophilia      

Arachnophobia, Arachnophilia
Arachnids, including spiders, scorpions, tarantulas, and their relatives, elicit irrational reactions. For many people arachnids trigger fear, from simple unease to clinical arachnophobia. For others, arachnids evoke admiration and inspiration. Despite being repulsive subjects in innumerable stories and images, they are nonetheless frequently exalted in art, literature, and music. What explains this difference? We will examine these depictions of arachnids and why they elicit such divergent psychological responses. After introductions to their natural history and historical portrayals, student-selected presentations will focus on the role of arachnids in literature, poetry, mythology, music, film, and art, attempting to understand their duality.

SCI WTR

Winter 2012

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NSCI 0100 - Introduction to Neuroscience      

Introduction to Neuroscience
Neuroscience is the interdisciplinary, scientific study of the nervous system. In this course we will investigate basic nervous system structure and function while tracking the history and methodology of neuroscience. We will study examples of neurons, sensation, behavior, memory, thought, language, consciousness, the mind, and disorders of the nervous system. Through lectures, discussions, exercises, electronic sources, and guest lecturers we will examine the working principles of nervous systems, modern neuroscientific methods, and topical issues. We will appreciate why an interdisciplinary approach is best suited for understanding our brain and mind. (Open only to first and second year students) 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc.

SCI

Fall 2013, Fall 2014

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NSCI 0500 - Independent Research      

Independent Research
Students enrolled in NSCI 0500 complete individual research projects involving laboratory or extensive library study on a topic chosen by the student and approved in advance by a NSCI faculty advisor. This course is not open to seniors; seniors should enroll in NSCI 0700. (Approval required)

Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015

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NSCI 0700 - Senior Research      

Senior Research
This course is for senior NSCI majors who plan to conduct one or more semesters of independent research, or who plan to complete preparatory work toward a senior thesis, such as researching and writing a thesis proposal as well as, if appropriate, collecting data that will form the basis for a senior thesis. Senior NSCI majors who plan to complete a senior thesis should register initially for NSCI 0700. Additional requirements may include participation in weekly meetings with advisors and/or lab groups and attending neuroscience seminars. (Approval required, open to seniors only)

Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015

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NSCI 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Senior NSCI majors who have completed one or more terms of NSCI 0700, who have a GPA of 3.3 in their major courses, and who plan to complete a senior thesis should register for NSCI 0701 for the final semester of the senior thesis process. Students enrolled in NSCI 0701 write a thesis, give a public presentation of their research, and present an oral defense of the thesis before a committee of at least two Neuroscience faculty members. Faculty may recommend High honors in Neuroscience after considering the quality of these components of a student’s thesis and the student’s GPA in major courses. Additional requirements may include participation in weekly meetings with advisors and/or lab groups and attending neuroscience seminars. (NSCI 0700, Approval required)

Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015

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Sample Publications

Root, T.M. 1990. Scorpion Neurobiology. In: Biology of the Scorpionida, Gary Polis
(Editor). Princeton University Press. pp. 341-413, 4 plates, 27 Figures

Root, T.M. 1985. The central and peripheral control of scorpion locomotion. In: Neurobiology of Arachnids. Springer-Verlag. CH. XVII.