Dr. Aimée K. Thomas is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Director of the Environment Program at Loyola University New Orleans. She has an interest in promoting environmental awareness by 1) researching the natural history of invertebrate species, particularly local and tropical spider communities, and 2) effective communication of science through community-engaged learning research, teaching, and outreach. Recent projects have focused on spider communities in Belize, New Orleans City Park, and Jean Lafitte National Park, insect pollinators in urban landscapes, using urban landscapes as a learning lab, and STEM education in informal learning environments. She served as Co-PI on the NSF-funded project "OUTSIDE: Over, Under, and Through: Students Informally Discover the Environment”. The project goals were to improve content knowledge, stimulate interaction with nature, train naturalists, and integrate technology into an informal science education experience for middle school students. This project specifically aimed to 1) develop a training program for volunteer naturalists, and 2) capture patterns in learning and interactions between students and naturalists during OUTSIDE programs. In addition, she and her team directed the BioBlitz: New Orleans City Park and the Loyola Academy workshop to empower New Orleanians to sustainably live with water.
Dr. Thomas currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Louisiana Master Naturalists of Greater New Orleans, an organization that encourages members of the community to be good stewards of the environment by learning the natural history of the Greater New Orleans region and volunteering time to teach others about the complexities of the natural history of the region.
Dr. Thomas has received more than $780,000 to fund her research and environmental education programs and has worked with over 10,000 students ranging from kindergarten to graduate school in formal and informal science settings, in addition to teaching for 20+ years. She co-leads tropical ecology study abroad trips to Belize, Guatemala, Ecuador, and the Galápagos Islands.
At Loyola, she has received several Bobet and Carter Fellowships, most recently for her development of an innovative first-semester biology course that uses experiential learning to teach the process of science, the University Senate Award in Teaching as well as the Loyola College of Arts & Sciences Award in Teaching. She was named a National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences and serves as a reviewer and Co-Coordinator of the Poster Session for the National Association of Biology Teachers.
Collaborative Research with Students
Dr. Thomas and her students study the ecology and natural history of invertebrate species, particularly spider and insect communities. All of their research focuses on environmental issues, such as macroinvertebrate use of invasive plant species in Louisiana wetlands and spider communities in urban landscapes. They also study methods to improve environmental education and outreach.
Dr. Thomas welcomes highly motivated students who are interested in turning their passions into purpose by joining the Thomas Lab and conducting novel scientific research. Send an email or stop by to discuss potential collaborations.
Thomas, A.K. “Spiders of Woodlands” Invited Speaker for the Wetland Wednesdays Series at the Woodlands Conservancy, November 2020 https://www.facebook.com/140151489379755/videos/359236941996184
Thomas, A.K. “Our Corner of the Planet” Documentary (Amazon Prime) about what innovators are doing to save the planet, September 2020 https://www.amazon.com/Our-Corner-Planet-Marianne-Fairbanks/dp/B08HSKDQ2Q
Thomas, A.K. “Discover Urban Insects” Invited Speaker for the National Park Service Jean LafitteNational Park Barataria Unit summer series, July 2020 https://www.nps.gov/jela/learn/kidsyouth/urban-insects.htm
- Stevenson, Dirk J.; Grover Brown, Houston Chandler, Daniel Dye, Christopher Garza, Marks McWhorter, Matt Moore, and Aimée Thomas. 2018. Recent noteworthy distribution records for Deinopis spinosa (Marx, 1889) (Araneae: Deinopidae) in the Southeastern United States. Southeastern Naturalist. 17(2):N28-N33.
- Crews, S.C.; A.K. Thomas, and S. Hester. 2018. First record of Selenops submaculosus Bryant (Araneae, Selenopidae; a flattie spider) from Louisiana. Southeastern Naturalist. 17(1):N-10-N14
- Moore, A., K.L. Daniel, and A.K. Thomas. 2016. Engaging students in science through a nature hike: A case of two students with ADHD. American Journal of Undergraduate Research 13:73-80.
- Thomas, R.A., and A.K. Thomas. 2015. Addressing the problem of poorly preserved zoological specimens: A case study with turtles. American Biology Teacher 77:378–380.
- Boyce, C.J., C. Mishra, K.L. Halverson, and A.K. Thomas. 2014. Getting students OUTSIDE: Using technology as a way to stimulate engagement. Journal of Science Education and Technology 23:815-826.
Ph.D. Biology Education, University of Southern Mississippi (2010) and M.S. Environmental Biology, University of Southern Mississippi (2001)
- Environmental Resilience and Sustainability
- Environmental Justice and Equity
- Foundations in Environmental Science
- Naturally N’awlins
- Tropical Ecology (Belize, Ecuador, Galápagos Islands, and Pantanal, Brazil)
- Investigating Nature
Areas of Expertise
- Spider & Insect Natural History
- Tropical & Local Natural History
- Science/Environmental Education
- Urban Environmental Issues
- Informal Education & Outreach