Jeremiah Hagler, Instructor in Biology, Uses Nature Photography to Enhance Online Learning Experience

Pictured above is a cherry blossom in bloom, on day 14. This photo was taken from an Instagram post by Jeremiah Hagler, Instructor in Biology.
Over the span of several Instagram posts, a cluster of crimson red buds transforms into several pale pink cherry blossoms. Photographed by Jeremiah Hagler, Instructor in Biology, these flowers belong to a tree that has a long and tenured history at Andover.

“The cherry tree is an icon. If you had been on campus, it would have been a focus on what’s going on this term, in [Biology-100]… We had a faculty member, Tom Cone, who retired a couple of years ago, who was instrumental in saving that tree when it was first planned many years ago. And, it grew beautifully. The school at various times was talking about removing it, and he was very important in saving it, so it’s a pride of the Biology Department. He helped foster this interest in the tree and using the tree as a way of educating kids,” said Hagler.

In addition to photographing the cherry blossoms, Hagler posts pictures of various on-campus flora and fauna to his Instagram page, @jeremiah.hagler. According to Hagler, he first developed his passion for nature photography on a sabbatical trip across the country in which he was interested in exploring wild environments without influences from urban life. On his return to Andover, he continued to photograph and compiled an archive of images of birds, insects, flowers, and more.

“As a kid, I was into nature. I would go out a lot [and] collect things. But, I didn’t train that way in high school or in grad school. I got my Ph.D. in ‘very, very tiny things’ that you can’t really visualize. It was nice to expand my horizons back to my original interests… into the wild organisms that are around me, where I find them, [and] where I wouldn’t expect to find them,” said Hagler.

The movement to an online learning environment during Spring Term presents a distinct set of challenges for instructors who rely on resources found only on campus. Hagler has discovered ways to use his photos in a virtual classroom setting, connecting with students located on opposite sides of the globe.

“We’re using a platform called iNaturalist, which is a citizen science platform where you take photos of things you find in natural settings around you, and then you post the photo of the organism you photographed… it ends up being a database [of] where these organisms all around the world live. Because of the COVID crisis… we’ll have [students] go out and work with insects and other living things you find in areas around their homes,” said Hagler.