Dr. Karl Jarvis is a Utah native with deep experience in the backcountry of the Colorado Plateau. He focuses his research on using genetic tools to address questions that help us to understand and preserve this outstanding region. In particular, he studies how wildlife interact with and move through landscapes. He teaches general biology and genetics at Southern Utah University.
Why are you interested in your research focus?
Answer: From a young age, I realized that I loved being in wild places and interacting with wildlife and plants. In high school I found a passion for birding, and as an undergraduate and Masters student, I conducted field work in Papua New Guinea, Japan, and the Russian Far East. Through all of this, I realized that I wanted to put my efforts into preserving the biodiversity and the natural processes that help to maintain it. In particular, the I love to work on understanding how humans impact wildlife and plants. As I have spent my time moving through wild places in Utah and elsewhere, I have grown to appreciate how important scale and perspective are to wildlife; as we zoom out to a landscape perspective, we begin to understand that whole regions and continents are connected, and that we need to respect and support the natural flows of nutrients, seeds, individuals, and whole populations across landscapes. By working to understand these flows, we can maintain and restore the processes that are responsible for the diversity of life that change through time and space.
A great moment in the field
Answer: As a young student, I received the rare opportunity to travel to Papua New Guinea (PNG) to conduct field work. The entire trip was deeply influential for me and full of unique and beautiful experiences with fascinating local people and incredible wildlife. We encountered legless skinks, graceful fruit bats, earwigs with enormous asymmetrical pincers, the very thorny and large Eurycantha stick insects, the elaborate Raggiana bird of paradise, and unique marsupials rescued from bushmeat markets: cuscus and tree kangaroo. In the remote village of Herowana, locals had little exposure to devices such as electric lights. Their encyclopedic knowledge of the rainforest was indispensable, and we hired many of them to collect insects for us. One night, we had the opportunity to show the villagers something new. We set up a black light and sheet to attract the incredible diversity of nocturnal insects. As we began to set up, we realized that we had an impressive audience – about fifty young children and a handful of adults were sitting quietly around us. They watched, captivated, as unique insects that they normally do not encounter landed on the sheet and our clothes: enormous moths, colorful beetles, bizarrely ornamented treehoppers and leafhoppers, and other unique insects.
- B.S. Brigham Young University, Zoology
- M.S. Brigham Young University, Integrative Biology
- Ph.D. Northern Arizona University, Forestry with an Ecosystem Science emphasis