This June, West Virginia University professor Jim Anderson will expand his own horizons and make international connections as part of the Jewish National Fund Faculty Fellowship Summer Institute in Israel.
Anderson, whose areas of expertise include wetland ecology and wildlife ecology and management, is the first WVU faculty member to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The competitive academic fellowship links scholars from diverse disciplines with their Israeli counterparts at major institutions for the purpose of initiating exchanges and collaborations.
“WVU has been striving to increase its international presence and this is a chance to put our best foot forward,” he said. “I am honored to be selected for this opportunity to collaborate with wildlife and environmental scientists from Israel as we work on issues of mutual benefit and interest to conserve wildlife and their habitats.”
As a participant in the program, Anderson will travel throughout Israel from June 1-14 meeting Israeli professors who share similar research interests, and networking with professionals and experts involved in government, industry, education, media, and other sectors to understand the many facets of Israel's evolving national and international policies.
“I love traveling to see new areas and learn about other cultures, ecosystems and species, so this seemed like a great opportunity,” he said.
In addition to being an ambassador for the University, Anderson is excited to potentially see and study the Hula Valley wetlands – a restoration area he has ever only read about.
Much of the 6,000 hectare lake-wetland complex was drained in the 1950s for agricultural purposes and to reduce the risk of malaria; however a 300 hectare reserve was created in 1964 to conserve some of the original plant and wildlife species.
“Unfortunately, species populations declined drastically and, I believe, some even went extinct,” Anderson said. “In the 1970s, a plan was developed to restore some of the wetlands on the reserve and large flocks of waterbirds have started to use the area again. If I can make the proper connections with local faculty and biologists, this is an area I would be extremely interested in working on.”
At the end of the day, gaining new knowledge and perspectives are most important.“I hope to learn about approaches that Israelis have used to balance conservation and the livelihoods of people in a working landscape,” he said.