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New assistant director of Center for Environmental Studies named

October 11, 2017

Dr. Rodney Dyer, director of the Center for Environmental Studies (CES), recently announced Dr. James Vonesh as assistant director of CES. Dr. Vonesh held the position of associate professor at VCU’s Department of Biology.

As assistant director, Dr. Vonesh will play a key role in the management and development of the ENVS undergraduate curriculum, bringing with him more than 10 years of teaching experience and a commitment to experiential and global education.

“Dr. Vonesh’s skill and expertise provide fundamental support to the ongoing transitions this unit is undertaking in both its research and curricular missions,” stated Dr. Dyer.  “I am tremendously excited to have him onboard and look forward to his help in guiding this unit forward.”

A broadly trained population and community-level ecologist and author of more than 50 scientific papers, Dr. Vonesh’s research has spanned from understanding how habitat fragmentation has affected forest chameleons in East Africa and frogs in North America, how predators shape the timing of metamorphosis in Central American tree frogs, to using mosquitos’ natural habitat preferences against them for more effective management. The current focus of his research is understanding how changes in predator biodiversity from extinction or species introduction will impact prey populations and ecosystem function and services.  

Dr. Vonesh was instrumental in the development of the “Footprints on the James” course which explores the interaction between history and the environment as students paddle down nearly 200 miles of the river. Recently, following a Fulbright Fellowship, he developed a similarly themed “South African Summits-to-Sea”, an expedition-style course in which students explore the intersection of freshwater resources, society, and biodiversity. He has also led field courses in Uganda, Tanzania, Taiwan, and Madagascar. “Ideally”, Vonesh says, “research and teaching are not compartmentalized but reinforce each other. A good example of this is our current work studying predator-prey ecology in the rock pools of the James River. This collaboration includes a world class team of ecologists, undergraduates from courses at VCU and University of Richmond, and Richmond Public High School students from Open High School and aims to advance STEM education and basic science.”

Dr. Vonesh’s work can be found at voneshlab.

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