F&M Stories

Dewey Honoree Seeks 'Intersection of Science and Society'

Whether he's leading ornithology studies in Latin America or Lancaster, the impact of Franklin & Marshall Professor of Biology Dan Ardia's research is palpable.

"The big question I'm interested in is how organisms respond to environmental change — and I do that in a lot of different ways," said Ardia, this year's recipient of the College's Bradley R. Dewey Award for Outstanding Scholarship.

The distinction is given to a faculty member whose research efforts reflect and inspire excellence and enlighten teaching.

The quest for answers has brought Ardia across the globe. A childhood interspersed with cross-country moves "gave me a sense that I wanted to see the world. I knew there was a bigger world out there and knew I needed to work hard to get to it," he said.

Ardia has conducted research on four continents and recently led a $2.5-million federal grant to study the biology, ecology, reproduction and life history of migratory swallow species in the Americas. In Lancaster, he and his students have investigated the effects of urbanization and land-use patterns on the behavior of red foxes and other carnivores, as well as the effects of nest temperature on immune function and overall health on songbirds in Lancaster County Central Park.

Ardia has an extensive publication history with more than sixty papers, including American Naturalist, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Journal of Experimental Biology, and Functional Ecology. His publications have been cited more than 4,000 times, and he has successfully supported his research with three large grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

A fourth grant, scheduled to run for four years, has been recommended for funding. This upcoming research is designed to involve F&M students in summer field experiments.

"I'm at the stage in my career that I want to give back to the community," Ardia said.

He does just that, serving as associate editor of the Journal of Animal Ecology and president of the Association of Field Ornithologists. Ardia has been a visiting scholar in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University (2012-Present); visiting faculty member at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, Copenhagen, Denmark (2018); research associate at the Migratory Bird Center of the Smithsonian Institution (2014-2015); and faculty fellow at the Ecosystems Center of the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory (2009).

"Professor Dan Ardia is an outstanding scholar in his field and an extraordinary asset to Franklin and Marshall College," said James Strick, program chair of environmental studies and program chair of science, technology and society.

Colleagues have applauded Ardia's commitment to research mentorship. He has mentored 64 thesis students at F&M, as well as 17 summer scholars.

"Training young researchers is a key contribution to future high-quality research," Strick said.

Ardia's other notable duties in support of the professional research community include serving on multiple NSF grant proposal review panels and as a peer reviewer for numerous journals.

Ardia's multidisciplinary experience in biology helps him connect with students taking an unconventional path toward the sciences.

"I did not start as a biology major as an undergraduate," Ardia said.

In fact, Ardia's initial interest in international relations prompted him to seriously study Mandarin for one year. Eventually, his ambition to become an environmental lawyer yielded to his love for fieldwork.

"I found very quickly that I really loved being a field ecologist. I just felt like that was the right career for me," Ardia said.

"Quite a few students take our intro bio course for their science requirement, so it's really always a joy to have students who bring a different disciplinary perspective to the classroom," Ardia said, adding "I'm also really interested in the intersection of science and society."

Well-established in his field, Ardia looks forward to a service-driven chapter of his career.

"As I've grown as a scientist, the desire to use my work in more of an applied context has become more important," he said. "Bringing that research expertise to work in community organizations just felt like a natural next step in my evolution as a scientist."

"As I've grown as a scientist, the desire to use my work in more of an applied context has become more important."

— Dan Ardia, Professor of Biology

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