James Jordan, PhD
Core Faculty, Environmental Studies
Director of Field Studies Program, Environmental Studies
Understanding the rates, magnitudes, and manifestations of environmental change is at the core of my research and teaching interests. Specifically, I am interested how humans drive or respond to short- and long-term (10s to 1000s of years) changes in local and regional environments and landscapes, and how land-use patterns have been (and must be) informed by climatic and geologic boundary conditions and the distribution of natural resources.
Much of my work focuses on biophysical evolution of coastal and nearshore environments in the North American Arctic and sub-arctic, in regions where coastal changes are dominated both by geologic and climatic processes. Issues of sea level change, tectonic instability, gradual and abrupt climate change, coastal erosion and infrastructure loss, coastal and marine resource management, and community planning all interact in ways that require the collaboration of scientists, residents, policy makers, educators, and government institutions in order to effect rational stewardship of natural resources and to increase the resilience of communities to environmental change.
- PhD, University of Wisconsin Madison
- MA, Quaternary Studies, University of Alaska-Fairbanks
- BA, Anthropology/Archaeology, University of Missouri-Columbia
Jordan, J.W., and A. Krumhardt, 2003. Climate and Vegetation History of the western Alaska Peninsula. Alaska Journal of Anthropology 2 (1).
Jordan, J.W. 2001. Late Quaternary sea-level change in southern Beringia: postglacial emergence of the western Alaska Peninsula. Quaternary Science Reviews 20 (1-3):509-523
Jordan, J.W., and H.D.G. Maschner, 2000. Coastal paleogeography and human occupation of the western Alaska Peninsula. Geoarchaeology 15:1-30.
Jordan, J.W., and O.K. Mason, 1999. A 5000 year record of intertidal peat stratigraphy and sea- level change from northwest Alaska. Quaternary International 60:37-47
Jordan, J.W., 1989. Rhythmic berm ridge deposition on the coastal barriers of northern Seward Peninsula, Alaska. In: Coastal Sediment Mobility; Proceedings of the Eighth Symposium on Coastal Sedimentology, W.F. Tanner ed., Department of Geology, Florida State University, Tallahassee. pp.137-150.
- Alaska Anthropological Association (AAA)
- American Geophysical Union (AGU)
- American Quaternary Association (AMQUA)
- Arctic Institute of North America (AINA)
- Association of American Geographers (AAG)
- Geological Society of America (GAS)
- International Permafrost Association (IPA)
- Society for American Archaeology (SAA)
Geomorphology and biogeography, climate change, soil geography, paleoecology, human-environment interactions, geoarchaeology
- Earth Systems Science
- Soils Mapping and Interpretation
- Watershed Science
- Coastal Environments and Processes
- Global Environmental Change
The best teachers I have had throughout my academic career were effective and memorable because of who they were and what they communicated as much about life and learning as about a particular subject matter. Knowledge of content and experience were important certainly, but enthusiasm, wonder, and respect for me as a person and learner were critical ; those attributes modeled for me the art of teaching and learning and stressed the importance of leveraging the best from students by encouraging them to bring their passions and aspirations to the material. My best teachers are learners as much as they are instructors.
Because everyone’s learning styles are somewhat unique and because even my learning style varies from day to day and year to year, I focus on engaging students in a variety of instructional modes and styles that emphasize the how and why of observations, interpretations, and problems. Fundamentally I believe that the most enduring learning is accomplished by doing (and having fun doing it) ; one cannot become proficient at carpentry by reading and being told about it. On the other hand, the theoretical and methodological precepts of a given curriculum or topic are essential and not necessarily amendable to ‘doing’; a well-crafted lecture or presentation can be critical for framing a topic and setting up questions, discussions, activities, and solutions.
I do not believe that there is a single ‘best’ approach to, or method of, teaching, just as I do not believe that there is a best or single approach to or method of learning. I strive to be an engaging and effective teacher by drawing on my experience and content knowledge, by trying to understand the backgrounds, strengths, needs, and career orientations of students, and by encouraging a sense of wonder and enthusiasm for the subject matter that resonates with students’ needs and expectations while ensuring that the learning outcomes for my courses are met. I enjoy teaching because it is part of a learning process, an iterative and constructive process; a process that really has no end point. In this sense it is the work and reward of continuous improvement.
Research and Projects
My current and recent projects have been conducted in collaboration with researchers and students from Antioch University New England, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the University of Washington, Idaho State University, the University of Pittsburg, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and has focused geographically in or near Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument in northwest Alaska, and Aniakchak National Monument, Izembek National Wildlife Refugeand the Sanak Island archipelago in the Alaska Peninsula / eastern Aleutian Islands region of southwest Alaska.
Support for recent projects has been provided by NPS and the Collaborative Ecosystem Studies Unit (Human-Environment Dynamics at Cape Krusenstern, Alaska; Post-Volcanic Landscape Change in the Chignik and Meshik Rivers Region, Alaska), the National Park Foundation (Long-term Monitoring and Impacts of Coastal Erosion, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve); and the National Science Foundation (The Biocomplexity of Sanak Island).