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Dr. Stephen Jenkins, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus of Biology

Contact Information


  • A.B., Biology, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 1968
  • Ph.D., Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 1975


I retired in 2011 after 37 years of teaching at UNR, long enough to have had several sets of parents and children as students. I studied the behavior and ecology of mammals as familiar as beavers and wild horses and as unfamiliar as kangaroo rats. Most recently I have been interested in the evolution of personalities in kangaroo rats, asking why some are shy and others are bold and why males seem to have more variable personalities than females.

Like most academics, I published technical papers for specialists in professional journals, but I have gradually become convinced of the need for scientists to communicate with a more diverse audience. I have been fortunate to have had some recent opportunities to do this. Wild horses on public lands are a flashpoint of controversy in the western U.S., and I developed a computer model that is used by the Bureau of Land Management to plan population control measures for horses. This model influences how BLM managers interact with advocates for and against controlling horse populations on public lands. I've also published two books to help nonscientists learn about science: "How science works: Evaluating evidence in biology and medicine" in 2004 and "Tools for critical thinking in biology" in 2015. These books use contemporary examples to illustrate key aspects of the process of science for general readers.

In recent years I taught introductory biology for nonmajors, research design for graduate students, and upper-division classes in ecology and mammalogy. I hope to continue educating beginning students and members of the general public about how science works, based on the fervent belief that the thinking tools of science can help everyone lead better lives.


  • 2015. Tools for critical thinking in biology. Oxford University Press., New York, xiv + 324 pages.
  • 2012. Dochtermann, N. A., S. H. Jenkins, M. Swartz and A. C. Hargett. The roles of competition and environmental heterogeneity in the maintenance of behavioral variation. Ecology 93:1330-1339.
  • 2011. Jenkins, S. H. Sex differences in repeatability of food-hoarding behavior of kangaroo rats. Animal Behavior 81:1155-1162.
  • 2011. Dochtermann, N. A. and S. H. Jenkins. Developing multiple hypotheses in behavioral ecology. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 65:37-45.
  • 2010. Swartz, M. K., S. H. Jenkins, and N. A. Dochtermann. Coexisting desert rodents differ in selection of microhabitats for cache placement and pilferage. Journal of Mammalogy 91:1261-1268.
  • 2008. Jenkins, S. H. How do graduate students in ecology choose a research problem? Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 89(4):401-406.
  • 2007. Dochtermann, N. A., and S. H. Jenkins. Behavioural syndromes in Merriam's kangaroo rats (Dipodomys merriami): a test of competing hypotheses. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 274:2343-2349.
  • 2004. Jenkins, S. H. How science works: evaluating evidence in biology and medicine. Oxford University Press, New York, x + 227 pages.
    2003. Vander Wall, S. B., and S. H. Jenkins. Reciprocal pilferage and the evolution of food-hoarding behavior. Behavioral Ecology 14:656-667.2007.
  • 2003. Jenkins, S. H., and M. C. Ashley. Wild horse (Equus caballus and allies). Pages 1148-1163 in Wild mammals of North America: Biology, management, and conservation, 2nd edition, edited by G. Feldhamer et al., Johns Hopkins University Press.

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