Dr. Josh Brokaw ('01) | Environmental Science

Dr. Josh Brokaw

Since his days as an undergraduate in ACU's Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department, Dr. Josh Brokaw has been interested in exploring how humans impact the planet on which we live.

My approach to environmental protection recognizes that humans have and will continue to change ecosystems.  However, as stewards of creation, we must attempt to understand the change that we cause and be prepared to modify our behaviors when those changes are found to be unacceptable.

His research in the field of ecology led him full circle back to ACU, where he now teaches plant biology and ecology classes and works to raise awareness on campus about the value of caring for the environment.

"By studying ecology we simply try to better understand what we ourselves are doing in the ecosystems that we now dominate," he says. "My approach to environmental protection recognizes that humans have and will continue to change ecosystems.  However, as stewards of creation, we must attempt to understand the change that we cause and be prepared to modify our behaviors when those changes are found to be unacceptable."

After graduating from ACU in 2001 with a B.S. in environmental science, Brokaw went on to earn an M.S. in botany at Oklahoma State University and a Ph.D. at Washington State University. He returned to ACU as an assistant professor of biology in the fall of 2009.

Since his arrival at ACU, he has taught numerous biology classes and serves as a member of the planning committee for the annual ACU Undergraduate Research Festival and the Math-Science Research Council.

Stewards of creation

Brokaw's own research continues to focus  on ecology.

"Ecology reminds us that the study of biology is not distinct from any human endeavor, academic or non-academic, because humans are always a part of an ecosystem," he says.  

Brokaw works with students and faculty to organize recycling awareness. He also involves students in his research on environmental protection.

"When I teach classes like Biology: Human Perspective, I feel it is critical to go beyond discussion of human biology in the narrowest sense to provide a richer perspective of how we interact with and depend on the world around us," Brokaw says.

Living with the land

On his own time, Brokaw acts on his research and knowledge by emulating the land ethic supported by Aldo Leopold in his book A Sand County Almanac.

"Previous management practices in the shinnery oak scrubland, such as clear cutting and garbage burial, have favored soil erosion and introduction of invasive plant species," Brokaw says. "I am continuing to work toward restoration of a sustainable mixture of native vegetation that can serve as a teaching lab and site for undergraduate research in the future."

Brokaw will soon begin researching soil bioremediation in tall grass prairie affected by a crude oil spill. Dr. Kim Pamplin, chair of the chemistry department, will partner with him in the research.

Brokaw is grateful for the focus ACU puts on things he values in his life and work.

"It is very gratifying to work at a job where searching for truth and doing the right thing can be considered primary objectives," he says. "I still greatly depend on and appreciate my senior faculty mentors who are available for advice when the tasks ahead start to look overwhelming.  It is also comforting to be part of a community that upholds commitment to faith as a chief virtue."

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