Excerpts from Student Evaluations -- Spring 1998




I'm not given to superlatives, but I must say that this is the most rigorous ecology class at UT, and probably the most enlightening one in general. I believe, above and beyond anything else, that I've picked up enough of the basic grammer and vocabulary needed to begin reading the book of nature. The only improvement that I can think of would be to have more time for the class. Thank you!



This was the most incredible class I have ever had. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I can't even describe how sad it makes me to know what humans have done to the planet. It it were up to me I would make this class a prerequisite for the human race. I will look at things differently from now on. I am one that has been affected by this experience. Thank you!



I can think of no way Pianka could improve this course. He is an endless fountain in response to an unquenchable search for knowledge. His life experiences complement our studies in ecology, and bring to life, and give real examples of, his teachings and the words of our readings. Truly memorable course! Leaves a lasting impression!



Pianka's expertise showed in many areas of this class thick with information, and his knowledge of the rest of the material was plenty thorough to be able to teach it well. Class is very well organized and lectures are well-presented and easy to understand. Lectures go well with great textbook.



Pianka is an excellent teacher. His lectures were always interesting, entertaining and informative. Thanks for teaching so many students a wonderful course! Keep up the good work.



Inspire students by letting them know that though we (the world) face serious problems, we cannot give up on the struggle to save endangered species and natural habitats. The best instructor I've had at U.T. Perhaps more math (derivation and solutions to equations) would be great.



Pianka displayed a passion for the subject that he taught that is very rare at this school. I have had many professors that acted like teaching was a burden and they just wanted to get back to their lab.



Good job. I really enjoyed this course. You did an excellent job explaining the material and mixed it with good anecdotes as well. I also think it was good to share your vision of the future: it's harsh, but true and people need to realize that...



I don't think I've ever had an instructor who was able to dispense as much info as you have this semester! Great class! Very interesting! I will take a great deal of info and ideas away from your class. You've given me much to think about.



Pianka has inspired me to pursue the study of ecology. During my studies in his class I've had epiphanies where the crystalline beauty of the patterns of nature clash into my consciousness. He has helped me see that ecology is my calling. Amen!



Although I did not agree with all of the points made in your lectures concerning the coming of man's armageddon, I was glad to finally have a professor (and yes, you definitely professed) who held a pessimistic view of the world, whose thoughts weren't clouded by biotechnological advances and the almighty superiority of man. Many of Ehrlich's points, I believe, are incorrect and exaggerated, but fortunately, with your emphasis on literature, history and its importance, as well as good experimentation, I understand science better as a whole than ever before. Thank you for this experience.



Instruction was very passionate and presented extremely well (interesting and entertaining)!



Pianka has a passion in the subject of ecology. This is nice.



Best teacher I have ever had.



Content was interesting and taught very well.



Conceptual info was excellent and very interesting. Should be a class dedicated to Pianka's field work, maybe call it "Eric's Story Hour" -- that would be a class I would come back to attend!



Pianka is a great prof who makes you think hard and makes you cry.



This course is excellent & I'm glad I took it now that its over -- But you suffer all semester long . . .





More excerpts from Student Evaluations -- Fall 1999




Excellent job. It's a pleasure to take a course where the professor is interested in the subject matter, interested in conveying it to students, and good at it -- a depressingly rare combination, particularly at the undergrad level. I thought your course was great, and it's given me a lot to think about for my own research. Thanks!



This is by far the most interesting, informative class that I have taken in my 5 years at UT. I learned more in here than in most upper-division Zoo courses I have taken combined! Why Dr. Pianka is great is because he makes you think, which is something I haven't had to do in most of my classes. Thanks for a great class! (Marcus also did a fantastic job as TA -- the best one I've ever had)



The book is well organized and thorough. The lectures roughly mirrored the book although some important points were rushed and other less important points (the lizard niche) were gone over too heavily. At times the lectures were quite entertaining (the parasite lectures).



I enjoyed how the book and lectures were closely connected I enjoyed the prof's enthusiasm for the subject The prof never talked down to students --- he made learning a cooperative event -- he was open to questions -- which was really great.



He has great organization, an interesting lecturer. Great communication



This was a great course which I learned a lot from.





Excerpts from Student Evaluations -- Fall 2001




Eric Pianka was the most inspiring, enlightening instructor I have ever had. He has a braver worldview than most and his passion for ecology shines through in everything he does. This class has fundamentally changed some of my understanding of the world around me. The TA aslo helped immensely by translating some of Pianka's thoughts to a level more intelligible by mere undergrads.



Pianka is a GOD!! I have taken biology courses since my first day at UT. Sadly, it isn't until now, that I get connected with my passion for the subject. I wish I had come across Pianka's class earlier and not so late in my senior year.



You are one of the best professors I have ever had Dr. Pianka, and have really stimulated my interest in ecology (I hope to pursue graduate work in marine biology). it is great to learn this material with someone at the forefront of ecology.



I was really impressed with this course. The topics covered hadn't been touched on in many of my classes and I am really glad I took this course. The last sections were especially interesting. Dr. Pianka made the lectures entertaining as well.



It is so nice to finally have a prof. with opinions about what he is teaching! Thank you.



Pianka is so weird. I counldn't stand him at first. I thought he was arrogant and racist but then I learned that he's just upset at us Homo sapiens and he's equally predjudiced to all classes of people. This class was hard! Tests were real hard. You have to study so in depth -- it takes a lot of time. Still, it was fun and very interesting and has many applications in life -- makes you look at life differently. This class was a worthwhile rollercoaster.



Dr. Pianka is extremely informed and an asset to the dept. He exhibits a breadth of knowledge that is applicable to ecology and research science. I enjoyed this class immensely!



Good class. More stories less life tables at start, maybe class was too dry in beginning. Now very interesting.



I really enjoyed the lectures. They are fascinating and explained theoretical concepts very well.



Excellent class! Very interesting and full of information.



Interesting and exciting class.




Some evaluations from Fall 2002




I've really enjoyed this class! Definitely at least one of top two I've taken at UT. I'm now completely convinced I want to study ecology and evolution. Youíve been an incredible professor!


I like Pianka but some of the theories presented seemed contrary to common sense. And some of the figures didn't seem like they should be so lauded (i.e. Hutchinson). But overall I think that the class was worthwhile and thought provoking.


I really enjoyed this class. I learned a lot of useful information about our environment I probably never would have. I now have a greater appreciation for the environment and most of all, lizards!! Thanks.


This class was awesome. It was one of the best I've ever taken.


I really enjoyed the class and your passion for the material is evident and makes the class more interesting.


Good course for grads. I would have liked more time reading and writing papers and less emphasis on exams.



I think that a math class in Differential Equations should be a prerequisite for taking this class.


Very good course, although very intense






Student Evaluations -- Spring 2004




This was by far the greatest Bio class I've taken - you absolutely cannot look at biology without considering the ecology and evolution of the organisms at hand and so many of the crappy micro/molecular classes and the weed-out intro Bio classes here at UT completely lose sight of that. This class finally redeemed my decision to get a Biology degree, and all the gloom & doom, while excessive at times, is frighteningly true (re: pop. explosion, etc.) This was an excellent class.



Eric, you really changed my way of thinking about ecology. It's great to have an evolutionary perspective! And, of course, you increased my knowledge of lizards! Thanks a TON!



Dr. Pianka is the best professor I've had in my time at UT. His lectures are very engaging. Dr. Pianka is a gifted speaker and often defensive!



Excellent prof., made me view nature a lot differently. I appreciate it more.



Dr. Pianka: This lecture was an enjoyable part of my Tue/Thurs lineup. It was refreshing to study a species outside of Homo sapiens with vigor. I have spent hours pondering the mathematical, anecdotal and scientific evidence you presented for evolutionary trends in behavior, body size, and other adaptations. I have a whole new understanding of interactions that have taken me out of my microscopic scientific corner and shown me a glimpse of the macrocosm that contriubtes to my own beloved field of study - genetics. Thank you so much! Congrats on the new book and keep up the good work.



Dr. Pianka, Very interesting lectures. You were intimidating enough to make me actually listen. This class elaborated a lot on former evolution classes I have taken. I definately won't have a ton of kids now, to keep the population down for the good of the future planet.



I loved this class and really feel that I view the world from a broader angle now. The one thing I would change is the final - not 50% and cumulative. I've learned more interesting things in this class than any class I've taken at UT.



Prof. Pianka is an excellent professor. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a lecture as much as his. He is opinionated, and I really enjoyed that. Not enough profs are so willing to express their beliefs so openly and bluntly.



I really enjoyed the class. You put a whole new perspective on how humans fit in the world.



This prof. was incredibly insightful and motivated. His stories were great, but the most important thing was that I actually took something w/ me. I did not leave it at the door after the last test.



Instructor broadened my way of thinking and expanded concepts learned in class outside to the real world. This class is worthwhile for its educational value both in evolutionary ecology and in real life situations.



I already thought of most things in evolutionary terms, but you increased my knowledge of evolution and encourged me to strive for a deeper understanding of it. This class was very interesting and stimulating.



I really enjoyed this class. My awareness of the ecology surrounding me has increased tremendously.



Crazy and eccentric, but most definitely the best prof. I've had in my 4 years at UT. Thanks.



Great professor. He has so much passion to share his knowledge and inspire others to change the world. Quite intimidating in class, but definitely made me look at things differently and see a much different side of the worrld.



This course really taught me to weigh information on a broader scale in the context of selection. I really enjoyed this class and yes, the stories were really interesting.



Your class has opened my mind and made me aware of the evil that is anthropocentrism. I think your class should be separated into two semesters so that students are better able to process this information dense material, I would have gotten a lot more out of the course with more time to digest this material.



Although this course was demanding, I now have a better idea of how ecology serves as an important subject in the evaluation of human behavior. This course was so thick with information concerning animals and lizards that the human race is threatening every day in exponential terms, it makes one really sad to realize how distant humans have evolved from other creatures on Earth. The behavior, survival and evolution of animals has strong correlations to humans. This class was a friendly reminder of that.



Although this course was more difficult than I expected, Prof. Pianka influenced me to think in a different manner.



Personality improved over the semester. Do not know if it was grumpy old man or dealing with beginning of semester official BS. My nephew is into lizards and I will send him your web site.



I pretty much share your sentiments on a lot of issues concerning the environment and such. It's just that your class is really hard. So much material, and the concepts are pretty far fetched sometimes. Of course, it'd be great if you could omit the math and all those charts, but I guess you can't. I loved the stories and the simple theories that you explained in words. Anything beyond that is useless to me.



Dr. Pianka certainly shows thorough knowledge of the material, however at times, especially with the more difficult material, he has trouble teaching the student. Many students don't grasp the calculus involved in this class. Dr. Pianka is a very engaging speaker but needs to work on clarification of the core concepts of the mathematics of the course. Dr. Pianka's presentation of examples, experiments, and real life examples of the concepts is greatly appreciated and helps to illustrate his concepts.



I enjoyed this course, not knowing there were so many equations in ecology.



Equations in books are not as bad anymore. I enjoyed hearing your stories. When looking at files on website, it is hard to figure out which lecture it was sometimes [ERP's response: They are numbered sequentially from 1 to 30]. I learned a lot in this class that I have shared with friends and family.



Enjoyed the class, appreciated your passion for the subject matter, math wasn't THAT bad



This class has helped me face my fear of math and allowed me to see how valuable the models are to evolutionary ecology. I enjoyed the class!


This course has helped me to think more about the world and not just myself. Tests are a bit long though.



It has been interesting to learn all about the lizards.







Excerpts from Student Evaluations -- Fall 2004




This was the most fulfilling class I have had in UT yet. They should make it mandatory!


This has been my best biology professor during my time thus far. He really portays his love for the material, while really teaching with conviction.


I really enjoyed the Eco-Poetry and your perspective on ecology and biology in general. Every Biology and even non-Biology major should take this class.


Dr. Pianka -- Passionate, articulate, inspiring, and imaginative. Nice to take a course from such a prominent scientist and come away with better understanding.


I didn't ever want the last day of class to come. This course has been more valuable to my education and to my life in general than probably any other class at UT. The passion with which Pianka teaches is inspiring. As a keeper at the Austin Zoo/Animal Sanctuary, this course has given me a new outlook and greater respect towards the environment that I help to foster there. I never skipped class, knowing if I did I might miss something fascinating. Thank you, Dr. Pianka, for finally opening my eyes and mind to the world I live in.


Being of the same mindset as you, Dr. Pianka, I greatly appreciate your dedication to educating the university's undergrads about the plight of the earth and how wholly it is underscored by economic goals and successes. The only path to change is education.


I have a much greater empathy for those non-human creatures who are suffering. Much of the info you taught is swept under the rug by politicians and corporations, and I am sad that it took an upper division college course to show me how important this is. I watch commercials with fear seeing all the new disposable products I will not buy. I am not writing this because I did well in this class (I HOPE to get a C!). I was truly touched by your dogma.


Dr. Pianka shows a passion for his work that rubs off on those he's teaching. I really enjoyed his class and it's had influence in my decision to pursue a career in ecology.


One of the most difficult courses I have taken, but also one of the most interesting. I disliked Dr. Pianka at first but he is a dang good teacher that believes in what he teaches. And that makes all the difference.


Amazing amount of knowledge and Passion to profess = Excellent Instructor


You have shown me new and interesting ideas. I wish more of my professors had the same passion you have. Thanks for the course.


This was an interesting course. I enjoyed listening to what you had to say about everything. Like the enthusiasm ... It helps and shows when you teach.


I don't root for ebola, but maybe a ban on having more than one child. I agree . . . too many people ruining this planet.


Though I agree that convervation biology is of utmost importance to the world, I do not think that preaching that 90% of the human population should die of ebola is the most effective means of encouraging conservation awareness. I found Pianka to be knowledgable, but spent too much time focusing on his specific research and personal views.




Excerpts from Student Evaluations -- Fall 2005



The course was fantastic. My knowledge of the meaning of ecology and evolution has increased dramaticaly. Thanks for a great semester.


Excellent course, passionate instructor. Should be required of Bio/Eco majors. Very insightful.


Dr. Pianka is excellent; he created most of the content of the course. But mostly, he cares. He's realistic, frank and genuine.


Extremely enthusiastic professor with a great passion for teaching. His book was also enjoyable to read. Very happy to have taken this class.


Truly excellent course; I deliberately waited to take ecology until I could take it from Pianka. Most importantly, Pianka teaches in the great tradition of MacArthur, emphasizing the core ideas of ecological thought, which have not changed with new technological developments. One, on completing this course, will be thoroughly prepared to tackle ecological problems in a full philosphiclaly informed way.

I do think that having an excellent TA like Ann Thijs, who brought us up to date on some of the aspects of ecology which were not emphasized in the course, is very important. Finally, I suggest having students read more original literature in the field -- some of the pioneering studies by MacArthur, for example. The rigors of the course certainly prepares us to do so. Thank You.