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Professor of Biology and Mathematics, Alaska Pacific University

For me, the best part of being an academic is when I share in the learning experience. That is, when I learn too. And this happens best with a group of seven to ten students who are adventuresome and eager to discover new ideas, perspectives, and stories—who seek not a dry recitation of facts, but an uncovering of understanding through the direct experience of learning.

After my first winter as a college freshman in Alaska, I nearly left the state, never to return. The dark and the distance from home isolated me. The apparent lack of culture – perhaps simply the over-dominance of the human by the natural – disoriented me. But after a summer climbing mountains, working canneries, and hitching the empty highways, I realized I had to stay. That was over 40 years ago.

Through the late 70’s, 80’s and most of the 90’s, I pursued a near obsession with Alaskan wilderness, while simultaneously nurturing an academic intrigue with ecology. I scaled rock and ice, skied glaciers, paddled rivers. I studied for four degrees, two in mathematics (B.S., M.S.) and two in biology (B.S., Ph.D). I learned to “packraft,” “hellbike,” and “glacier skate.” I learned to integrate, analyze, and communicate. Magazines and newspapers ran my hyperbole and exploits; peer-reviewed journals published my theory and data. For me the wild side feeds emotion and spirit; the analytic side feeds intellect and family.

So now, a professor at Alaska Pacific University, I feel blessed with an eclectic convergence. I indulge in my passions at will. I can take a class to the tropics or the arctic, where we can lie on our bellies and watch musk ox or dangle from ropes and watch monkeys. We can even move from tree to tree – “canopy trek” – collecting observations en route. We can paddle autumn rivers into Canada. Or read Sir Robert May on chaos, Benoit Mandelbrot on fractals and Per Bak on complexity. We can do wilderness and travel. We can do math and statistics. We can do nature and science. And we can find surprise and delight and challenge in it all.


  • –present
    Professor of Biology and Mathematics, Alaska Pacific University