Professor & Director of the Museum of Natural History
College of Sciences and Mathematics
The College of Sciences and Mathematics recently hired Professor Jason Bond to direct the Auburn University Museum of Natural History. He joined the biological sciences faculty at Auburn in Aug. 2011, and Bond says it is a privilege and incredibly rewarding to be a professor at a university like Auburn where he can share his passion for science with bright, hardworking undergraduate and graduate students. Bond's research expertise is in the field of systematics, taxonomy and evolution of terrestrial arthropods with an emphasis on arachnids and myriapods, specifically spiders and millipedes. His work has been featured in a myriad of press agencies including MSNBC, BBC, NPR and the New York Times. While he was a professor at East Carolina University, he was even featured on Comedy Central's Colbert Report for his discovery of two spiders, a trapdoor spider Bond named after Neil Young, Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi, and another spider he named after television show host, Stephen Colbert, Aptostichus stephencolberti (click on these two links to view both segments: http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/174957/june-24-2008/dr--jason-bond or http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/178730/august-06-2008/spida-of-love---jason-bond) Bond received his Bachelor of Science in biology from Western Carolina University, and both his Master of Science in Biology and his Doctor of Philosophy in evolutionary systematics and genetics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Originally from North Carolina, Bond has lived in Tennessee, Germany, South Korea, Virginia and Chicago, Ill. His hobbies include running, fly fishing, shooting sporting clays, dogs, playing guitar, traveling, drinking red wine and spending time with his wife, Kristen, and daughter, Elisabeth.
1. When did you know you wanted to be a scientist?
I developed my interests in science a little later than most. I suppose I was around 22. I spent a few years in the U.S. Army after high school and left the military with an ROTC scholarship. My intentions were to get a degree in biology, go to medical school and return to the U.S. Army as a physician. However, as a freshman I took an introductory zoology course that was taught from a comparative phylogenetic perspective (i.e., a perspective that took into account how animals were related). Within a few weeks I was sold on the idea of becoming an evolutionary biologist, resigned from ROTC, declined my scholarship and started working toward that goal.
2. Your research deals primarily with spiders. What attracted you to spiders in the first place?
Spiders are remarkable animals. What initially attracted me to them was their ability to produce silk. Spider silk has properties like extensibility and tensile strength that are on par with materials like Kevlar® and steel, yet spiders are able to produce these, as proteins, naturally. My early interests were on the evolution of spider silk production but quickly expanded to studying spider diversity. Spiders are an incredibly diverse group with more than 42,000 described that are found in almost every terrestrial ecosystem. And they, or their close relatives, have been around since the Devonian (over 400 million years before present).
3. Why did you decide to come to Auburn University?
I decided to come to Auburn for a number of reasons. First, it is a great university. I did my graduate work at Virginia Tech and have a strong appreciation for the commitment to research, extension and outreach often found at a land grant institution. Second, I had been thinking for some time about where I wanted to go in terms of my career. The opportunity to come to Auburn and take the position as director of the Auburn Museum of Natural History was exactly the sort of challenge for which I had been looking. I am very committed to the idea that natural history collections play a significant role in biodiversity research, conservation and education. Third, I was familiar with the quality of research and graduate programs at Auburn and was keen to join the Department of Biological Sciences.
4. What would you like the public to know about the Natural History Museum?
The Auburn University Museum of Natural History represents a long-time commitment on the part of the biological sciences faculty to build a significant set of natural history collections to serve the research, education and outreach missions of the department, college and university. The collections contain tens of thousands of invertebrate, mammal, fish, herpetological, bird and paleontological specimens. These collections document our planet's biodiversity and provide us with the data integral to understanding the richness of life. Faculty members, who do important work as curators working in the collections, maintain active specimen-based research programs that contribute to our understanding of the origin, distribution, ecology and diversification of life; this fundamental type of research also helps us to shape conservation priorities and strategies. This research expertise also provides a substantial knowledge base that we can use to educate our students and the citizens of Alabama about our region and planet's natural heritage.
5. As the director of the Natural History Museum, what do you hope to accomplish?
Immediately, I hope that we can get the collections into some good space. Construction on a new center should begin late this year or early next. The new building will serve as a first-rate facility for housing and protecting the collections. Our number one priority is to care for the collections. Second, our vision is to develop the museum to become a leader in biodiversity research in the Southeast, to emerge as the primary repository for all natural history collections currently maintained at Auburn University, and to function as the central resource for biodiversity education and outreach in service to the citizens of Alabama. Ultimately, we want to build a museum that will inspire an appreciation of nature and the environment so that we might better conserve it for future generations.