Published: April 28, 2016 By

An evolutionary biologist, Professor Andrew Martin has long been involved in genetic studies and conservation efforts on behalf of wildlife in peril, from greenback cutthroat trout and great white sharks to desert pupfish and prairie dogs.

In 2014, for example, he teamed with CU-Boulder Senior Research Associate Jessica Metcalf and biologists from six state and federal agencies on a recovery effort involving the greenback cutthroat trout, Colorado’s endangered state fish.

Helping students and imperiled wildlife, one at a time

Martin helping to reintroduce endangered greenback cutthroat trout fingerlings into Zimmerman Lake west of Fort Collins in August 2014

“Being a part of a large, collaborative team that is helping to bring a species back from near-extinction is a great experience,” says Martin of CU-Boulder’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “It feels good for the soul.”

But Martin is not just a top-tier scientist. Because of his exceptional abilities and passion to integrate his teaching and research, he has been named one of two CU President’s Teaching Scholars for 2016 by President Bruce Benson. The second scholar is Dr. Jeannette Guerrasio of the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

“It’s nice to be recognized for things we do as faculty members,” says Martin. “But I don’t view this award as a recognition of my efforts – it is for all of the remarkable and dedicated people in my department and across campus who are advancing the craft of teaching.”

He was cited for being an “innovative, highly effective educator” who helps faculty to transform teaching, encouraging experimentation with various methods to better engage students.

“We have amazing faculty learning groups on campus that regularly get together to talk about how to improve education,” he explains. “We are enrolling more students in the sciences at CU-Boulder, and they are becoming more successful.”

In addition, he has led K-12 workshops for teachers, including some in the Boulder Valley School District, on effective teaching methods based on data collection and analysis. He also is a fan of using classroom “clickers” for feedback on how well the students are understanding biological and ecological concepts during his lectures.

Whether he is in the field, classroom or lab, Martin mentors graduate students, undergraduates and high school students. One of his outreach efforts is a “citizen science” project that began as a science project by a Fairview High School student in Boulder who found found antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a global health threat, were common in the local watershed.

Martin and his colleagues rely on high-tech gene sequencing techniques to assemble evolutionary trees that help the scientists better understand address conservation concerns. Such tools aided Metcalf and Martin in determining the genetic makeup of the true greenback cutthroat from fish collected in the mid-1800s during the Gold Rush and then archived in natural history museums around the country.

The findings initiated a recovery program for bringing back the native fish into the waters of the South Platte River basin, its historical haunts.