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James Costa

James Costa


College of Arts and Sciences


Contact Information

Phone: 828.787.1712
Office: 202 Apodaca Science Building Building
Personal Website:


<b>Jim Costa</b> is Professor and Executive Director of the Highlands Biological Station of WCU, where he has taught courses in genetics, entomology, evolution, and biogeography since 1996.<br><br>Jim's many interests include insect behavior and ecology, environmental history and philosophy, conservation biology, and especially the history of evolutionary thought. His research has focused in recent years on Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. He has authored numerous research papers, reviews, magazine articles, and 9 books, most recently <i>Radical by Nature: The Revolutionary Life of Alfred Russel Wallace</i> (Princeton University Press, 2023) and (co-authored with Bobbi Angell) <i>Darwin and the Art of Botany: Observations on the Curious World of Plants</i> (Timber Press, 2023).<br><br>Jim has held fellowships or visiting scholar appointments at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study, the New York Botanical Garden's LuEsther T. Mertz Library, the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Hamburg, and the University of Toulouse. He lectures widely in the US and Europe, is a regular travel program leader/lecturer for the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, and for many years co-instructed Harvard’s Darwin summer program at the University of Oxford. Jim is the recipient of the Stephen Jay Gould Prize of the Society for the Study of Evolution (2023) and the Alfred Russel Wallace Medal (2017).


  • Ph D, University of Georgia, Entomology
  • MA, University of Georgia, Entomology
  • BS, SUNY Buffalo, Biological Sciences

Teaching Interests

Jim Costa's regular courses taught include Biogeography (graduate only) and Darwin's On the Origin of Species (undergraduate & graduate), in alternating years. Other courses occasionally taught include The Darwinian Revolution seminar and two field courses at the Highlands Biological Station: Evolution in the Blue Ridge (for STEM educators) and Comparative Temperate-Tropical Biogeography, offered in cooperation with Highlands Biological Station and Wildsumaco Biological Station in Ecuador.

Research Interests

Insect behavior and ecology; Conservation; History of evolutionary biology; Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, and other explorer-naturalists of the 18th and 19th centuries.

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