POSITION: Professor of Biology; Program Director - Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Science
School of Sciences, Engineering, Art and Nursing
Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Science
LOCATION: Main Campus, Harrisonburg | SSC 026D
PHONE: (540) 432-4410
Jim is the current program director for the Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Science programs. He advises Environmental Science and biology majors and primaryly teaches in the areas of evolution, ecology and conservation biology. 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.
More recently he has become involved in nitrogen footprint tracking, becoming a member of the Nitrogen Footprint Working Group centered at the University of New Hampshire Center for Sustainability and the University of Virginia. Current projects involve tracking carbon and nitrogen footprints at both EMU and for the City of Harrisonburg and working on footprint reduction scenarios and goal setting. Additionally, he is working on research projects related to Saw-whet owl migration data collected locally over the past 20 years as well as a project focusing on factors affecting STEM major retention at EMU over the past 8 years.
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 Yoder. 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 two 3 week summer cross-cultural trip to Navajo Nation in Arizona focusing on similar themes with the Navajo and Apache peoples, first with Dr. Gloria Rhodes (2017) and most recently with Kathy Yoder (2021). In March of 2023 he led a 3-week alumni cross-cultural trip to New Zealand and in summer of 2023 a research trip to Mareeba, Queensland, Australia with 6 students from EMU, Bridgewater, and JMU. This wass his 2nd research trip to Queensland with research students of Dr. Matt Siderhurst, recipient of a NSF grant to fund research experiences overseas for undergrad students. Jim and Matt are collaborating on a Queensland fruit fly project, tracking movements using harmonic radar to better model outbreaks and dispersal of this agricultural pest.
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)