Jaeson Clayborn

Doctoral Researcher in Biology at Florida International University

Let me introduce myself:

Knowledge is infinite, makes one aware, and provides opportunities (including necessary skills) to achieve in a competitive world. Educators and scientists serve in numerous roles: (1) as teachers, instructing students in their field of study; (2) as mentors, leading by example and providing guidance; and (3) as researchers, collecting and analyzing data.

For my doctoral work, I concentrate on Heraclides spp. and their interactions with host plants and predators in tropical dry forest in the Florida Keys, Cuba, and Hispaniola. Currently, I am part of a conservation project (Schaus swallowtail habitat enhancement project) in association with Dr. Kevin Whelan at the National Park Service (NPS-SFCN). This project has restored degraded dry forest within prime Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus (a federally endangered butterfly) territory by planting and nurturing 5,000 host plants, mainly Amyris elemifera

Habitat loss is a major factor that contributes to the decline of insect species globally. Schools, community centers, and universities provide an opportunity to rehabilitate green space (planting native plants) in the local community. Teachers can use the school's surroundings as a framework to actively engage students in applied Science and Math. I work with local residents, schools, community centers, and universities to enrich their green space, knowledge (often learning from them), and encourage lifelong compassion for the environment. 


Master of Science in Environmental Science and Policy

- University of South Florida St. Petersburg,

- St. Petersburg, FL, May 2011 

Bachelor of Science in Biology, Minor in Environmental Studies

- Eckerd College

- St. Petersburg, FL, May 2006

Teaching Experience



Teacher Assistant - Florida International University, Miami, FL, 2011 - Present

Facilitator - Pathfinder Outdoor Education, Inc., St. Petersburg, FL, 2007 - 2011                                  

Teacher Assistant - University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, FL, 2009 - 2011

Marine Educator - Pier Aquarium, St. Petersburg, FL, 2008

AmeriCorps Teacher - Academy Prep, St. Petersburg, FL, 2006 - 2007                                                                                                                           

Introduction to Botany Lab (Florida International University)

Research Experience

Doctoral student - Florida International University, Miami, FL, 2012 - Present

  • Schaus' swallowtail habitat enhancement project in Biscayne National Park: replanted cleared sites at Elliott and Adams Key with host plants for a federally endangered butterfly. Monitor growth rate and survival of host plants in restored sites and track caterpillar recruitment. Survey sites annually for adult Schaus' swallowtail butterflies.
  • Torchwood and sea level rise mapping using GIS: surveyed and mapped torchwood and wild lime at Elliott, Adams, Old Rhodes, and Totten Keys using GIS. Generate torchwood habitat suitability maps and sea level rise projections to predict future habitat loss.
  • Exotic ant predation on Heraclides spp. in Biscayne National Park: perform ant-caterpillar interaction behavior experiments on torchwood and wild lime including the application of 24 hour video surveillance technology. Monitor ant activity and distribution on tree species in hardwood hammocks (subtropical dry forest) throughout the year.

Graduate student - University of South Florida St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, FL, 2008 - 2011

  • Solenopsis invicta survivorship and foraging strategies in beach habitats (Thesis research): conducted research on fire ants via bait traps, buried eggs, and tolerance to saline water. Maintained fire ant colonies and other arthropods for experiments and outreach programs. 

Undergraduate student - Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, FL, 2004 - 2006 

  • Assisted with turtle sampling surveys at Rainbow River (Ocala, FL). Turtles were identified and tagged; measurements of size, sex, and weight were recorded.
  • Assisted with reptile and amphibian surveys at Archbold Reserve (Lake Placid, Florida).



Articles and Book Chapter

Clayborn J, Koptur S, O’Brien G, & Whelan, K. 2017. The Schaus Swallowtail Habitat Enhancement Project: An Applied Service-Learning Project Continuum from Biscayne National Park to Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Southeastern Naturalist, in press.

Clayborn J, & Koptur S. 2017. Mortal combat between ants and caterpillars: an ominous threat to the endangered Schaus swallowtail butterfly (Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus) in the Florida Keys, USA. Journal of Insect Conservation, 21(4): 689-702. PDF

Clayborn J, O’Brien G, & Medina M. 2017. School gardening with a twist using fish: Encouraging educators to adopt aquaponics in the classroom. Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 16(2): 93-104. PDF

Clayborn, J. 2016. The not-so Graceful Twig Ant in Biscayne National Park: An Opportunistic Danger to Schaus swallowtail caterpillars. American Butterflies, Summer Issue, 24(2): 4-10.

O’Brien G., Sparrow K., Morales J., & Clayborn J. 2015. Re-orienting a Science Methods Course to Prepare Sustainability Literate K-6 Pre-service Teachers: A Mixed Methods Investigation. In Educating Science Teachers for Sustainability, Springer International Publishing, 205-234.

Cassill D. L., Casella A., Clayborn J., Perry M., & Lagarde M. 2015. What can ants tell us about collective behavior during a natural catastrophe? Journal of Bioeconomics, 17(3): 255-270. PDF

Whelan K. R. T., Clayborn J., Giannini H. C., Pernas T., Perry C. Planting to save the Schaus swallowtail butterfly: The National Park Service's Schaus Swallowtail Habitat Enhancement Project at Biscayne National Park. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Winter 2013 Issue, 42 -43. PDF 

Opinion Pieces

Clayborn J. September 15, 2014. On Behalf of the Schaus' Swallowtail: Habitat Enhancement at Biscayne National Park. Miami Blue Chapter North American Butterfly Association. http://miamiblue.org/schaus-swallowtail-habitat/.

Clayborn J. February 2013. Bringing Sea Torchwood Back to South Florida's Mainland and a Backyard Near You. Tillandsia web Dade Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society for Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys. http://www.dade.fnpschapters.org/pastnewsletters/2013/02.php#dicerandra 

Featured in the News

Bowden, B. 2017. Aquaponics: Alternative to traditional gardening. Florida Keys Free Press, March 15, 2017:1B. keysnews.com

Gonzalez, ES. 2017. How to build your own butterfly garden. FIU News, March 14, 2017. http://news.fiu.edu/2017/03/how-to-build-your-own-butterfly-garden/109705

Bowden, B. 2015. Regional effort aims for rare butterfly's resurgence. Florida Keys News – Florida Keys Free Press, July 22, 2015. http://keysnews.com/node/68324

Krosney, L. 2009. Study of fire ants may help turtles. Anna Maria Island Sun, May 20, 2009. http://www.amisun.com/archives/2009/05-20-09/turtles.htm

Conferences, Meetings, Symposiums

IX Congreso de la Biodiversidad Caribeña – Clayborn J. (1) El aumento del nivel del mar vs. el mejoramiento del habitat de la planta huesped, Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus; Paradoja de cambio climatico?, (2) El mortal kombat entre hormigas exóticas y especies de Heraclides en el bosque seco tropical en los cayos de Florida.  Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 2017.

Botanical Society of America, Presentation – Clayborn J, O’Brien G, & Medina, M. School gardening with a twist using fish: Encouraging educators to adopt aquaponics in the classroom. Savannah, Georgia, 2016.

80th Annual Meeting of the Florida Academy of Sciences, Presentation – Clayborn J, Koptur S, O’Brien G, & Whelan K. The Schaus Swallowtail Habitat Enhancement Project: An Applied Service-Learning Project Continuum from Biscayne National Park to Miami-Dade County Public Schools. St. Petersburg, Florida, 2016.

Imperiled Butterfly Working Group, Oral Presentation - Mortal Kombat between ants and Heraclides species in Biscayne National Park. Homestead, Florida, December 2015.

V Simposio, Ecología, Sociedad y Medio Ambiente Ecovida, Oral Presentation - El mortal kombat entre hormigas y especies de Heraclides en los Cayos de Florida. Pinar del Río, Cuba, December 2015.

Plant Biologists of South Florida Annual Meeting (Florida International University), Oral Presentation - Urban gardening with a twist using fish: Do - It - Yourself Aquaponic Systems. Miami, Florida, March 2015. 

Cuba Primera Circular Evento Cientifico Internacional "Utowana" (Botanico de Cienfuegos), Poster - Aumento del nivel del mar versus mejoramiento de habitat de Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus, una paradoja? Cienfuegos, Cuba, November 2014

43rd Annual NAAEE Conference, Roundtable Discussion - Butterflies and Habitat Restoration: What we can do? Ottawa, Canada, October 2014.

Entomological Society of America (Southeastern Branch), Oral Presentation - Sea Level Rise versus Habitat Enhancement for the Schaus Swallowtail Butterfly (Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus), a Paradox? Greenville, South Carolina, March 2014.

Southeastern Ecology and Evolutionary Conference (University of Central Florida), Oral Presentation - Habitat restoration subsidies for the Schaus swallowtail butterfly. Orlando, Florida,  March 2013.

Florida Marine Science Educators Association Conference (University of South Florida St. Petersburg), Presentation including Demonstrations - The Schaus and Coastal Hardwood Hammocks. St. Petersburg, FL, May 2012.

Florida Academy of Sciences (Florida Institute of Technology), Oral Presentations - (1) The effect of salinity within the immediate environment on the survival of fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) in coastal habitats; (2) Are coastal populations of fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) impacting sea turtle nests? Melbourne, FL, March 2011.

Certifications and Training

Motorboat Operator Certification Course (MOCC) - National Park Service (South Florida Caribbean Network)

All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) Certification - National Park Service (Everglades National Park)



  • The Fountain of New Life (Church Summer Camp) - Gardening with fish: Solar-powered aquaponic systems. Miami Gardens, Florida. 2017
  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (The Delicate Balance of Nature Series) – Gardening with fish: Solar-powered aquaponic systems. Key Largo, Florida. 2017.
  • Garden Club Upper Keys – Aquaculture + Hydroponic = Aquaponics (Learn, Design, Construct, Implement, Eat, Share). Key Largo, Florida, 2016.
  • Sierra Club – Aquaponic systems in an urban environment. Coconut Grove, Florida, 2016
  • Sylvania Heights Elementary School – Aquaponic systems in the classroom and home. Miami, Florida, 2016.
  • Potential Invasive Pests Workshop (UF-CTA), Presentation - Are coastal populations of fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, preying or scavenging on sea turtle nests? Miami, Florida, 2010.




  • Treasurer, Graduate Advocates for Diversity in Science (GrADS), 2017 - Present 
  • Cohort #3, Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science Fellow, 2014 - Present
  • President, FIU Insect Conservation Club, Miami, FL, 2013 - 2014
  • Member, Black Graduate Student Association FIU Chapter, Miami, FL, 2012 - Present
  • Member, Dade Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, Miami, FL, 2011 - Present
  • Speaker and Event Coordinator, Miami Blue Chapter of NABA, Miami, FL, 2012 - Present
  • Member, Black Student Association, University of South Florida, 2008 - 2011
  • Member, Student Chapter of Environmental Professionals, University of South Florida, 2008 - 2011
  • President, Afro-American Society, Eckerd College, 2005 - 2006
  • Volunteer and Site Director, Into The Streets, Eckerd College, 2002 - 2005
  • Volunteer Educator, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, St. Petersburg, FL, 2009 - Present
  • Volunteer Educator, Churches, Schools, and Camps, Cleveland, Ohio and Tampa bay area, FL, 2009 - Present