October 19, 2022

Knowles celebrated as FMU Trustee Research Scholar

Knowles celebrated as FMU Trustee Research Scholar

Travis W. Knowles became Francis Marion University’s newest Board of Trustees’ Research Scholar.


Knowles, an associate professor of Biology, received the award during a luncheon at Ervin Dining Hall on FMU’s campus Tuesday afternoon. Accepting the honor before a gathering of members of the Francis Marion Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, and other research scholars, Knowles thanked the trustees for the prestigious honor. During brief remarks, Knowles highlighted the important role research plays in the education of students at FMU.


“Research ultimately enriches life in the classroom,” Knowles said. “It helps us mentor students who are interested in entering research-based fields, and in biology it helps our students learn the scientific process. I’ve been very pleased to be involved in using research as a teaching tool, and am pleased to receive this award that will support this work in the future.”


Knowles is the twenty-third professor to become a Board of Trustees’ Research Scholar. In 2002, FMU President Fred Carter asked the board of trustees to create the program, and the board did so by unanimous vote. The aim of the program is to recognize and promote high-level research and scholarship by university faculty. Appointments are awarded to 12 senior faculty members who have compiled a significant record of research and publication, and who show promise of continued scholarly productivity.


The appointment includes a reduced teaching load with a salary supplement.


Francis Marion University Board of Trustees Chairman Mr. Robert E. Lee said creating opportunities for faculty research is key to the university’s future success.


“The addition of Professor Knowles as a Research Scholar is a reaffirmation of the board of trustees’ support of research for our most productive scholars,” Lee said. “The impact professors have on the individual lives of their students here at Francis Marion – both through the results of their research and their work in the classroom – is substantial and fulfills a core mission of FMU to better the lives of our students.”


Carter said he will ask the board to expand the number of research scholars from 12 to 15 this year to reflect the university’s growth in programs and research faculty over the past two decades. Such an expansion, Carter said, would further enhance FMU’s efforts to recognize and reward faculty scholarship.


Knowles earned both Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science degrees in Biology from Wake Forest University, in 1982 and 1988, respectively. He went on to work as a contractor for the National Park Service, conducting field surveys and developing conservation recommendations for rare and endangered vertebrate species.

Knowles joined FMU’s faculty in August 1991, teaching a variety of courses including introductory biology, vertebrate zoology, conservation biology, and tropical ecology. Knowles will also begin teaching courses in ornithology starting Spring 2023.


Knowles is the founding Director of WildSumaco Biological Station in Ecuador, a collaborative initiative of FMU, WildSumaco Wildlife Sanctuary, the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, and the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador. His research focuses on the ecology, distribution, and conservation of wild mammals, employing field surveys with camera traps and live-trapping techniques.