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I'm always eager to mentor dedicated student researchers in my lab, and I've learned a great deal from them.
"Our students want to be trusted with meaningful responsibilities, real audiences and the potential for impact," says Professor Steve Jordan, biology. "I develop projects with them that apply the information they've learned to real-world problems."
Two real-world problems Jordan and his students are addressing concern endangered species conservation and sustainable farming. As an evolutionary biologist, Jordan's research has focused on Pacific Island damselflies and Montana stoneflies. He and three students recently traveled to the Flathead Lake Biological Station in Montana to study the stoneflies and tiny crustaceans that live primarily in the cold, dark, low-oxygen environment of a floodplain aquifer.
"Genomic sequencing tells us a lot about these species," Jordan explains. "We see how they migrate, we determine the regions of their genomes that allow them to adapt to a changing environment, and by sequencing DNA of adult stoneflies, we can identify to which species various larvae belong."
As global warming intensifies and glaciers melt, many species are in danger of extinction. Jordan's research has been used to support proposals to put several stonefly species on the official endangered species list, which could aid their protection.
While Jordan's courses in entomology, ecology and evolution draw heavily on his research interests, his new foundation seminar focuses on another of his passions: sustainable and local agriculture.
"In this course we get our hands dirty working at a local organic farm," says Jordan. "The course is part of the Residential College program, so the students all live in the new Food College with like-minded classmates."
Jordan also brings his passion for food to France, where he co-teaches a two-and-a-half week summer course on the science and culture of terroir. "In France, local agricultural products are strongly influenced by a particular set of geographical, geological and biological conditions, as well as cultural traditions," Jordan explains. "Together these influences lead to the unique French concept of terroir that we study from cultural and scientific perspectives."
Jordan's lab at Bucknell houses one of the world's largest repositories of Pacific Island damselfly DNA along with an impressive collection of insects built by students over the years and preserved to museum-quality standards. "I'm always eager to mentor dedicated student researchers in my lab, and I've learned a great deal from them," says Jordan. "Bucknell is a wonderful place to launch a research career, and many students go on to top-flight programs and opportunities."
Posted August 2018