September 29, 2020

Professor Spotlight: Gregory Keller

Josh “James” Litman '21

Courtesy of Gordon College

It will be a while before we see them in-person again, and some seniors never got to say goodbye, but we love our professors. They are all working so hard to transfer classes online and help us finish the semester well. Before spring break, I was planning on writing a column where I would interview different professors so we could get to know them better. Unfortunately, I will not be able to sit down with them in person due to the remainder of the spring semester being held remotely. However, I was able to interview a professor or two before I left. And now it seems, it is even more important to find alternative ways of connecting with our instructors. 

Biology, cooking, and field ornithology. These are just a few of Gregory Keller’s favorite things. Keller has been a professor of biology at Gordon College since 2007 and is the chair of the department. Keller previously taught at Eastern New Mexico University where he was an assistant professor of wildlife ecology for five years.

“I wanted to explore a smaller college where students were exposed to rigorous coursework, and students were high level in terms of their preparation,” said Keller when he shared about why he decided to make the move. “I love the idea of trying to find a way to integrate my faith with my science, so Gordon seemed like the perfect job for me. So I applied and was thrilled to death to get the job offer.”

As a high school student, Keller loved science. He knew he was either going to be a biologist, a chemist, or a psychologist. When he first went to college, Keller was going to be a dentist, but in the first week he discovered that chemistry was involved and subsequently decided to change courses.

“I took some good courses my sophomore year that linked ecology with zoology and I loved that. At the same time I took some psychology courses that linked animal behavior with biology. So I decided to major in both of those fields,” Keller said.

When he was an undergrad, Keller had a radio show. He said the high point was when a student requested a song by Pat Benatar, who at the time he hated. So instead he played two songs at once on overlapping turntables.  

Keller is passionate about all different kinds of biology. He loves the content of environmental science but wishes it could be in-person instead of online, as he misses seeing students in this course. He enjoys the conversations he gets to have with students from different disciplines, especially in conservation biology. In the course, they talk about sustainability and how conservation can impact our world. He also teaches mammalogy and takes the entire class to Vermont to look for moose. However, it’s field ornithology that he really loves.

Courtesy of Gordon College

“I think the field trips in field ornithology are my favorite,” Keller said. “The lab for that class, every day we’re out tromping around northern Massachusetts looking for good birds. We always see bald eagles, peregrine falcons, snowy owls, and scarlet tanagers; the list of birds we see in this class is really fantastic. It’s fun for me to show students what beauty in the world can look like.”

In the winter, one of Keller’s favorite birds to see is the snowy owl. He said to see the stark white, almost translucent bird fly across the open salt marshes is really beautiful. In the summer, Keller loves looking for the scarlet tanager, a gorgeous red bird with black wings. One of Keller’s favorite spots to go birdwatching is Plum Island, as it’s a great spot to see ocean birds and to have a nice quiet day.

Every other year, Keller brings a group of students to Belize to study tropical wildlife. His favorite bird there is the toucan.

“It looks like a crow carrying a banana. It looks like it shouldn’t belong in nature,” Keller said. “We can hear the call [of the toucan] from about a half-mile away, and then we look for it and see it cruise across the air through the rainforest. It’s just really gorgeous. So that’s just a fun one to see.”

When he’s not teaching or helping students as the chair of the biology department, Keller enjoys playing ping-pong with his kids, skiing, traveling with his wife, and cooking. Keller used to have a group called “Bros Can Cook” where he taught juniors and seniors how to cook. The group would then cook for the women in their dorms.

“If there’s a group of six guys who want to learn how to cook, I’ll revamp Bros Can Cook, we’ll do it again! It’s a lot of fun!” he said.

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