Faculty Profile

Karen Talentino, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology

I have been interested in science and biology, specifically, for as long as I can remember. I attended the University of California at Santa Barbara for my undergraduate degree, and then moved to Nevada where I received my Master’s and Ph.D. at the University of Nevada at Reno. My graduate research focused on hibernation physiology, a project studying the Belding ground squirrel, a high altitude species that is active above-ground for only four months a year. My Ph.D. project looked at the development of tapeworms in hibernating squirrels. I loved living in Nevada, and to this day I am still very intrigued by the desert environment and the physiological adaptations to extreme environments – whether high altitude habitats, deserts, or some other environment which presents significant challenges to those organisms that live there.

At Saint Michael’s, I have taught Marine Biology, Environmental Studies, Environmental Science, Biology senior seminar, and Coral Reef Ecology. I have also taken students on a study trip to Cuba where we studied coral reefs. This trip is just one of many that I designed and led with students over my 40 years in college teaching. I have taken students to the Everglades, to the Southwestern US deserts, to the Bahamas and to the Chihuahua Mountains in western Texas. I believe strongly that students learn best by doing, and by being immersed in their topic of study. Intensive field trips provide students with an opportunity to learn first-hand about a topic, and also learn about themselves as they are challenged by a new environment, in collaboration with their peers. 



  • Mooney, S. and K. Talentino. 2008. Tips for Cheap Trips: Short-Term Travel Courses on a Shoestring. The Teaching Professor, January 2008.Irwin, L, K. Talentino and D. Caruso. 1998. "Effect of Fasting and Thermal Acclimation on Metabolism of Juvenile Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum).
  • Experimental Biology Online (1998) 3:1.
  • Talentino, K. and E. Landre. 1991. Comparative Development of Two Species of Sympatric Ambystoma Salamanders. J. Freshwater Ecology 6: 395-401.
  • Irwin, L. and K. Talentino. 1990. Brain Ganglioside Patterns and Effect of Thermal Acclimation in N.A. Salamanders. Comp. Biochem. Physiology 96B: 472-473.


  • "Promoting Faculty Leadership and Governance for Learning Outcomes Assessment", Davis Educational Foundation. 2011-2014. $214,500."Enhancing Laboratory Facilities in the Life Sciences", Alden Foundation. 2009-2011. $145,000.
  • "Faculty Leaders Program" Davis Educational Foundation. $212,000. 2003-2007. Program grant, to enhance technology and pedagogy at the College.
  • "EnviroNet: Telecommunications across the Curriculum". With V. Goldberg. National Science Foundation. 1995-99. $745, 619.
  • "EnviroNet: Network to Improve Environmental Science Education in New England". With R. Nickerson. National Science Foundation. 1991-94. $282,857.

I love to explore the outdoors, and my husband an I are avid kayakers and cross-country skiers. We also love to camp (in tents), and bemoan the fact that most of our favorite campgrounds are being overrun with RV's. Having lived in the western US during much of my early life gave me the opportunity to experience some of the most beautiful parts of the country - the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and most of the national parks that are west of the Mississippi River. We have taken our children on vacations through many of those national parks, something that my parents had done for my brother and me when we were growing up. Those trips continue to be some of my children's best memories, especially trips to the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde.

Because of my emphasis on field work during graduate school and early in my career, I have had some amazing (at least by my standards) experiences with nature over the years. For example, during my master's research, I used to spend 8 hours a day sitting in a pine tree watching the behavior of ground squirrels, and had to watch squirrels being preyed upon by hawks and weasels. I have encountered bears, bobcats, eagles, sharks, snakes and some of the most beautiful animals imaginable in my field work.

Sharing my love of biology and nature with students gives me tremendous pleasure. Some of my very favorite teaching experiences have been with students on extended field trips - snorkeling in the Bahamas and watching sharks feeding on coral reefs; watching the sunrise in the Sonoran Desert; tracking desert tortoises in the Mojave Desert; and studying the impact of the restoration initiative in the Everglades.

Being both a biologist and a teacher has given me great opportunities and rewards over the 38 years of my professional career. As an academic administrator I try to create exciting learning and teaching opportunities for both faculty and students.

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