Jeff and Vonnie Jackson, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology
Jeff Jackson’s journey to UTSA started over 30 years ago when he attended UTSA’s field biology course with Dr. Van Auken and Dr. Bush. "That more than anything influenced my professional career," he says. "It changed my life." After a rewarding career teaching high school science, Jeff returned to UTSA to earn his master’s degree. He now advises about 350 undergraduate students in addition to teaching environmental zoology and oceanography and co-leading the field biology class each summer. Jeff is also UTSA’s head beekeeper. He wrote a grant in collaboration with Dr. Beckham that allows undergraduate students to research honeybees and related pollinators on campus. This March, the first two students will present their research at the Entomological Society of America’s annual conference in Oklahoma City. "I was given this opportunity to apply for some money and my thought was, how can I use this to make our students better scientists? A lot of these students don’t realize they are capable of doing research," Jeff says. "They just need someone to encourage them."
Vonnie Jackson was originally hired in 2013 to write curriculum for the Environmental Science Program, which is now the Environmental Science and Ecology Department. Vonnie has taught many different courses in the years since, including botany and zoology classes. She also coordinated and taught the corresponding labs. "I love plants," she says. "Everything depends on plants. Students don’t know as much about plants as animals, so it’s fun to introduce them to some of the unique things that plants do." She enjoys watching students flourish as many grow from students to student tutors. "It’s kind of neat—you have students in your class and then they are working as tutors for the next generation of students," Vonnie says. "I’ve noticed that a lot more of those student tutors think more about getting a graduate degree. We give them a lot of responsibility and they do well with it."