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Jonathan Freedman Receives 2009 Latham Award

Jonathan A. Freedman was selected to receive the 2009 Roger M. Latham Memorial Graduate Award, given annually to an outstanding, full-time graduate student advised by Wildlife and Fisheries Science faculty members in Penn State’s School of Forest Resources.

The Latham Award, created in 1981, memorializes Dr. Roger M. Latham (1914-1979) who devoted his career to promote conservation and management of renewable natural resources.  Latham was well known as an author and the outdoor editor of the Pittsburgh Press, a lecturer, a photographer, a naturalist, a teacher, and a resource conservationist.

Freedman is a Ph.D. candidate in Wildlife and Fisheries Science, studying the effects of dams, dredging, and development on fish ecology.  His advisers are Dr. Jay Stauffer, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Ichthyology, and Dr. Robert C. Carline, former adjunct professor and leader of the Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

Freedman is originally from Toronto, Canada, where he earned a B S. in Zoology at the University of Guelph (2001) and an M.S. in Biology at the University of New Brunswick (2005).  He came to Penn State in 2005 to study the effects of human development on fish communities and food-webs in the Allegheny, Ohio, and Monongahela rivers around Pittsburgh.

“My interests lie in the broad fields of community and evolutionary ecology.  More specifically, I’m interested in biogeography, life history strategies, phenotypic plasticity, and the adaptation of species to anthropogenic disturbances and species introductions,” explains Freedman.  

True to the spirit of the Latham Award, Freedman actively communicates his research findings to the scientific community as well as to the public.  He has already published three papers in peer-reviewed journals with more in the works.  He has given many invited oral and poster presentations at professional meetings.  His public education efforts range from one-on-one conversations to large group meetings.

His adviser Dr. Stauffer notes, “I have observed that Jonathan takes the time and interest in explaining to fishermen, interested observers, and local politicians the purpose of our research and collecting efforts.  He is the first to volunteer to make presentations and give seminars locally and to national and international audiences.”

Examples of Freedman’s public outreach include participating in a project at a local middle school where he was interviewed about Jacques Cousteau’s legacy, and organizing and leading a multimedia presentation on “The Fishes of Pennsylvania” at Penn State Exploration Day—an interactive and cross-disciplinary program designed to introduce children to science.  Freedman’s presentation included a display of live as well as preserved fishes, video of fish behavior, and information on fish identification and conservation.

To share his current research with the general public, Freedman has written an article for Warm Mineral Springs and Little Salt Spring Archeological Society newsletter, and is creating a video presentation for use by the society and by the Penn State Diving Program.

Freedman’s leadership roles have included serving as Webmaster and executive board member of the Penn State Canadian Club (2006 – present), president of the School of Forest Resources (SFR) Graduate Student Organization (2007-08), and chair of the SFR Seminar Organizing Committee (2007).  He has been a teaching assistant for a variety of courses including biology, mammalogy, human physiology, and fishery science.

Freedman plans to graduate in 2010 and pursue a career in academia, which he hopes will allow him to continue his research in aquatic ecology as well as afford him many opportunities for teaching and public outreach.