Kate Jenks ’02

Kate is a conservation biologist at the Minnesota Zoo. Her mission is to reduce threats to wildlife by using science to solve conservation problems. “I seek to see a planet full of life and awe-inspiring wild places.” She assists the Tiger Species Survival Plan and Tiger Conservation Campaign, and she organizes the zoo’s Recycle for Rainforests Program. She continues her research on dholes in Thailand and is collaborating with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Mongolia on a project related to reintroduced Przewalski’s horses. Her former biology professor, Paul Sotherland, is a big fan. “CONGRATULATIONS,” he wrote to Kate, “on doing such cool stuff!”

Sarah Rockwell ’02

arahRockwellSarah manages the Klamath Bird Observatory’s bird monitoring work on the Trinity River Restoration Program in northwestern California. Body temperature and blood work-ups provide indicators of human health; in a somewhat similar way birds are indicators of a functional river ecosystem. Sarah manages research looking into how changes in habitat structure associated with river restoration are related to bird abundance, diversity and demography. Results shape and assess river restoration activities. Sarah joined KBO in 2013 after earning her Ph.D. at the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. She studied the ecology of the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler. At K, she majored in biology with a concentration in environmental studies. She studied abroad in Ecuador. KBO is a scientific non-profit organization that achieves bird conservation in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the migratory ranges of the birds that frequent the ruggedly beautiful and wildlife-rich Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion of southern Oregon and northern California. KBO emphasizes high caliber science and the role of birds as indicators of the health of the land, and the organization specializes in cost-effective bird monitoring and research projects that improve natural resource management. It nurtures a conservation ethic in local communities through outreach and educational programs.

Tess Killpack ’06

Tess represents one of several K-Plan roots to a recent fruition of egg-and-bird science. A research paper recently published in the Journal of Experimental Biology sheds new light on the stunning metamorphosis that occurs at or near hatching in many birds. The paper has a mighty title: “Development of endothermy and concomitant increases in cardiac and skeletal muscle mitochondrial respiration in the precocial Pekin duck,” and, it turns out, some very deep Kalamazoo College connections. “Most of the work was done in the lab of Ed Dzialowski ’93,” wrote Paul Sotherland, professor emeritus of biology (and, like Ed, a listed coauthor of the paper). He added, “The storyline all got started WAY back when Tess discovered, in her Senior Individualized Project, the dramatic (think: Grinch-like…hah!) cardiac growth in chickens, a discovery illustrated nicely in Figure 4 of the paper (and acknowledged with the highlighted citation on page one of the paper).” The title of Tess’s SIP was “A change of heart in birds: cardiac response to the onset of endothermy.” According to Paul, Tess’s was not the only SIP “root” that nourished the Experimental Biology paper. “A SIP done by Alan (Skip) Faber ’14 contributed as well,” said Paul,”which is acknowledged by his coauthorship of the paper.” Ed is an associate professor in the department of biological sciences at the University of North Texas. Tess is an instructor in the biological sciences laboratory at Wellesley College. Skip is beginning his second year of dental school at the University of Michigan.

Rob Morrison ’06

Rob has received a Henry and Sylvia Richardson Research Grant from the Entomological Society of America (ESA). The grant provides research funds to postdoctoral ESA members who have at least one year of promising work experience, are undertaking research in selected areas, and have demonstrated a high level of scholarship. Rob earned his B.A. from K with a major in biology and a minor in German. He studied abroad in Erlangen, Germany. He earned his master’s degree from the University of Munich (Germany), where he majored in ecology, evolution, and systematics, and studied the evolutionary biology between two closely related species of ants. He received his Ph.D. in entomology from Michigan State University. There he helped to develop an integrated pest management program for the asparagus miner. That research included investigating the development, chemical ecology, and natural enemies of that insect. Rob is currently a postdoctoral research entomologist at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia. He is researching an integrated pest management program for the invasive brown marmorated stink bug. Rob has more than a decade of experience in helping to develop integrated pest management programs for pests in vegetables and tree fruit. He’s written 18 peer-reviewed publications and made more than 100 presentations.

Keith Crandall ’87

Keith is the founding director of the Computational Biology Institute at George Washington University. He studies computational biology, population genetics and bioinformatics, and he helps develop and test big data methods of DNA sequence analysis. He applies this work to the study of the evolution of both infectious diseases (especially HIV) and crustaceans (especially crayfish). Keith has published more than 250 peer reviewed publications, as well as three books. He has been a Fulbright Visiting Scholar to Oxford University (England) and an Allen Wilson Centre Sabbatical Fellow at the University of Auckland (Australia). He has received a number of awards for research and teaching, including the American Naturalist Society Young Investigator Award, an NSF CAREER Award, a PhRMA Foundation Faculty Development Award in Bioinformatics, Honors Professor of the Year award at Brigham Young University, ISI Highly Cited Researcher, and the Edward O. Wilson Naturalist Award. He recently was elected a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). At K, Keith majored in biology and studied abroad in Madrid, Spain. After graduating, Keith served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Puyo, Ecuador. He earned his master’s degree (statistics) and his Ph.D. (biology and biomedical sciences) from Washington University.

David Evans, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Biology

DavidEvansDavid died on September 20, 2016. He was 77 years old, four days shy of his 78th birthday, and doing one of the things he loved most–taking a walk on a trail. David’s 39-year career at Kalamazoo College began in 1965 and concluded with his retirement in 2004. “Biology is magnificent,” he once said, “and humbling, and goofy. In some sense, biology is best approached with a good eye for silliness, for it is stuffed with paradoxes, irony, and the ridiculous. This aspect of the subject is often the most engaging for non-majors, but it never fails to lead to more sophisticated material. I often used this movement from the ridiculous to the sublime as a teaching strategy in my courses.”

David’s area of specialty was insect behavior, and two important (and related) themes of his teaching and research were seasonality and adaptation. He earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Carleton College and his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin. His research was published in numerous journals, and he received many academic grants during his career.

His work took him to Africa many times. In 1982 he was a Fulbright professor of Biological Sciences at Njala University College at the University of Sierra Leone. In the early 1990s he visited the continent to study locust migrations on behalf of the United States Agency for International Development. His work and study in Africa became the basis for one of his K courses, “Ecology of Africa.” In 1995 he received the Frances Diebold Award for Contributions to the College Community, and in 1998 the faculty awarded him its highest teaching honor, the Florence J. Lucasse Lectureship for Excellence in Teaching. Those awards were related, in part, to the K marine ecology courses he co-taught with the late David Winch (professor emeritus of physics) on site at San Salvador Island and Jewfish Cay in the Caribbean. “On campus,” he said, “the class handled gray rubbery specimens preserved in jars. In San Salvador the students experienced the organisms alive and in color, and observed how they behaved in their habitat. It was like having one’s eyesight restored.”

Near and after his retirement he served during the summers as a naturalist at Fort Abercrombie State Park on Kodiak Island, Alaska. He loved that assignment, in part because of the “really cool truck” he drove, but mostly because of the liberal arts breadth of the work. In addition to naturalist, he worked as the island’s historian (delving into the area’s World War II days, in particular), and he wrote a weekly column for the island’s newspaper. Shortly after his final courses in a K classroom (spring term 2004) David served as “ship’s biology teacher” in a Semester-at-Sea program that circumnavigated the globe, with stops that included Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Myanmar, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil and Cuba. And long into his retirement he often contacted the College with alerts regarding the achievements of his former students, both majors and non-majors.

David always loved the liberal arts, a passion closely related to his academic and research interest in adaptation. He believed that the liberal arts was the best educational model to develop a broader range of reference and a better sense of humor, traits he considered essential for adaptation in careers and life in general.

He died taking a walk, an activity he loved (particularly along an ocean shore) and that he wrote about in his August 29, 2001, column in the Kodiak Daily Mirror, his final column for that summer’s season.

“For me, the last tide pool walks mean that the park season is winding down….[T]idepooling is one of the most unpredictable park activities in which I’m involved. We seem to have a particularly good time when children are along…

“There’s an Alutiq saying that expresses tidal rhythms in terms of using plants and animals as food: When the tide goes out, the table is set; When the tide comes in, the dishes are washed. The saying gets to the same rhythmic renewal that makes me appreciate this kind of field activity so much. I know I can go down to an area where I’ve been dozens of times, and I can be guaranteed of seeing something new and wondrous.”

Brett Blaauw ’05

Brett co-authored a paper that appeared in the Journal of Applied Ecology. According to paper’s other co-author, Rufus Isaacs, theirs is the first paper that demonstrates an economic advantage for farmers when they create wild bee habitat next to cultivated fields. The two entomologists planted marginal land surrounding blueberry fields with a mix of native perennial wildflowers. Even though the fields were pollinated by honey bees trucked in for the purpose, Brett discovered that, after a period of two years, the rising population of wild bees increased blueberry yields by 10 to 20 percent. That increase more than offset the costs of making the marginal land attractive to wild bee populations. Brett was the lead author on the paper. The K biology major completed his Ph.D. at Michigan State University under Isaacs and is now working at Rutgers University.

Nancy Huntly ’77

Nancy is the Scientist in Residency Fellow for the month of September at the Sitka Sound Science Center. Nancy is a professor in the biology department and the director of the ecology center at Utah State University (Logan). She also chairs the committee that administers Science Unwrapped, the USU College of Science public engagement program. She earned her B.A. in biology at K and her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Arizona. Since 2004 she has studied the human ecology of the northern Gulf of Alaska region. Her interests in Alaska are particularly in landscape legacies, food webs, and sustainable resource use.

Dan Babbitt ’96

Biologist, educator, and “bug geek,” Dan manages the O. Orkin Insect Zoo and Butterfly Pavilion (part of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History). He contributed his expertise to a recent NPR report (the delightfully titled “How Animals Hacked the Rainbow and Got Stumped on Blue”) about the evolution of the uses of color by animals. Turns out that living and reproducing depended occasionally on an organism’s ability to make itself a certain color. And it further turns out that the color blue was difficult for animals to make by ingesting dietary pigments (many animals get their color from their food). According to Dan, if you can’t make blue, then make the optical technology to appear blue. The entomologist then provides a beautiful example–the blue morpho butterfly, some of which he keeps at his insect zoo. They have tiny transparent structures on their wing surface that reflect light in a way that makes the wings appear so blue it hurts your eyes. But ground up wings, robbed of the reflective prism structures, look gray or brown. At K Dan majored in biology, and his study abroad in Ecuador gave him ample opportunity to pursue his love of insects, a passion he traces back to his freshman year aquatic ecology class. Dan has never forgotten the influence of K on the trajectory of his career. Not long ago he sponsored a K externship at the insect zoo.

J. Peter Coppinger ’99

Peter is an associate professor of biology at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana. Peter’s research interests include plant-microbe interactions and identification of phytoplasma in wildflowers. He teaches courses in cell and molecular biology, genetics, industrial microbiology, and plant biology. Peter earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and studied abroad in Aberdeen Scotland. After he graduated from K he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and studied rainforest ecophysiology at Macquarie Univeristy in Sydney, Australia. He earned his Ph.D. in plant biology at the University of California at Berkeley.