Dr. Evans received the Conservation Educator of the Year award from the TN Wildlife Federation. At a banquet in Nashville on May 10, Evans was recognized for the different capacities he has promoted environmental education at Sewanee and for his long-standing work in promoting forest conservation on the Cumberland Plateau. Featured here on Sewanee website.
As Assistant Provost for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability at the University of the South (2011-2016), Dr. Jon Evans was responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy for integrating sustainability across the curriculum and making sustainability a vital part of University operations and decision-making. He launched the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability within the Provosts Office and hired the first Director of Environmental Stewardship to oversee management of Sewanee’s 13000 acre Domain. He wrote Sewanee’s first Sustainability Master Plan and developed the outline for a Domain Stewardship Plan that, for the first time in Sewanee’s history, prioritized education as the primary land management objective. He revitalized the University Farm and hired its current director. He developed plans for a Solar Farm, Lake Cheston Living Learning Center, and a Domain Carbon Credits Program. His three-pronged energy plan was designed to allow the University to become carbon neutral in less than 10 years. As a result of his efforts, Sewanee was subsequently awarded the STARS Silver Award by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
As founding Director of Sewanee’s Landscape Analysis Laboratory (1999-2011), Evans created one of the first Geographical Information System (GIS) centers for research and teaching in the state. The LAL served as a focal point for an interdisciplinary team of faculty, staff and students engaged in the study of land-use in the southeast and its ecological and socio- economic implications. Evans led a federally funded, multi-disciplinary project that used GIS and remote sensing to examine the environmental consequences of native hardwood conversion to pine plantations on the Cumberland Plateau. Based on the science generated from LAL research, TN Governor Bredesen condemned clearcutting on the Plateau and the unsustainable conversion of native forests to pine monocultures. Advocacy by national conservation organizations (Natural Resource Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy) based on Evans’ research led to major environmental reforms in the land-use behavior of industrial timber companies, not only on the Plateau but elsewhere in the southeastern United States. The research helped to launch major landscape-level conservation planning initiatives for the southern Cumberland Plateau region, including Governor Bredesen's establishment of a state conservation fund for the Plateau, whose first acquisition was Lost Cove in Sewanee.
As Director of the Sewanee Herbarium (1994- present) and Professor of Biology, Evans generates student research opportunities in field botany and plant conservation at Sewanee and has worked to increase plant awareness within the student body and Sewanee community by providing public outreach programs related to field botany for Sewanee and surrounding communities. A large number of undergraduate students have co-authored papers with Dr. Evans over the years and many of these former students continue to collaborate with him on projects as professors and conservation professionals. Evans manages a collection of plants for the Domain and the southern Cumberland Plateau region with an associated database and digital archive. His recent publication of the Domain Flora documenting its 1125 species of plants was awarded the Windler Prize from the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society for the best systematics paper of 2016.
Also in 2016, Dr. Evans helped to coordinate the establishment of the Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance and he currently serves on the Steering Committee of this new state organization. Plant Conservation Alliances are networks of state and federal agencies, botanical gardens and academic institutions that agree to work together to leverage expertise and resources for the common goal of conserving a state’s native plants and their habitats. In 2005, Dr. Evans created a Sewanee Herbarium Post-Baccalaureate Fellows program that has continued to this day. This externally funded program has allowed recent graduates (seven so far) to complete and submit for publication botanical research that they started as undergraduates. In 2018, Evans launched the Herbarium Undergraduate Fellows program funded by an endowment established in memory of Ashley Block C’13. Herbarium Undergraduate Fellows are selected from current or prospective Biology majors that express a strong interest in plants and plant-related research and serve as undergraduate ambassadors for the mission of the Herbarium.
As Boeckman Director of the Sewanee Environmental Institute (2008-2011), Evans created and staffed a summer environmental program for high school students that became a successful recruiting tool for Sewanee admissions and established a summer field school in archaeology.