Marine Science Center

Professor with thousands of bones retires from Northeastern University

by Jessica Driscoll

After nearly 37 years at Northeastern University, Dr. Gwilym Jones is retiring, leaving behind an impressive educational legacy, as well as a huge collection of zooarchaeological specimens he’s built up over the last few decades, all of which is being moved to the Georgia Museum of Natural History.

Jones began his career in Northeastern’s biology department in 1976. He says he came to the university because it was an exciting professional opportunity.

During his time at Northeastern, Jones has taught several courses, including mammalogy, ornithology, and Evolution.

Jones also conducted plenty of research during his tenure on the topics of mammalian ectoparasites (with six named taxa), mammalian systematics (with two named taxa), biodiversity and biogeography, and avian ecology. “During the last 20 years, I have added marine mammal biology, specifically studies of bone disease and overall skeletal development,” says Jones. “With this came the necessary acquisition of a large sample size which culminated in the marine mammal collection in the NU Vertebrate Collection being among the top 12 in size in the world.”

In preparation for his retirement, Jones’ bone collection has been transferred to the University of Georgia.

Jones says the university has grown and changed in his time here. “Northeastern is now a player on the international stage.”

Jones says some of the most memorable aspects of his career include: “preparing several thousand undergraduates by demanding rigor, and then learning that so many succeeded in their careers; graduating 34 graduate students from my lab; being research advisor to an even dozen Honors students with theses; developing a lasting, professional relationship with the residents of the Back Bay Fens based in wildlife issues, including lectures and annual May bird walks; and spreading the good name of Northeastern throughout the state as a gubernatorial appointee to the regulatory Fish and Wildlife Board.”

Jones says the Marine Science Center, in many people’s eyes, is the “crown jewel” of the university.  “The buildings have been and continue to be refurbished,” he says. “New facilities are on the drawing-board, which will entrench the center as one of the most up-to-date, progressive marine research facilities of its kind. It will prove to be a complement to the deep-water oriented facilities at Woods Hole. The acquisition of more than a handful of new, young, aggressive researchers is the fuel that is pushing the effort forward in its new ‘digs.’”

Post-retirement, as a professor emeritus, Jones says he plans to continue and complete the research projects he has initiated. “I will work at the MSC as long as there is space for such,” he says.

Among his projects is a study of barn owl foods from 150 gallons of pellets collected on Martha’s Vineyard.  “This would be among the largest, and thus most statistically valid, studies done,” Jones says.

He says he will also compile the ectoparasite records collected over the years from a number of small mammal species from Massachusetts, complete and publish the results of bone pathologies of several species of marine mammals, and — on the more personal side — he will finally be able to spend some quality time with his family, including eight grandchildren.   “We will also visit family in the Midwest and the South,” he says. “Golf and recreational birding will be enjoyed wherever we find ourselves.”

College of Science