Assistant professor and biologist Jeremy Wojdak studies interactions between creatures that live in ponds, streams and lakes. He’s known to take classroom lessons outside of the four-wall environment and into nature. This past spring, Wojdak and 15 students explored the tropical forests, mangroves and coral reefs of St. John.
“To say that one learns the most by teaching is a tired cliché, but entirely true. For me, teaching and research are just new ways of ‘going to school,’” says Wojdak. His research interests include the consequences of changes in animal species, diversity for ecosystems, patterns of species, diversity across space and time, as well as parasite-host and predator-prey interactions among aquatic animals. “Recently, I have been collaborating with other biologists to understand what controls the abundance and distribution of flatworm parasites that can infect snails, frogs, muskrats and waterfowl.”
He admits, that growing up, he never thought his profession would include studying flatworm parasites. When he arrived at Bowling Green State University as a freshman, he didn’t know quite what he wanted to do. “I started taking biology classes because the course descriptions sounded interesting in the catalog,” he says. “It was a rather haphazard process without too much forethought I just took classes I thought would be fun. I highly recommend this strategy, but then again, I haven’t tried any others,” he jokes.
Ultimately, he realized he could do many of the things he enjoyed, like spending time outside and exploring, for a living. "That is, I discovered that a field biologist gets paid to do what I had been doing for free since childhood,” says Wojdak. While earning his Ph.D. at Michigan State University he realized his love for aquatic ecology and his need to introduce others to the importance of the world’s wetlands and the creatures that live in them.
Currently, Wojdak and other RU biologists, geologists, chemists and geographers are working together to incorporate a storm water remediation wetland into the curricula at RU. With the help of a National Science Foundation grant, students from all four disciplines are studying RU’s wetland ecosystem constructed to treat storm water run-off. The overarching goal of this project is to better prepare RU science students for the complex, real-world problems they will encounter in academia, government, or industry; problems that require strong quantitative skills and a thorough, realistic understanding of scientific inquiry. “Research, at its essence, is trying to figure out something that nobody in the world knows yet. My job changes all the time, and that is perfect for me,” he says.