Skip to main content

Nathan SandersKNOXVILLE—The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has bestowed a James R. Cox Professorship upon another deserving faculty member.

Nathan Sanders, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, will hold the honor for three years.

The professorships are named for Knoxville native James R. Cox, whose gifts to the university through his sister and nephew, Charlotte and Jim Musgraves, helped establish the professorships in 2002 for faculty in the arts, theater, biological and physical sciences, architecture, and forestry studies. Recipients are chosen for their excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service. The three-year award provides a stipend of $25,500 to be used at the recipient’s discretion.

Recipients of Cox Professorships are chosen by a committee designated by the chancellor from nominees submitted by the deans of the applicable colleges.

“The Cox Professorships are to honor faculty who are outstanding teachers, who dedicate their service to the university, community, and their profession, and who model excellence in scholarship,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan Martin.

Sanders is very involved in his department, be it leading curriculum development or leading research teams, and can trace his passion for ecology and evolution back to his childhood.

“I grew up mostly on a farm in Arkansas and spent a lot of time running around in the woods behind my house looking for mountain lions, deer, bobcats, and the like. I never saw many of them, but I did see lots of ants crawling around. So, I wanted to know why. That question—why are some species common and some rare—drives my research. I especially want to know how climate change and invasive species determine the answer to that question,” Sanders said.

Sanders and his research team examine the causes and consequences of biodiversity in a changing world. Right now, they are focused on being able to forecast the responses of ant biodiversity to ever increasing temperatures and developing experiments to understand how climate change affects biodiversity in mountains.

Sanders recently received a grant for nearly $2 million from the National Science Foundation to fund research for this project. As primary investigator, he is collaborating with colleagues from Harvard University, North Carolina State University, and the University of Vermont.

Sanders also has been awarded the Omicron Delta Kappa Faculty Appreciation Award, the College of Arts and Sciences Junior Faculty Teaching Award, and the Chancellor’s Award for Professional Promise in Research and Creative Achievement.

Along with the prestigious professorships, the Cox family support extends to the College of Architecture and Design and renovations of the Alumni Memorial Building, for which the auditorium is now called the James R. Cox Auditorium.

Previous recipients of the Cox Professorship are Beauvais Lyons, a professor in the School of Art, and Gary McCracken, a professor and head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

C O N T A C T :

Stephanie Dixon (865-974-2125,

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,