Faculty Feature

Professor Jordan Donini

Where did your love of turtles and other creatures develop?

Literally as far back as I can remember. I remember being 3 or 4 years old and just being obsessed with dinosaurs. As I got a little older, I moved onto the extant “Dinosaurs” living in and around my yard. It also helped that my parents were very supportive and let me have various pet reptiles through my childhood and into my teen years!

Why is your research of these animals important?

Turtles are one of the most endangered animal groups on the planet. They face threats from all corners: habitat destruction, climate change, poaching for the food and traditional medicine trade, and the pet trade. So, the more research performed on these animals the better we can preserve them for future generations. Additionally, studying turtles (and reptiles in general) applies directly to humans. We learn a lot about our own physiological and molecular mechanisms (like aging for instance) from studies done on turtles. Turtles also serve as something we call a “sentinel” or “indicator” species (think canary in the coal mine), and can alert us to when negative changes in the environment are occurring (pathogen outbreaks, intense climate impacts, etc.). 


Why is it important for you to share your love of these animals with your students?

Besides the fact that turtles are just too darn cool, it’s important for the NEXT generation of turtle (and nature) heroes to get started as soon as possible. These animals, and their habitat (and our planet as a whole), need more folks who are willing to look out for them in the long run, and sharing my obsession with these animals with students is one way I think that can happen! 


How do you incorporate your research into your classes?

I use my research for specific examples of ecological study when I go over related chapters in my lectures, and I actually teach a specific individual research course for students to take for credit that allows them to get hands-on experience working with turtles and other reptiles in the field. 

Did you have any college professors that inspired you?

I was very fortunate to have a number of college professors that inspired me. One of them is our own recently retired Dr. Henry Herman of FSW. I attended FSW when it was still Edison Community College, and Dr. Herman became a mentor to me and was the first person to actually involve and engage me in research. I was also very fortunate to have two fantastic mentor figures at FGCU when I was still a developing biologist, both Dr. Rob Erdman and Dr. Phil Allman (a fellow turtle guy!) really contributed to my ability to perform rigorous hypothesis-driven science, and I’ll be eternally grateful for that!

Where can we find your published work/research?

All over the place! Journals like Herpetological Review, Chelonian Conservation and Biology, General and Comparative Endocrinology, The Journal of North American Herpetology, and Southeastern Naturalist. If you punch my name into Google Scholar a list of some of my most read and cited papers will pop up!