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Dr. Pamela Silver

Pamela SilverProfessor of Biology

Silver, whose research interests include the ecology of freshwater lakes, streams, and wetlands, is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the North American Benthological Society, a leading journal in the field of basic and applied freshwater science. She is also a past recipient of the Behrend Council of Fellows Excellence in Teaching Award and the Excellence in Research Award.

Education: B.S. in Biology, Trenton State College; Certified in Medical Technology; M.S. in Botany and Ph.D. in Biology, both from the University of South Florida

What courses do you teach? BIOL 220W: Populations and Communities; BIOL 402W: Experimental Design; BIOL 435: Aquatic Ecology; BIOL 438: Theoretical Population Ecology

What can students expect when they take one of your courses?They can expect a challenge and lots of help meeting it. My courses are demanding and emphasize thinking, reading, and writing skills. I try to create a dialog between me and my students, even in large lecture courses. Every course I teach is designed to provide the theoretical and factual basis that students need to solve real-life environmental, scientific, and ethical problems.

What is your favorite course to teach? I enjoy teaching Aquatic Ecology more than any other course because we get to go outside and play in the water. This is a field course, so it is very practical, but it also shows students that everything they have learned in their biology, chemistry, and physics courses is relevant and necessary for understanding how aquatic ecosystems function.

How would you describe yourself as a teacher? I am dynamic in the classroom, demanding of myself and my students, and passionate about my subject matter. I firmly believe that it is my responsibility to teach every student the skills, information, and ethics they need to make wise personal, professional, and political decisions about the natural resources and ecosystems that are essential to the survival and well being of all organisms on Earth. I also believe that students will work hardest and achieve most when they know that: 1) I care about them, 2) I work harder than they do, and 3) I will do everything in my power to help them succeed if they are willing to help themselves.

What do you like best about teaching at Penn State Behrend? I like the balance between teaching and research. I also like the fact that I can develop mentoring relationships with students because of the small size of college.

What’s your favorite...

Book? The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. My grandfather gave me a copy in 1966, and I reread it every year. Besides that I prefer science fiction and historical fiction of all descriptions.

Movie? I do not enjoy movies. Books are better.

Music/band? Scottish/Irish folk music and bagpipe music. My favorite folk group is The Battlefield Band, and my favorite bagpipe band is the Simon Fraser University Pipes and Drums.

What are some of your hobbies/pastimes? I was a bagpiper long before I was anything else, and I will be one long after I retire. My mother (who is my personal hero) taught me to play when I was 7, and we are still playing together 50 years later (yes, she is 80 and can still play a 2-hour concert!). My husband is a drummer, and together we lead a band called the 96th Highlanders Pipes and Drums from Jamestown, N.Y. The band performs at numerous parades and festivals during the summer, and we spend the winter giving lessons and practicing. Every August we host the Jamestown Regional Celtic Festival in or near Jamestown, NY. Bagpiping makes my heart happy.

I also design and make small quilts called “Lap Jewels.” Each quilt is constructed by hand from 2-inch squares of fabric, and takes about a month to piece and quilt. The quilts are always made for a particular person and the designs are meant to capture the essence of the person and how I feel about them. The quilts feed my soul.

I love to garden (mostly I like weeding, digging holes, and hauling rocks), and my husband and I have converted all of our yard into a mosaic of waterfalls, ponds, flower beds, and veggie patches. I Like to think that my garden connects me with my grandfather, his father and grandfathers as far back as I know, who were all gardeners by trade. The garden is where I go to find peace after stressful days at work.

What advice can you give students to succeed both in college and in life?

Work hard; be courageous; find a balance that feeds your mind, heart, and spirit; never quit; and give freely of yourself. Your job is to do your best to save the world.


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