Faculty Spotlight: Nancy Solomon

photo of Nancy Solomon

  • professor in the Department of Biology
  • teaches courses on introductory biology and animal behavior
  • research interests include animal social behavior and animal sociality (how and why animals live in groups)
  • enjoys reading and nature, including maintaining a wildlife garden


"I received a Bachelor of Science with honors in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. I went to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and received my master's in experimental psychology, and then returned to the life sciences for a PhD in Biology at the University of Illinois. Before I was hired at Miami, I was a post-doctoral research associate at North Carolina State University"


"In the fall, I teach Introductory Biology. In the spring, I typically teach an upper-level course in animal behavior. Last winter term, I taught Dog and Cat Behavior for the first time. It was a small class and we all learned a lot, visited an animal shelter and had guest speaker’s talk about how dogs are screened at animal shelters and dog and cat behavior problems."

"For introductory biology class, I really love that I get to read articles in the popular press about current topics and discuss them with my students during fall semester. This semester in my class, I plan to use the monarch butterfly as an example of conservation and influences of human-induced changes in the environment. I also find it is important for students to get a better understanding of evolution and how important it is in their everyday life.

"Animal behavior is my favorite topic, so I enjoy teaching that course in the spring and finding new examples of current research to use for the class. One of my goals in this course is to get my students to understand some concepts in animal behavior as well as to conduct short-term experiments in animal behavior. I also think behavior can be used to teach important general concepts in biology, such as the scientific method and evolution."


"I've always enjoyed working with animals, but after I took an undergraduate course in population ecology, I started becoming very interested in population regulation, how animal behavior can regulate populations and then in animal social behavior."

"Much of my research focuses on social behavior in animals that live in groups. We see lots of behavior in the field that can inform what we do in the lab. For most of my career I’ve studied prairie voles, because they are very unusual in the animal world. The males and females form an attachment to one another and share many of the duties, such as raising offspring. Behaviors like this suggest all sorts of interesting questions, and prairie voles have often been used as models of human monogamy and currently are becoming more popular as model organisms in which to study brain or hormonal affects related to biomedical problems like autism, depression, and social drinking.

"Miami takes research seriously, not just for graduate students but for undergraduates as well. I like to have graduate and undergraduate students interact and learn from each other in my research group. For example, one of my students has conducted research for her master's thesis on the social interactions of domesticated free ranging cats, and we have involved undergraduates. They have helped observe the cats living in the colony at a local organic farm and then one of them, received an Undergraduate Summer Scholarship to conduct a related research project the following summer, again with the help of other undergraduates. Many of my students, including undergraduates, write their own small research grants and present papers at regional and national conferences."

Outside the Classroom

"I could spend all my time reading, especially fiction. Fiction sparks my imagination and creative juices because often the characters in the book inspire me to wonder about why people behave in particular ways or how the behavior of one character influences the reactions of another. I also learn new things. It was a novel that actually was my inspiration for teaching my students about monarch butterflies in my Introductory Biology class. I have also talked with horticulturalists and students at Miami and we have created butterfly gardens on campus!

"I also just love being outside. One of my favorite activities is walking in the woods or other habitats and learning about the plants and animals I see. In my own yard, I have planted three species of milkweed and nectar plants for the monarch butterflies and dill for the swallowtail butterflies. I am waiting to see caterpillars and have been excited to find adult butterflies on some of these plants. I also have feeders, which are visited by a number of species of birds as well as squirrels and chipmunks. I plan to continue to turn my yard into a better wildlife garden with native plants, shelter, and water sources for native wildlife."

[August 2015]