Degree: Ph.D. in Biological Sciences
College/School: College of Arts, Sciences & Education; School of Environment, Arts & Society
Jason Downing grew up in a single parent household in the greater Kansas City area. The eldest of five siblings, his parents stressed the importance of education and made sure he had the tools needed to succeed. Jason was the first in his family to graduate college and now is graduating with a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences.
A saxophone player since age 10, Jason first pursued a degree in music at the University of Kansas. While taking undergraduate biology courses, he worked with the Kansas Biological Survey as a research assistant examining local and regional water quality. The hands-on field work inspired him to rethink his career path. Jason earned a bachelor’s in biology and worked in a variety of research roles before enrolling at FIU to pursue a master’s degree in environmental studies.
Jason has dedicated his doctoral research to understanding how orchids are affected by global changes, including climate change and human movements. A father to two children, he earned fellowships to fund his education including the McKnight Dissertation Fellowship. He has conducted research with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md., Chinese Academy of Sciences Yunnan, China, and has served as a graduate fellow at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden mentoring students and teachers. One of Jason’s dissertation chapters addressing the impacts of extreme weather events on oil bees in South Florida has been accepted for publication in Ecosphere, a prestigious scientific journal. Upon graduating, Jason will work at the Fairchild Garden conducting research and developing outreach programs.