The Value of Collaboration

Posted by Jonathan Twining on Apr 10, 2017 7:06:00 AM


Do remember the first time you did something you were really proud of?  Maybe you got a good grade on a test, or you passed an important class.  Or maybe your team won at a sporting event.  Well, I did something this month that I am really proud of, and that was to have my first research paper accepted for publication in the March issue of the Journal of Mesoamerican Herpetology.  This paper, entitled “Temporal and Spectral Properties of the Advertisement Call of Craugastor stejnegerianus (Anura: Craugastoridae) in Costa Rica”, was written in collaboration with Dr. John Cossel of Northwest Nazarene University, and it is this collaboration that I want to focus on in this blog entry.

Dr. Cossel and I have been working on different projects together since 2014.  We both love reptiles and amphibians, and we share a passion for using photography and videography to educate people about ecology and biodiversity.  My first project with Dr. Cossel was to take part in his Salamander Camp, where we spent a week in the woods of northern Idaho with a group of students collecting data about the Idaho giant salamander.  My role was to produce a video documentary about the research project, and you can see that documentary, called “Chasing Giants”, at youtube.com/onebiotanetwork.

Dr. Cossel has been working in Costa Rica for several years, including a travel course in tropical ecology, and he suggested I really ought to get down there and experience the country firsthand. I have since spent time there the last three summers, learning the ropes and looking for opportunities to get ENC students down there.  Given our combined interest in herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians), it made sense for Dr. Cossel and I to collaborate on some research.  We chose to study a small, drab, litter frog called Craugastor stejnegerianus.  The call of this frog was known, but never formally described in the scientific literature.  We used bioacoustical techniques to describe this call, and to compare it to calls made by closely-related frogs.  We plan to continue this research this summer with each of us contributing a student to the effort.  

There are many other ways that Dr. Cossel and I have collaborated over the past three years.  He invited me to speak at the Idaho herpetology conference hosted at NNU every fall.  In turn, I asked him to come to ENC in 2015 to share his photographic exhibit about amphibians called “Naked Canaries”.  This spring, we are collaborating on a travel course that for the first time will combine ENC and NNU students on a trip to Costa Rica in May.  As part of the collaboration, I have actually taught three of his Tropical Ecology classes via video conferencing, and will also use the same technology to lecture in his Herpetology Lab in April.  

Our bioacoustical work has spawned another collaboration between myself and Dr. Cornely’s engineering students.  One of the students is working on ways to build us a cheaper “froglogger”; a device to automatically record frog calls.  This may be done as an app that works from a cell phone with an external microphone.  The student will be looking at ways that we can hone in on the frequencies produced by specific calls, and possibly even recognize the species by the call.  More to come later on this one.

Collaboration is an exciting way to work with students, build friendships with people in common within your profession, and to share expertise between institutions.  I encourage my fellow colleagues to find ways to collaborate both with your colleagues here at ENC and across institutions that will enhance our programs and make us a stronger institution for the future.

Twining.pngIf you have any questions about this blog post, please do not hesitate to contact Prof. Twining at jonathan.twining@enc.eduTo see videos of his field experiences with ENC students, please visit youtube.com/onebiotanetwork You can also follow him on Instagram: @vernalpoolguy.






Written by Jonathan Twining

Jonathan Twining teaches the ecology and environmental science courses for the Biology Department and is the advisor for the Animal Caretakers Team (ACT). Twining worked for a number of years as an environmental scientist and project manager with consulting firms in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He has been very active in the greater community, partnering ENC students with organizations like the Quincy DPW, Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts, Massachusetts Audubon, the South Shore Natural Science Center, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation. His passion and primary research interest is the ecology and conservation of vernal pool habitats. He has written numerous articles for NCM Magazine, and has been a speaker in local congregations about the care of creation (environmental stewardship).

Topics: Environmental Science