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.

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Activities (4)

Conservation and Restoration in a Local Ecosystem part of SISL:Activities
Students are introduced to a local ecosystem and tasked with observing several sites, identifying features that pose threats or promote resilience at the sites, assessing the overall health of the ecosystem, and formulating recommendations for management of the ecosystem.

Analysis of the Global Climate Change Controversy: A Problem-Based Learning Activity part of SISL:Activities
This is a problem-based learning activity that guides students through a process whereby the class as a whole investigates various stakeholder perspectives on the global climate change controversy. Individual students then reflect on their own perspectives in light of what they have learned.

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; identify challenges presented by GCC; and identify options for responding to these challenges.

Exploring the Sustainability of the U.S. Food System part of SISL:Activities
This is a collaborative learning activity based on the documentaries "King Corn" and "Big River" in which students explore and propose solutions to sustainability issues associated with industrial agriculture and food systems.