You are here

Basketball Leads to Biology

College of Sciences Alumnus of the Year Kenneth Bruce Jones found a mentor during a game of three-on-three.

People  |  Oct 11, 2018  |  By Brian Sodoma
Kenneth Jones

College of Sciences Alumnus of the Year Kenneth Bruce Jones helped save New York City more than $6 billion through a water analysis.  (Casey Jade Photography)


Editor's Note: 

As part of UNLV's Homecoming festivities, the UNLV Alumni Association will celebrate the accomplishments of graduates at its annual reception and awards ceremony Oct. 18. You can stream the awards ceremony live here.

College of Sciences Alumnus of the Year Kenneth Bruce Jones (’95 Ph.D. Biological Sciences) became the chief scientist for geography at the U.S. Geological Survey in 2006. He is involved in a NATO project assessing watershed conditions across Europe and Australia. His many achievements have earned him awards from the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, International Statistical Institute, and UNLV.

Tell us about a moment when someone showed you unexpected kindness. How do you pay it forward?

As an undergraduate student at Jacksonville University I had difficulty adjusting to college life and the demands one faces when leaving home for the first time. During the summer session in my sophomore year, I decided to play three-on-three basketball on a biology team. One of the professors on the team was Ted Allen, an ornithologist and former player on the Murray State University basketball team.

Allen took a liking to me almost immediately. He and I had several discussions about my struggles with some of the courses at Jacksonville. His tremendous enthusiasm for biology and natural history, and regular guidance and encouragement throughout my time at Jacksonville, had a huge impact on my life and career in biology. I have remained compassionate and enthusiastic about biology, natural history, and environmental conservation to this day. Ted, who turned 86 this year, remains a very close friend and father figure.

I have used Ted as a role model throughout my career and life and have tried to show compassion and enthusiasm to those young people considering a career in biology. I continue to pay it forward by being involved in applied science and conservation societies.

Dollars and Ecological Sense

Appointed chief scientist for geography at the U.S. Geological Survey in 2006, Kenneth Jones’ career in the sciences is marked by numerous successes.

Jones is known for leadership in the fields of remote sensing, landscape ecology, biogeography, and geographic information systems. One of his greatest successes involved showing New York officials that a $500 million investment in a filtration system to protect an upstate watershed would save New York City $7 billion. The work is one of the first instances where economic value was placed on services freely provided by ecosystems.