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Exploring the bonds between research, teaching

In James Beasley’s lab, students play an integral role in developing and shaping the research done there.

Their perspectives are very much valued, says the associate professor, who is based at the Savannah River Ecology Lab in Aiken, South Carolina. Teaching and research are linked, says Beasley, and it’s important for students to see first-hand how scientific discoveries are made.

Beasley was recently selected to receive the Alumni Association Faculty Award for Research, one of six faculty awards given annually by the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. His recent work, which examines wildlife populations in nuclear zones now devoid of human life, has been recognized around the world.

“Students are often the cornerstone of research at a university, and graduate students are involved in the vast majority of research projects in my lab,” says Beasley. “These students play an integral role in the process of scientific discovery, and often bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to research that I find exciting. I have been fortunate to have worked with so many incredibly talented graduate students at UGA over the last several years.”

Beasley came to UGA in 2012 and holds a dual appointment between Warnell and the Savannah River Ecology Lab. He teaches two courses in addition to his research: “Wildlife in America” is taught online, while “Field and Molecular Techniques in Wildlife Research and Management” is a hands-on, field-based course. His research follows a similar interdisciplinary approach, using a combination of field and laboratory approaches to develop solutions in managing and conserving wildlife populations.

His recent research, which examined wildlife in nuclear zones in Chernobyl and Fukushima, offered a glimpse of wildlife returning to its natural state amid human destruction. The work has produced numerous published papers and gives new insights into human/wildlife interactions.

But Beasley firmly believes that his role as a faculty member is to connect students with this kind of research—research that crosses boundaries while also serving as an educational tool. In the end, he says, he’s training the next generation of scientists.

“I particularly enjoy the opportunity to get out into the field with students and share my passion for conducting wildlife research,” he says. “Oftentimes my teaching activities are directly related to ongoing research activities in my lab, so students are able to gain unique insights into the process of scientific discovery that they are unable to get in a more traditional classroom setting.”

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