‘Excellence in Ecology Education’

Ohio Wesleyan Professor Earns Teaching Award from Ecological Society of America

By Cole Hatcher

Laurel J. Anderson, Ph.D.

DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University professor Laurel J. Anderson is the 2022 winner of the Ecological Society of America’s Eugene P. Odum Award for Excellence in Ecology Education, the society announced today.

Anderson, Ph.D., is Ohio Wesleyan’s Morris Family Professor of Natural Sciences in the Department of Biological Sciences. She joined the university’s faculty in 2001. Anderson and all recipients of 2022 Ecological Society of America (ESA) awards will be formally recognized during the society’s annual meeting in August.

According to today’s ESA news release:

Dr. Anderson is a pioneer in transforming ecology education practices who has advocated for integrating authentic research in undergraduate education for more than a decade.

In 2009, she played an instrumental leadership role in establishing a distributed network for integrating ecology teaching and research at primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs), which eventually became known as the Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN). With a large group of collaborators, she and others believed, ecology educators at PUIs could conduct valuable large-scale ecological research – akin to that done at R1 institutions – through collaborative networks, while also including their students in authentic research. Dr. Anderson’s work was instrumental in helping the community identify and implement a larger vision for a new model of ecology education at PUIs – and at all types of institutions.

She has inspired many of her colleagues to transform their own pedagogies and use undergraduate research projects in their courses. To continue expanding the impact of EREN, she has received, with colleagues, two additional NSF (National Science Foundation) grants to integrate data from the National Ecological Observatory Network into EREN projects. To expand the impact of this work, she has also published and presented papers about EREN’s work in diverse outlets, including 13 presentations with five undergraduates as first author or co-author over the past 10 years at ESA’s annual meetings.

Dr. Anderson’s teaching excellence has been recognized at her home institution through her receipt of two named professorships: the Libuse L. Reed Endowed Professorship (2007-2009) and the inaugural Morris Family Professorship of Natural Sciences (May 2019 to present). At the state level, she was named Ohio Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in 2015.

Regarding service relevant to this award, she was a member of the Science, Technology, and Education Advisory Committee (STEAC) for the National Ecological Observatory Network (2016-2018), was the inaugural chair of ESA’s Section for Researchers at Undergraduate Institutions (2007-09) and served as chair of the Odum Award Committee (2015-2017). Because of her inspiring leadership, ESA presents Dr. Anderson with this year’s Odum Award for Excellence in Ecology Education.

Learn more about professor Anderson and Ohio Wesleyan’s Department of Biological Sciences at owu.edu/BiologicalSciences.

About the Ecological Society of America

The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at www.esa.org.

About Ohio Wesleyan University

Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more than 70 undergraduate majors and competes in 24 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through its signature program, The OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan teaches students to integrate knowledge across disciplines, build a diverse and global perspective, and apply knowledge in real-world settings. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives” and included on the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “Best Colleges” lists. Connect with OWU expert interview sources at owu.edu/experts or learn more at owu.edu.