DEPARTMENT: Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Science
POSITION: Program Director, Professor
LOCATION: Main Campus, Harrisonburg | SSC 026D
PHONE: (540) 432-4410
Jim advises the Environmental Sustainability majors and teaches ecology and conservation biology courses. He earned his Ph.D. from the Ohio State University and his primary research interests include conservation biology, landscape ecology, behavioral ecology and GIS (Geographical Information Systems). Past research has focused on population and behavioral responses of species to habitat fragmentation. His dissertation research at The Ohio State University was in collaboration with the Ohio Division of Wildlife and examined the effects of fragmented habitat on the dispersal and population dynamics of ruffed grouse in southeastern Ohio.
In 2006 he began a longterm collaborative study working with Shenandoah National Park research botanist, Wendy Cass. The research is being conducted by 2-3 EMU undergraduates per year (including summers) as well as SNP personnel. The project includes intense on-site field sampling as well as mapping and analysis of exotic plant spread and impact using GIS. The project addresses two specific research questions that focus on the exotic plants invading the Shenandoah National Park: 1) What is the rate of spread of the three most threatening exotic species beginning to invade the Big Meadows Swamp Natural Heritage area and 2) What is the impact of these exotics on the continued viability of the eight rare plant species located within the area?
In the fall of 2014, Jim began a stream restoration and monitoring project in the German River and Crab Run watersheds near Bergton, VA. This is also a long-term collaborative project with initial funding provided by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant that includes partnering with EMU colleague Dr. Doug Graber Neufeld, Brian Wagner of Ecosystem Services, LLC., Tom Akre at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and EMU’s Center for Justice and Peace. The immediate goals of the project are to conduct a watershed assessment and restore two sections of stream as well as assess potential strategies to encourage adoption of best management practices by community members. His students are specifically working on stream macroinvertebrate monitoring of restoration impacts and long-term population trends of Wood turtles in the watersheds.
Jim is also heavily involved in study abroad education and has lead cross-cultural trips to New Zealand in the summer of 2010 (6 weeks), fall 2012 (full semester) and summer of 2015 (6 weeks) with his wife Kathy. The trips focused on sustainability issues related to tourism, natural resource conservation, and agriculture as well as indigenous Maori culture, restorative justice and New Zealand history. He also co-led a 3 week summer cross-cultural to Navajo Nation in Arizona with Dr. Gloria Rhodes in the summer of 2017. In the summer of 2020, he will be leading a 6 week cross-cultural to Guatemala focusing on Spanish language learning, indigenous communities and cloud forest conservation.
In addition to teaching, Jim is the curator of the D. Ralph Hostetter Museum of Natural History and was recently the faculty resource person and chair of the implementation team for the Peace With Creation Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), a 5 year initiative drawing together EMU students, faculty and staff around the theme of sustainability and how it relates to Anabaptist beliefs concerning creation care, peace and social justice.
PHD, Ohio State University (Evolution, Ecology & Organismal Biology)
BS, Eastern Mennonite University (Biology with a Minor in Computer Science & English)