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  1. The purpose the present study is to explore African American undergraduate students' perceptions of their experiences and academic motivation within a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) learning environment. As part of a larger study, we collected 212 open-ended survey responses from first year students in STEM majors about how the HBCU context shapes their academic motivation. We used semantic thematic data analysis and found three major themes and corresponding sub themes that were salient in the development of students' academic motivation: place (institutional climate, HBCU mission and tradition, and absence of marginalization); pedagogy (culturally relevant pedagogy, positive faculty-student relationships, African American curriculum and instruction, racial socialization); and people (people “like me”; student, faculty and alumni models of high achieving African Americans). We discovered that HBCU institutional factors engendered academic motivation that is rooted in students' racial identity and suggest the construct of racial identity-rooted academic motivation. Given the important and unique realities of African American students that impact their educational experiences, engagement, identity development, and achievement in various types of school contexts, self and sociocultural variables must be included in research and theory on the motivational psychology of African American students. Implications for higher education practice and future researchmore »are discussed.« less
  2. The role of natural selection in the evolution of trait complexity can be characterized by testing hypothesized links between complex forms and their functions across species. Predatory venoms are composed of multiple proteins that collectively function to incapacitate prey. Venom complexity fluctuates over evolutionary timescales, with apparent increases and decreases in complexity, and yet the causes of this variation are unclear. We tested alternative hypotheses linking venom complexity and ecological sources of selection from diet in the largest clade of front-fanged venomous snakes in North America: the rattlesnakes, copperheads, cantils, and cottonmouths. We generated independent transcriptomic and proteomic measures of venom complexity and collated several natural history studies to quantify dietary variation. We then constructed genome-scale phylogenies for these snakes for comparative analyses. Strikingly, prey phylogenetic diversity was more strongly correlated to venom complexity than was overall prey species diversity, specifically implicating prey species’ divergence, rather than the number of lineages alone, in the evolution of complexity. Prey phylogenetic diversity further predicted transcriptomic complexity of three of the four largest gene families in viper venom, showing that complexity evolution is a concerted response among many independent gene families. We suggest that the phylogenetic diversity of prey measures functionally relevant divergencemore »in the targets of venom, a claim supported by sequence diversity in the coagulation cascade targets of venom. Our results support the general concept that the diversity of species in an ecological community is more important than their overall number in determining evolutionary patterns in predator trait complexity.

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