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.
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.
Karen Talentino, professor of biology and the former vice president for academic affairs, will be program director for the College’s new major in Health Science, the current VPAA Jeffrey Trumbower announced recently. Karen completed her term as Academic Vice-President at the end of June, 2018 and assumed a full-time faculty position beginning with the fall 2018 semester. Recently she has been in the planning stages for an anticipated study-trip with students to the Florida Everglades.
(posted January 2019)