Faculty Spotlight: Dr. James Kennedy | College of Science
August 29, 2018

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. James Kennedy


Dr. James Kennedy is a Regents Professor of Biological Sciences and the co-founder of the University of North Texas Chile program and the Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program. He has been involved in international exchanges, student education, and research outside the borders of the US for over 20 years. These experiences included organizing student experiences in Mexico, Cuba, and especially Chile. During this period he has been a Fulbright Scholar with the mission to develop educational partnerships and opportunities in Chile, particularly with the University of Magallanes in Punta Arenas. He continues to serve as a visiting professor in their graduate programs and exchanges with UNT students. Coupling traditional education with research experiences have enabled him to involve his students in research education opportunities in the Cape Horn Region of South America and Antarctica. He does all this and still managed to take some time to answer a few questions so we could spotlight his work and welcome students back to UNT for the Fall 2018 school year!

Q: What will you be teaching this semester?

A: This fall, I will be teaching BIOL 5070/4070 Insect Biology. This is a lecture laboratory course. For many students, it will be the first laboratory where they will spend a considerable amount of time doing field activities outside. I will also be mentoring 2 McNair students, 3 PhD and 4 MS degree students. My laboratory will also include a number of volunteer and paid undergraduate researchers. I will also guest lecture in the Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation class on aquatic ecology and the CVAD Drawing 1 class on the connection of natural history and art.

Q: What are you looking forward to this school year?

A: I always look forward to meeting a new cohort of students in my courses. For many of the students, it will be the first time they have taken a course that includes a significant outdoor component. I am also looking forward to working with new undergraduate students working in my lab. In the subject areas I teach and research (Aquatic Entomology and Aquatic Ecology), it will also be the first time that many of these students are exposed to field based courses and realize the job potentials in the field of ecology.

Q: Tell us about your current research:

A: My research program focuses on five areas: stream ecology, aquatic insect biology, biodiversity studies, the use of macroinvertebrates in the ecological risk assessment process, and environmental education. Much of my current research is focused in the Sub-Antarctic region of South America and Antarctica, where I am part of a team developing long-term monitoring programs using aquatic invertebrates. These programs are designed to measure biologically significant changes in aquatic ecosystems that may be associated with global climate change.

Other research projects in my laboratory include:

· Monitoring of mosquitoes and arboviruses (i.e. WNV) for the City of Denton

· Ecology of Denton's urban ponds with the City of Denton

· Aquatic Biodiversity at Camp Maxey- Texas Army National Guard

· Role of aquatic invertebrates in the transfer of mercury in food chains

· Relationship of insectivorous birds struck by airplanes at DFW airport and insect populations on airport grounds.

Q: What advice do you have for students?

A: Advice for undergraduate biology students is to reach out to faculty whose fields of study interest you and seek opportunities to work in their laboratories. These experiences will serve you well in the future when seeking recommendations. The experiences will also provide you with skills and knowledge that is impossible to get in formal courses. In my opinion, practical experiences are as important, or sometimes more important, than grades.