TNCC Biology Professor Studies Rare Fish in Japan

Published: January 18, 2011

Thomas Nelson Community College’s Jennifer Martin studies rare fish, but merely reading about them is not enough. The Assistant Professor of Biology goes where the fish are. Her latest investigation involves intense field research in Japan to gather information to complete a Doctoral degree in Marine Science at William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). Martin embarked on the month-long excursion on January 5 and the itinerary includes stops in Tokyo, Sapporo, Kyoto, Kanagawa, Chiba, and several coastal fishing villages.

“My research program centers on marine fishes and their environments, integrating questions pertaining to biology, ecology, genetics and oceanography. More specifically, the focus of my dissertation is on the systematics and evolution of the Lampridiform fishes, the oarfishes and their relatives, from the Indo-West Pacific Ocean,” Martin said.

The trip is partially funded by a research grant awarded along with the 2010-11 Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS) Chancellor’s Faculty Fellowship Martin received. The prestigious award is given annually to no more than three professional educators within the VCCS “to ensure that capable people within the VCCS have opportunities to prepare themselves for top-level management and instructional positions within the VCCS.” The Chancellor’s Faculty Fellows are required to engage in full-time graduate study, which includes time used to complete course work and/or the time needed to complete a dissertation.

The trip was also funded by William & Mary’s Reves Center for International Studies, the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History and the National Science Museum in Tokyo.

Martin plans to collect specimens to study evolutionary relationships of several types of fish and examine the abundance of oarfish that washed ashore in Japan last year. She will also gather information for her upcoming book that will examine the biological basis for ancient Japanese folklore. Martin hopes her experiences will allow her to bring a more holistic approach to Biology courses at TNCC. “Sometimes, even in a Biology class, the connection is not Biology. Maybe it is culture, or literature, or geography; something that goes beyond the textbook and gets students excited, which opens their minds to learning,” Martin said.

Martin has been a TNCC faculty member for five years, introducing several new courses to the curriculum, including Biology 102 Honors, Science for Middle School Teachers, Marine Biology, Research Methods in Biology and Tropical Ecology, a course that includes two weeks of field study in Costa Rica, Nicaragua or both countries. She hopes to expand TNCC’s international education offerings to include field study in Asian destinations.

In 2009, she received a grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct field research in Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia. Last year, Martin was selected as one of 13 science researchers and educators to travel to China as part of the United States Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) China Workshop. Martin was the only representative from a community college. “I am extremely dedicated to expanding excellence in the science program at TNCC for both majors and non-majors,” Martin said.

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