David Koetje

Biology Department

Calvin College

Since earning his PhD degree in Plant Molecular Biology at Purdue University in 1991, plant biotechnology and sustainability have been important foci of Dave’s career.  His postdoctoral work at Washington State University focused on cloning and characterization of genes that enable soybean plants to respond to environmental stress.  Many of these genes are responsive to methyl jasmonate, a growth regulator that wounded plants emit into the atmosphere, signaling their neighbors.  Dave continued this research in his early career as a professor at Fredonia State University in western New York, where he also headed up a Recombinant Gene Technology program.  An opportunity to develop a new biotechnology program brought him to Calvin College’s Biology Department in 1998.  Since then, Dave’s professional interests have diversified.  He and his students have used DNA fingerprinting to assess genetic diversity within populations of native plants (asters and bladdernuts) and to ascertain genetic relationships among hosta sports (new genotypes arising from tissue culture).  More recently his scholarship has focused on wider issues in society and in education.  He has proposed a place-based paradigm in agriculture that seeks to promote sustainability by integrating agroecology and biotechnology. With inspiration from SENCER and funding from the National Science Foundation’s TUES program, he is currently leading curricular reforms in his department, making use of learner-centered pedagogies to teach biological concepts and competencies through some of our society’s most pressing challenges: biodiversity and climate change; food, fuel, health, and sustainability; public health and personalized medicine.

Materials Contributed through SERC-hosted Projects

Activities (4)

Conservation and Restoration in a Local Ecosystem part of SISL:Activities
In this field-based activity, students are introduced to a local ecosystem. Students observe three sites within the ecosystem paying close attention to community interactions and factors that either promote or inhibit healthy ecosystem functioning. Students use their observations to assess overall health of the ecosystem and prepare recommendations for effective ecosystem management.

Analysis of the Global Climate Change Controversy: A Problem-Based Learning Activity part of SISL:Activities
In this problem-based learning activity, students investigate positions held by various stakeholders regarding global climate change (GCC). Students work in teams to identify and evaluate: the interest of a stakeholder in GCC, the position held by the stakeholder, the rationale/evidence used to support the position, and the response of the stakeholder to GCC in light of their stated position. After completing the research phase of the activity, teams share their findings with classmates via short presentations. Students then have the opportunity to critique the positions (and rationale) of the various stakeholders and to form and provide rationale for their own positions.

Climate Change, Communities, and Public Planning: A Problem-Based Learning Activity part of SISL:Activities
In this problem-based learning activity, students develop a case study that "puts a human face" on the effects of global climate change (GCC) on a particular community in the United States. Students work in teams to discover cultural, economic, and natural features of the community as well as challenges presented by GCC. Student teams share their findings with the class and present several options for responding to GCC challenges within the community. The activity concludes with an opportunity to reflect on the effects of GCC at the local level.

Exploring the Sustainability of the U.S. Food System part of SISL:Activities
In this activity students watch the documentary "King Corn" and its sequel "Big River" to learn how corn is produced via industrial agriculture in the United States, how federal subsidies bolster maximum production, and how corn products find their way into many of the foods Americans eat. The documentaries also investigate associated environmental and human health costs. After viewing these documentaries, student teams identify sustainability problems with the current system and propose a solution that addresses specific problems and identify some realistic measures (such as incentives) that could be taken to achieve them.