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Joel Light, Ph.D.

Assistant Chair, Department of Biology and Biochemistry
Associate Professor of Biology

Contact Information

Nazareth Hall 3047

651-286-7465

Joel Light was a naturalist before coming to Northwestern. He has published a book on Christian Environmental Education., "The earth is the lord's, and everything in it..." Psalm 24:1

Man holding two white ducks with tree in background

A Little About Me

I am passionate about God's creation. I love exposing students to new places and outdoor spaces. The more we understand how God has designed the natural world the more we understand our role as stewards of this gift of creation.

I believe that the natural world is one of the places we can encounter God in a powerful way. I love creating educational experiences in which God can be revealed through his creation.

One of the courses I teach is called Our Changing Climate, a course that explores our impact on the climate cycles that have been developed by God to sustain life on the planet. This topic is one that I have explored through my dissertation research and continued research endeavors. I think it is one of the most important topics for our students to understand as they become active citizens in our world.

Due to its social justice impacts, I believe that Christians have a moral responsibility to act in opposition to the systems that are causing the climate to change. The poor and the vulnerable are already being and will continue to be impacted by the unpredictable climate with rising ocean levels, increased threat of intense storms, increase levels of disease and other health impacts, and more uncertainty of food supply. This has become the basic human rights crisis of our time.

My goal in this class and really in all of my classes is to help students understand the natural world both scientifically and biblically. I enjoy merging these two seemingly different subjects that in all reality are very much integrated.

Courses I Teach

  • Concepts of Biology
  • Environmental Science
  • Field Biology
  • Our Changing Climate
  • Senior Seminar

Specialty Areas

  • Environmental Science
  • Climate Change
  • Aquatic Biology

Academic Credentials

Ph.D., University of Minnesota
M.A., Hamline University
B.S., Northland College

Students exploring contents found in a stream

Outside of Work

Joel loves to be outdoors and does his best to get students out there with him. He is an avid snowboarder, kayaker, mountain biker, and loves to camp. Joel is married and has one son. They live on a small hobby farm just outside of the Twin Cities that is almost completely powered by solar energy.

Research

Personally, I look at the intersection of Christian education and environmental education. Specifically, I study this intersection in climate change literacy among evangelicals.

In my research with students, I take advantage of the various aquatic spaces around campus to study the environmental impacts on the life found in these special places.

My research has focused on: macroinvertebrates, fisheries, organic pollution, invasive species, and most recently on microplastics. I thoroughly enjoy exposing my research team to the marriage between fieldwork and lab work.

Student posing in front of waterflow

Published Works

    • Relationship between Evangelical college students and their anthropogenic climate change literacy. A dissertation submitted to the University of Minnesota, 2016. published through ProQuest.
    • A Field Guide to Christian Environmental Education: A complete guide to Creation care – American Camping Association / Healthy Learning: Monterey, CA 2008
    • Nature-Spirit Connection: The Missing Link, Taproot Journal, Spring 2007

Speaking Engagements

    • "Biblical-based nature activities for young children," Lutheran Early Childhood Educators Conference 2007
    • "Faith and the environment," Environmental Ethics class, Mayflower Church 2008
    • "Christian Environmental Education," Restoring Eden/Irreplaceable Wild 2008, Water and Oil Gallery
    • "Climate, Coal and Your Soul," Restoring Eden 2010, Bethel University
    • "Grasslands and Watersheds" South Dakota Discovery Center 2011
    • “Relationships between evangelical college students’ worldview and their anthropogenic climate change literacy.” SABER annual conference 2016
    • “Relationships among evangelical college students’ worldviews and their knowledge, beliefs, and acceptance of anthropogenic climate change.” American Scientific Affiliation Conference 2017.
    • Transform Minnesota Creation Care. 2017
    • Climate Change and Social Justice – House of Hope Church - 2018
Students wearing scuba gear next to lake

Research Projects Directed

  • Forest edge use by northern and southern flying squirrels; Northland College
  • Distribution of sharp-tailed grouse and leks in the Moquah Barrens in northern Wisconsin; Northland College/Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission
  • Establishing photo points for red oak and white pine reintroduction; Audubon Center of the Northwoods
  • A study of the integration of Christian Education and Environmental Education; A field guide to Christian Education; Hamline University
  • Determining the quality of water based on the biotic life present; University of Northwestern

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