Mark Myers Awarded Fulbright Fellowship in Colombia

Quotations taken from Dr. Mark Myers’ Fulbright Proposal

Growing up chasing butterflies, tracking mammals, and fishing in Ohio’s Maumee River Valley helped to establish Dr. Mark Myers, associate professor of biology, as a lifelong student of the natural world. These early experiences led to a particular interest in conservation biology, which is the topic of his research for his upcoming Fulbright fellowship. The research will take place February through June of 2014 at the Antioquia School of Engineering (ASE) in Colombia.

While in Colombia, Myers plans to teach a course in Conservation Biology, as well as collaborating with ASE faculty to teach special topics in Ecology and Biology courses. He will also participate in research on the impacts of development projects on Colombian biodiversity and deliver public lectures on his research interests.

“As a conservation biologist, I conduct research to gain understanding of biological systems, which can then be applied to prevent biodiversity loss and maintain ecological complexity,” said Myer. “As an educator, I strive to help students understand humans’ place in nature, to promote the development of an ecological worldview, to raise awareness of the global biodiversity crisis, and to highlight the need for their generation to aggressively promote biodiversity conservation.”

Myers had many reasons for choosing Colombia as the location for his Fulbright. His wife is a native of Medellín, Colombia and a 2000 alumnus of the Antioquia School of Engineering. He is also fluent in Spanish and has conducted research on imperiled species in Costa Rica.

“Nowhere is there a greater need for ecological literacy and cautious environmental assessment than in Colombia, a country widely recognized as a global biodiversity hotspot with high rates of endemism and containing an estimated 10% of the world’s species,” said Myer.

Myers has taught courses in Ecology, Conservation Biology, Evolution and the Nature of Science, Wildlife Ecology and Management, and Organismal Diversity. He is looking forward to applying his experiences at UNI on his Fulbright.

“Coming to Colombia from Iowa, where the conversion of Midwestern native tallgrass prairie ecosystem to row crop agriculture over the past 150 years has been described as one of the most rapid and complete ecological transformations in human history, I believe I can offer Colombian students a unique perspective on the need to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem integrity and on the negative consequences and repercussions of failing to do so,” said Myer.

Myers’ teaching philosophy centers around creating an atmosphere of mutual respect that allows him to establish individual relationships with students. He plans for his students to conduct research on Colombian biodiversity, ecosystems, and conservation efforts.

“My own best educational experiences often occurred outside of the classroom, and I feel strongly that one of my most important roles as an educator is to be a mentor to my students,” said Myer.

As a result of his work in Colombia, Myers hopes to increase awareness of the elevated rates of biodiversity loss, establish relationships that could lead to on-going collaborations between UNI and ASE, and to promote an international perspective among his future students.

“On a personal level, I expect that the exchange of ideas, collaborative research, and diverse ecological and cultural experiences that would characterize a Fulbright experience in Colombia will strengthen my own commitment to ecological research and education and hopefully foster a lifelong interest in biodiversity among my Colombian and U.S. students,” said Myer.