Gainesville, Fla. — Steven Johnson, professor of wildlife ecology and conservation in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), received the Excellence in College and University Teaching Award for Food and Agricultural Sciences from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Johnson’s award was one of six regional awards presented, recognizing scholarship, exemplary pedagogy and dedication to instruction.
“Dr. Johnson has been a faculty member at UF since 2004,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “Since then, his students and the university have received innumerable benefits from Johnson’s talent and creative approaches to student learning, advising and mentoring.”
Johnson has taught a variety of courses, including wildlife of Florida, natural resource ecology, and invasion ecology of amphibians and reptiles. Along with these courses, he has led multiple study abroad programs to Australia to study vertebrate biodiversity and Australian wildlife.
To ensure his courses connect with students, Johnson has often varied his course modalities, teaching both face-to-face and online, leading lectures and labs, and granting students opportunities to apply hands-on learning through field-based instruction. Throughout the semester, he offers multiple field trips for students to kayak, canoe, snorkel and hike around the state of Florida. These excursions are used to encourage students to appreciate the wildlife they are learning about firsthand.
The effort Johnson makes to get to know students and creatively address issues in wildlife ecology have made his courses sought after by students inside and outside of the wildlife ecology and conservation major.
“Dr. Johnson’s charisma and empathy have made him extremely approachable to his students, who hold him in high esteem,” said Turner. “In fact, his students have voted Dr. Johnson ‘undergraduate faculty of the year’ for the UF/IFAS wildlife ecology and conservation department four times in the last eight years!”
Outside the classroom, Johnson has mentored 15 undergraduate students in independent research and outreach projects. He has also been a committee member for more than 20 graduate students. Beyond the scope of higher education, Johnson has trained more than 500 K-12 teachers and environmental educators on Florida wildlife and invasive species.
“Dr. Johnson is one of the most passionate, empathetic, and captivating instructors I have learned from, serving as an indispensable role model and inspiring students to pursue their passions in wildlife,” said one of Johnson’s former students.
Johnson’s award was presented at the 135th annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, held in Denver, Colorado.
ABOUT THE UF/IFAS COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURAL AND LIFE SCIENCES
The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. The college has received more total (national and regional combined) USDA teaching awards than any other institution.