IUP professor named as a Fulbright scholar, headed to Honduras
An Indiana University of Pennsylvania professor has been named a Fulbright scholar and will spend the upcoming academic year seeking out new species of amphibians and reptiles and supporting conservation efforts in Honduras.
Josiah Townsend, an associate professor at IUP, was chosen as a 2019-20 Fulbright U.S. Scholar grant recipient.
“I’ve always been focused on international research and have always seen the Fulbright as a professional goal,” Townsend said.
He will spend the upcoming year in Honduras working at Zamorano Agricultural University and the National Autonomous University of Honduras – Valle de Sula.
He will divide his time between conducting research leading to the discovery of new species of amphibians and reptiles and to support national biodiversity conservation initiatives, while teaching classes in ecology and biodiversity and offering professional development workshops for biology faculty and students in the country.
Townsend has done research in Honduras annually since his undergraduate years, so the work during his Fulbright award will add to his ongoing commitment to document and conserve the biological resources of Honduras.
“It is an incredible honor to be selected as a Fulbright Scholar, and I am grateful for the support of the IUP administration, including President (Michael) Driscoll and Provost (Timothy) Moerland, Dean (Deanne) Snavely of the Kopchick College, and my department chair, Dr. Bharathan,” Townsend said.
Moerland said it’s “extremely gratifying to see a faculty member like Dr. Townsend, who continues to demonstrate such a strong commitment to research and teaching, be selected for this honor.”
Before starting his Fulbright work, Townsend will continue his research in Honduras this summer with four IUP biology students and one IUP biology graduate. The summer research program includes a four-day symposium at Valle de Sula being led by Townsend and featuring the IUP students from June 5 to 9: “Patterns of Evolutionary Diversification in Amphibians from Honduras: Challenges, Advances, and Opportunities.”
Townsend’s Fulbright Award will complement another large biodiversity project being finalized in Honduras – the development of a new field station and research center for Texiguat Wildlife Refuge, an area that Townsend describes as “one of the world’s most impressive, and most threatened, biodiversity hotspots.” This initiative begins this summer and will continue over the next three to five years.
“When the field station is completed, it will offer infrastructure to bring students and researchers to the unique site,” Townsend said.
“Once the center is up and running, it will allow IUP to offer students access to a previously unaccessible, endemism-rich cloud forest, which is known for its unique plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles. mammals and birds. Many of which are only found in this forest and no place else.”
Townsend’s goals, particularly exploring the cloud forest, mirror those of Murrysville native Sean McHugh, whose work in Peru’s Colibri cloud forest led to the potential discovery of new primate species.
After the infrastructure is completed, a nonprofit foundation will be established to fund and manage the center, and Townsend hopes to connect the center to the universities in that region.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .