ROE R. Cross Distinguished Professor
2013 - David Edds
Dr. David Edds is the only Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professor to have a fish named after him. And just in case there is a challenge from a fellow member of this celebrated group, he actually has two fish named in his honor.
All told, Edds has collected nine fish species previously unknown to science and has had two of them named in his honor — Pseudecheneis eddsi and Balitora eddsi — by scientists wanting to recognize Edds for his more than 25 years of study of aquatic life in Nepal, a country now officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, and nestled between China and India.
Edds collected about 160 kinds of fish while on sabbatical and a Fulbright scholarship in Nepal in 1996. The Balitora species was collected on a rafting trip on the Geruwa River using a cast net and 15-foot long seine. Kevin W. Conway, assistant professor of Ichthyology at Texas A&M and Richard L. Mayden, professor of biology at Saint Louis University, named the fish. Heok Hee Ng, a taxonomist at the National University of Singapore, named the Pseudecheneis that was found in the Seti River, a tributary of the Gandaki River.
A 2008 publication of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), The Eastern Himalayas: Where Worlds Collide, praised Edds for his yeoman work surveying fishes in Nepal’s national parks:
“Until recently, the fish diversity of this country had been poorly studied or understood, relative to other fauna, A single scientist, Dr. David Edds, undertook an ambitious exploration of Nepal’s fish diversity in the late 1990s. The aim of the research was to better understand the biodiversity and conservation value of the protected areas. As a result of 35 different collections from seven protected areas, ranging from Himalayan mountains to subtropical lowlands and from east to west throughout the country, the scientist collected 91 different species of fish. These were the first fish surveys in two of the reserves and the most comprehensive assessments to date in three others, adding to our knowledge of the distribution and ecology of fishes in Nepal and South Asia.”
Edds first entered the world of Nepal as a Peace Corps volunteer.
After earning an associate’s degree from Independence Community College and a bachelor’s in biology from the University of Kansas, Edds served with the Peace Corps in Siraha and Kathmandu, Nepal. He was a volunteer and volunteer leader for fisheries extension and aquaculture, a conservation program developer and a community forestry training project director.
Edds returned to the United States to earn his master’s and doctorate degrees in zoology from Oklahoma State University. For his dissertation, he studied fishes in Nepal’s Kali Gandaki/Narayani rivers. Between earning his two graduate degrees, Edds spent another term working for the Peace Corps in Kathmandu, this time as a math-science training project director.
Edds’ work established research collections at Oklahoma State University and the University of Kansas that remain in use today.
While his research in Nepal has made an obvious scientific impact, Edds has equal clout when it comes to his students at Emporia State.
They have benefitted from his exploration and analytical abilities by joining him to research aquatic life in the Neosho River and other Kansas waterways. That research has included studies of zebra mussels, aquatic turtles, the threatened Neosho madtom, and the effects dams have on aquatic life.
He is known for exhibiting the same passion he has for research when he enters the classroom.
“He is one of the most highly respected teachers on this or any campus by the people who truly matter most, the students,” wrote a colleague.
An Emporia State graduate student agreed, writing in the Roe R. Cross nomination packet that Edds, “is a professor who cares about his students and wants them to succeed, pushing them past what they think their limits are.”
Edds, who grew up Independence, Kan., and began teaching at Emporia State in 1989, has also been involved in many community activities, such as the Emporia Area Regional Science and Engineering Fair, coaching soccer and baseball for the Emporia Recreation Commission, and conducting aquatic ecology summer camps for the Girl Scouts, Youth Conservation Corps at the Flint Hills Wildlife Refuge, and Emporia Recreation Commission. In the 1870s, his great-great-grandparents homesteaded five miles from the real Little House on the Prairie, made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s children’s books and later by the long-running television series.