Dr. Jennifer A. Clarke, a scholar with international research experience in animal behavior and communication, has been appointed Professor of Wildlife Biology at Unity College.

In her most recent position, Dr. Clarke served as Wallace Fellow and director of undergraduate study in the Department of Brain, Behaviour and Evolution, with research focusing on animal communication, at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. She has an extensive international background in teaching and learning, as well as research, in behavioral ecology.

She earned her PhD in Zoology and Behavioral Ecology from Washington State University in Pullman, Wash.; her MA in Zoology and Behavioral Ecology from the University of Montana in Missoula, Mont,; and her BA in zoology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She taught at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo., from 1989 to 2009, becoming a Full Professor in 2002.

“As we build towards a national presence, it is important for us to hire faculty who are experts in their respective fields and are willing to engage our students as mentors not just as teachers,” Unity College President Dr. Stephen Mulkey said. “Dr. Clarke demonstrated those qualities in our international search for this position, and I’m confident that her colleagues and students will benefit from her experience, commitment, and engagement at America’s Environmental College.”

With research areas that include behavioral ecology, animal communication, and conservation, some of Dr. Clarke’s recent academic publications include “Dingo (Canis lups dingo) acoustic repertoire: Form and context,” in the journal Behaviour; and “Mother knows best: Functionally referential alarm calling in white-tailed ptarmigan,” in the journal Animal Cognition.

Her recent work exemplifies how research in behavioral ecology can influence wildlife management.  This includes research on the effect of urban noise on communication in grey-headed flying-foxes, and the role that signaling behaviors in Tasmanian devils may play in transmission of facial tumor disease. Another focus of her research is the effect of moonlight on animal behavior and the potential impacts of light pollution on the activities of nocturnal species.

In the past, Dr. Clarke served as a panel member of a USA National Science Foundation committee reviewing education research proposals, and as a consultant and contributor for the USA Educational Testing Service.

As Professor of Zoology at the University of Northern Colorado, she served as chairwoman of the University Graduate Council and of the University Standards Committee, was a member of the University President’s Planning Committee, and received nine university teaching awards. Dr. Clarke also was a member of a team that designed a highly successful PhD program in Bioeducation at Northern Colorado, which focused on maintaining a balance between excellence in scholarship and teaching.

Clarke said she is passionate about the importance of research experience in undergraduate education, and speaks often about training students in how to obtain an “agile mind.”

“Helping to develop mental agility in students is a goal of mine,” she said. “This will serve students far more than massive amounts of memorized knowledge ever could – although a knowledge foundation is essential. If I am successful, students experience how to think on their feet and how to question, explore and take risks in their learning.

“Providing experiences is critical for learning,” she added. “I recall a colleague who was frustrated because students in his course complained they could not understand his lectures. When I sat in on one of his lectures I saw why. When he lectured, he had experiences and images in his mind, and it never occurred to him that the students did not have the same experiences or the same mental images to help make sense of the information.  The best way to address this problem is by facilitating field experiences, and Unity College clearly supports that approach.”

“Dr. Clarke is an excellent addition to our faculty,” said Brent Bibles, director of the Center for Natural Resource Management and Protection at Unity College. “Her teaching values experiential learning, which aligns perfectly with Unity’s unique approach to training the next generation of environmental leaders. Her broad background will be invaluable as we prepare these students, and her research programs will provide numerous opportunities for students to engage in applied behavioral research.  We are excited she will be contributing her skills to our efforts to produce well-prepared and successful graduates.”

“Dr. Clarke brings to Unity College excellent experience in both research and teaching,” said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Michael Evans. “She is an engaging teacher — her teaching presentation here was lively and interesting —and her work with animal communication and behavior is highly relevant to Unity’s mission. We are delighted to welcome her to our faculty.”

Friday, April 10, 2015