News & Resources

Featured Faculty: Ben Van Ee, Applied Biodiversity Genetics

Posted by Paul Wiemerslage in College Program in Faculty | Oct 27, 2015

Another of Au Sable’s faculty who is himself an Au Sable alumni, Ben is a scientist and scholar who pays attention to detail, especially genetic and molecular detail. Ben earned his Bachelor’s degrees (two of them) from Dordt College (Iowa) in Environmental Studies and Spanish before completing his PhD in Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Ben also holds Naturalist and Land Resources Analyst certificates from Au Sable. Presently a faculty member and Director of the Herbarium in the Biology Department of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, a Land Grant, Space Grant, and Sea Grant institution, he is the author of over 30 publications in molecular DNA analysis and plant systematics.  His work represented in some of the best journals in his discipline, including American Journal of Botany, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Systematic Botany, and Taxon. He also serves as associate editor for the journals Phytotaxa and Systematic Botany.

At Au Sable, Ben’s course, Applied Biodiversity Genetics, offers students the opportunity to learn techniques of genetic and molecular investigation that are at the cutting edge of technology, and are valuable skills sought by graduate programs and scientific employers. Students like Casey Vogel, who took Ben’s course recall,“I found Ben Van Ee to be an excellent professor. He designed his course such that each student could apply current technology and techniques to investigate a question of their own interest relevant to current research with the potential to add to the current body of knowledge in a significant way. He challenges students to understand the vast possibilities for the application of our current tools and the implications of what we can find.”Another student in the same class commented, “Already having taken a genetics course but not fully understanding the subject material; this class supplemented all of that information so that I hopefully will apply this to future research, now knowing much more from taking this course.”

Despite many demands on his time and an increasing array of opportunities for his research and teaching skills, Ben continues to return each summer to Au Sable. He explains “I developed a strong connection with the setting and with the idea of Au Sable during my time as a student, and it opened a lot of doors for me. I feel privileged and excited to be involved in training new scientists and earthkeepers.”

Ben Van Ee’s course, Applied Biodiversity Genetics, is a truly unique offering that few other field study centers can duplicate. The skills acquired bring a whole new dimension to, and understanding of, conducting field investigations in biology and environmental science. Few courses offer knowledge and skills more employable, or more attractive to Graduate Selection Committees, than Molecular Tools for the Field Biologist. In the skilled hands of Ben Van Ee, these knowledge and skills become part of every student’s tool kit in investigating plants and animals around us, and the best means to their conservation.