Skip to main content
Karen Zich Reiss

Karen Zich Reiss


Ph.D. Zoology

BIOL 4 - General Zoology
BIOL 6 - Human Anatomy
BIOL 15 - Marine Biology
BIOL 20 - Natural History of California
BIOL 21 - Natural History of North Coast Mammals
BIOL 40 - Independent Study: Cadaver Curation
BIOL 41 - Independent Study: Museum Curation

I'm a zoologist with an emphasis on comparative anatomy and mammals. I have many years of teaching experience (in vertebrate biology, comparative anatomy, mammalogy, and human anatomy), tons of field experience (mostly in mammalogy), and have conducted diverse research projects ranging from small mammal gut physiology, early avian embryogenesis, and the comparative anatomy and systematics of ant-eating mammals to my current focus on morphological and genetic diversification of Pacific Northwestern chipmunks.

The natural world is amazing. If I first share my enthusiasm and awe, students might be inspired to do the hard work of learning to think clearly. The hard work is HARD, but it is essential and it pays off. Students sometimes tell me that I teach them how to see, and once they start seeing they ask questions, and I help them develop the language, concepts, and skills to focus their questions and get meaningful answers.

I chose my field of study because the more I learned the more amazed I was. Animals are so magnificently constructed, from the "lowly" worm to the human .Their bodies reflect this marvelous interplay between millions of years of evolutionary history and today's needs to satisfy their very conditions for existence. There is no end to the amazement, and it's all very dynamic. Life in one form or another has survived five catastrophic extinctions and is undergoing a sixth. Our world is changing so fast and, while we see many examples of stress, we also see marvelous adaptation.

My advice to a student who wants to be successful is “don't be a slacker.” Show up and do the work and care about it. You don't have to be brilliant; you just have to be present.
Be honest with your professors. If you had a rough week and you can't get the work done on time, or if no matter what you do, it doesn't make to us! You have no idea how lonely we get in our office hours!

And don't freak out when you find something you're not good at...we all have things we are not good at. Sometimes you just need to tap into available resources, sometimes you have to work harder or differently, and sometimes you just have to be ok with being just ok.

  2023 College of the Redwoods