David Dornbos

Research interests revolve around evaluating the physiological basis by which non-native invasive shrubs like autumn olive and the buckthorn species compete with native plants.  Because it is not possible to eradicate these pests, attention is turned to evaluating ways to control or mitigate these pests, or even to harness the competitive advantage of autumn olive’s ability to fix nitrogen to our benefit.

  • 2012: Pierce Cedar Creek Institute URGE Program. $7,000. Productivity of Switchgrass and Corn Grown in Close Proximity with Nitrogen Fixing Autumn Olive and Cow Pea in Productive and Nutrient-poor Soils.
  • 2011: Nagel Institute Fellowship. $6000. Eden School of Agriculture project “Transforming Cambodia: Holistic Application of Sustainable Food Production Methods in Rural Cambodia”.
  • 2010: Pierce Cedar Creek Institute URGE Program. $10,500. Relationship between Nitrogen Fixation Rate, Apparent Photosynthesis Rate, and Chlorophyll Content of Autumn Olive and Potential Impacts on the Competitiveness of Cohabiting Native Plant Species.

Dr. Dornbos has been a faculty member of the Biology Department since 2004.  Prior to that time, he worked in the area of crop genetics and agronomy in agriculture industry, holding such roles as Global Head of Seed Production Research, Product Development, and Field Agronomist.  In these roles, he was involved in the introduction of the first biotechnology products in agriculture, optimization of seed corn production, and field testing of new corn, soybean, sunflower and alfalfa varieties. Dr. Dornbos maintains a graduate school appointment as Lecturer in Agronomy at Iowa State University in which he teaches summer courses on these topics.

In his spare time, you should expect to find Dr. Dornbos outdoors pursuing one of many hobbies.  Spring through fall are focused on gardening, fishing, and road cycling.  Winter activities include anything from pond hockey, cutting firewood, ice fishing, to bow hunting.  Of course, running and road races occurs year around.  David has been happily married for 30+years and has three children … two of which are actively working in biology!


  • B.S. in Biology, Calvin College
  • M.S. in Crop Production and Physiology, The Ohio State University
  • Ph.D. in Crop Production and Physiology, Iowa State University

Professional Experience

  • Faculty, Au Sable Institute Great Lakes, teaching "Field Biology in Spring" (Biology 361)
  • Lecturer, Iowa State University Seed Technology and Business (STB) distance learning M.S. program, teaching Variety Testing (STB 534) and Seed Production (STB 547)
  • Agricultural industry research management with Syngenta Seeds, Inc. for 15 years in the roles of Global Head of Seed Production Research, North American Director of Product Development, Field Agronomist
  • Advisory Boards: Pierce Cedar Creek Institute (Hastings, MI), Land Conservancy of West Michigan (LCWM), Genesis Community of Transformation (Phnom Penh, Cambodia), Integrated Solutions Asia Cooperative (Phnom Penh, Cambodia), Integrated Science Research Institute (ISRI)
  • Scientific Association Section Chairs: Botany and Ecology, Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters (MASAL), and Seed Production and Technology (C-4) of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA)
  • USDA/ARS Post-doctoral Research Scientist of the Bioactive Constituents Research Unit at the Northern Regional Research Center, Peoria, IL

Courses taught


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Academic interests

Dr. Dornbos teaches and conducts research in a variety of biological topics roughly consistent with his training in plant biology, particularly plant physiology and biochemistry.  Courses he teaches regularly includes Living Systems, Human Population and Global Food Systems, Plant Physiology, Global Health – Environment – and Sustainability, and a capstone course Medical Ethics.  He regularly takes interim classes to Cambodia, engaging a variety of food security and development best practices and thinking about how to relate food systems in these unique cultures. 

  • Application of sustainable food production techniques of developed countries with comparable efforts in Cambodia; optimization of appropriate food production systems for small shareholder farmers through the NGO Genesis Community of Learning and Eden School of Agriculture.
  • Measurement of the quantity of carbon dioxide assimilated annually by the greenspace of Calvin College and Pierce Cedar Creek Institute to enable optimization of carbon sequestration efforts through the effective management of land resources.
  • Characterizing the physiological advantages of invasive shrub species of southwestern Michigan by assessing photosynthesis and transpiration rates, water and light use efficiencies: common and glossy buckthorn, and autumn olive compared with a number of native shrub species.
  • Optimization of methods to control the buckthorn species and autumn olive in southwestern Michigan.

Research and scholarship

Selected publications

Dornbos, Jr., D. L.. 2012. How Should Christians Promote Sustainable Agriculture in Agrarian Systems? , Volume 64, Number 1, March 2012, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith.

Dornbos Jr., D. L. and Pruim, R. 2012. Moist Soils Reduce the Effectiveness of Glyphosate on Cut Stumps of Buckthorn,  Natural Areas Journal. 32: 240-246.

Dornbos, D.L. and R. Pruim. Factors Impacting Glyphosate Efficacy in the Control of Invasive Shrubs. Submitted to Invasive Plant Control, Weed Science Society of America.



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