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Peter J Jacobson
I am an ecosystem ecologist teaching at Grinnell College - a four-year liberal arts undergraduate institution in Iowa, U.S.A. All faculty in the Biology Department teach the introductory course (Introduction to Biological Inquiry) on subject matter of our choice, as the goal of the course is to expose students to “learning by doing” via experimental science. My Introduction to Biological Inquiry is entitled "The effects of climate change on organisms." In addition to a 200-level course in Evolution & Ecology, I teach upper-level courses in biogeochemistry and limnology and I recently taught a course on Namib Ecology, which involved course-embedded travel to the Namib Desert. I also teach interdisciplinary courses offered by our Global Development Studies & Environmental Studies concentrations. These two courses focus on the environmental, social, economic, and political implications of water scarcity and climate change, respectively.
My research interests are broad and I am currently working with students and colleagues on several projects in Iowa and Namibia. Much of my recent work has focused on groundwater-dependent ecosystems, including springs, fens and floodplain forests, and their response to changing land use, climate and hydrology. The Iowa Nature Conservancy has supported our work along the Lower Cedar River in southeastern Iowa where their network of preserves provides a dynamic natural laboratory for examining floodplain processes. We are also working at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in central Iowa, site of the largest reconstruction of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem in North America, examining carbon and nitrogen dynamics in groundwater across a chronosequence of prairie reconstructions. Finally, in collaboration with colleagues at the Gobabeb Research & Training Center (GRTC) and the Save the Rhino Trust, we are conducting an extensive study of groundwater springs in the Namib Desert, particularly those within the Kunene Region in northwestern Namibia. Our goal is to develop a better understanding of the geohydrology of these critical resources and their response to climatic variation. The region’s springs and ephemeral rivers are the key resource supporting the world’s last free-ranging population of desert megafauna, including elephant and black rhinoceros.
In addition to advising Biology majors, I also work with students pursuing the Environmental Studies & Global Development Studies concentrations because of my interests in sustainable resource management, particularly in arid regions of Africa. In 2000, Kathy Jacobson and I worked with Mary Seely (GRTC), to develop the Grinnell Corps in Namibia Fellowships. This program places two new Grinnell graduates at the Gobabeb Research and Training Center in the Namib Desert. Fellows spend their year assisting with research and training activities aimed at empowering Namibians to use their natural resources in a sustainable manner.