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New Faculty Bring Passion, Expertise to Institute Courses

Apr 13, 2014

Au Sable welcomes four new faculty members to their posts this summer. Dr. Darren Proppe (Calvin College) brings a passion for wildlife and a background in bird and research to our Animal Ecology course. Proppe will also be directing a new research project on bird behavior at the Institute this summer. Dr. Vern Peters (The King's University College) will descend from the pine-filled, mountainous places he usually studies to teach our Conservation Biology course in the mix-hardwood forests of Northern Michigan. Dr. Mark Gathany (Cedarville University) will guide our new course in Environmental Applications for GIS as well as teach the GIS component of our Land Resources course. Lastly, Dr. Jonathan Peterson (Hope College) will take students below ground for geological inquiry in the geology component of our Land Resources course.

Dr. Darren Proppe

Dr. Proppe teaches the Animal Ecology course at the Great Lakes Campus during Summer Session I. Darren is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Calvin College and is broadly trained in animal behavior, ecology, and conservation biology. His research interest have focused on vocal communication and the distribution of songbirds in response to anthropogenic noise, building from his Ph.D. research at the University of Alberta. 

After growing up saying, “I will never go under the ocean or out into space,” Dr. Darren Proppe started his research career studying coral diseases on a reef 100 miles off the coast of Texas as an undergraduate at Texas A&M University. Shortly after graduation, however, a temporary position assessing populations of endangered golden cheeked warbler in Central Texas shifted Darren’s focus from the marine environment to terrestrial ecosystems. His interest in birds, the ecological processes that support them, and the need for conservation measures, blossomed throughout his graduate research and as an assistant professor.

As an educator, Darren strives for a relaxed, yet rigorous, approach to learning about the natural world. He promotes applied learning through hands-on activities and example driven presentations. He is most invigorated when teaching students while immersing them in the ecosystem they are studying! Perhaps, that is because it is here that the beauty of God’s Creation is most evident.

Dr. Vern Peters

Dr. Vern Peters teaches the Conservation Biology course at the Great Lakes Campus during Summer Session I. He specializes in the population ecology of endangered pines and seed predators in high elevation ecosystems, and looks forward to sharing his species recovery planning experiences from working with a variety of government agencies and conservation organizations.

He is particularly excited about teaching in the field (at a time when leaves are present, a rare opportunity for northern ecologists!) and sharing his love of forest ecosystems. He received his B.Sc. in Botany and Zoology at the University of Manitoba, and Ph.D. in Ecology and Environmental Biology at the University of Alberta. Vern is an associate professor of Ecology at the King’s University College, in Edmonton, Alberta, where he is currently the Chair of Biology.

Dr. Mark Gathany

Dr. Mark Gathany teaches the Environmental Applications for GIS course during Summer Session II as well as the GIS component of the Land Resources course during Summer Session I at the Great Lakes Campus. Mark is Assistant Professor of Biology at Cedarville University, specializes in ecology and biogeochemistry, and teaches courses in ecology, geographic information systems (GIS), and environmental ethics.

Mark received his Ph.D. in Ecology from Colorado State University, where he became an expert in GIS technology through his research in ecosystem management and modeling on how fire and changing land use patterns affect carbon storage, nitrogen flow, and flux of greenhouse gas rates in forest ecosystems.

Mark’s publications have appeared in such peer-reviewed journals as Forests, Global Change Biology, and International Journal of Wildland Fire and he serves as a reviewer for international journals like Ecological Modeling, Environmental Management, and Forest Ecology and Management. He serves as the faculty representative to Au Sable Institute at Cedarville University and as the faculty advisor for the Cedarville student organization Earthwise.

Dr. Jonathan Peterson

Dr. Jonathan Peterson co-teaches the Land Resources course at the Great Lakes Campus during Summer Session I. During the regular school year, he serves as Professor of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Hope College. Jonathan received his Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Chicago.

His research has appeared in numerous peer-reviewed journals such as Chemosphere, Environmental Pollution, Hydrogeology Journal, and Environmental Geology and has taught courses in Mineralogy, Petrology, Hydrogeology and team-teaches courses in Environmental Public Policy, Laboratory Methods in Environmental Science, and Earth Environmental Systems I & II.