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A Love of Science and the Excitement of Discovery

By Ryan W. McEwan

Ryan W. McEwan is a professor in the Department of Biology and will be installed Oct. 21 as the Dr. Robert J. Schuellein Chair in Biological Sciences.

In the Spring of 2022, Professor Albert J. Burky will retire from a career of nearly 50 years of tireless devotion to the University of Dayton mission.

Professor Burky came to the University of Dayton in 1973 as an assistant professor of aquatic biology. Since that time, he has been a model of excellence in every facet of faculty life: research, teaching and service.

Research: Rich Experiences on Campus and in the Field

Professor Burky has shepherded a research program that has deeply engaged UD undergraduates and graduate students in fieldwork, lab work, data analysis and publishing. For example, undergraduate students have been contributors on more than 100 combined publications and meeting presentations, and Professor Burky has published 45 peer-reviewed research papers and dozens of other works in books and conference proceedings; many of them are archived in eCommons (browse the list below).

Professor Burky’s research (photos in gallery below) has been focused on ecology and evolution, and he is particularly motivated to introduce students to the excitement of scientific discovery. As a graduate student adviser, Professor Burky has been exemplary. His devotion and passion for his chosen subject is infectious. His mentorship of master’s and doctoral students has contributed to the development of an ever widening cadre of scientific professionals who continue to contribute to the scientific community through their own careers.  

One monumental aspect of Professor Burky’s time at UD has been a series of research efforts focused on freshwater streams in the mountains of Hawaii. Over the decades, Professor Burky has made more than 100 trips to the Hawaiian Islands, often with UD undergraduate and graduate students as part of the teams. These projects have focused on the biology of stream organisms and routinely addressed environmental sustainability because some of these streams faced the loss of flow due to diversion for tourist development. With funding from the Earth Watch Institute and other sources, Professor Burky has been committed to translating his science into action, working with regional professionals to protect these streams and the local people who relied on them.

Teaching: Creativity, Enthusiasm, Innovation

As a teacher, Professor Burky has brought enthusiasm and creativity to nearly 50 years of UD students. Of particular note is the development of a set of undergraduate laboratories using hands-on experiments and observations of organisms, often from his personal collection. His exuberant dedication to his invertebrate zoology lab has created an unforgettable experience for students, many of whom have marked that lab as the best learning opportunity of their time at the University. Professor Burky also has created opportunities for students to travel and experience remote ecosystems and unique cultures. For example, he developed the course Island Environmental Biology and taught it in Palau and the Hawaiian Islands, and he took students into the field in Costa Rica for the course Culture, Biodiversity and Resource Management. All of these efforts earned him the College of Arts and Sciences’ Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1993 and the University Award for Faculty Teaching in 1994.

Service: Personal, Professional, Departmental

In the realm of service, Professor Burky contributes daily to the operation and function of the Department of Biology and the University as a whole. He advises undergraduate students with patience, precision and wise counsel; indeed, at times, Professor Burky has been a de facto walk-in clinic for students needing help selecting classes. He also has been an ardent advocate and mentor for new faculty at UD. Besides serving others at the individual level, Professor Burky has been a model of commitment to “the work of the department” in service to students and the University. His deep engagement in professional service — including leadership activities for professional scientific societies, organization of professional meetings, peer review of emerging research and communication of science to stakeholders — has advanced knowledge, developed new leaders and elevated the research profession.

A Model, a Mentor, an Adviser, a Friend

Professor Burky has been a role model and mentor for me; an empathetic ear when I face frustrations; and a heartening champion when things go well. In short, he is a selfless example of the aspirational totality of the title “professor.”  

Selected Publications by Albert J. Burky

The following scholarly works by Professor Burky are archived in eCommons, UD's institutional repository for faculty scholarship; if you'd like your research to be added, contact Maureen Schlangen in the University Libraries when your new works are accepted for publication.

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