Jan grew up on a family cattle ranch in a very small town, Dietrich, in southern Idaho with 12 students in the high school graduating class. She has a B.S. in zoology, University of Idaho; M.Ed. University of Washington, Seattle; Ph.D. in zoology Washington State University; postdoctoral fellow University of Texas, Austin; visiting professor, Cornell University. She has held academic positions in biology departments at Central Missouri State University and San Francisco State University. Her research focuses on behavioral ecology and evolution of desert rodents in western United States and Central Asia with emphasis on communication and social organization resulting in over 50 publication. She is currently working on genetics of the endangered giant kangaroo rat in the Carrizo Plain National Monument in California. Jan has received grants from the National Geographic Society, National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health and Research and Development Foundation. Jan is a fellow of the California Academy of Science and has received the Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of Idaho. Jan is a Professor Emeritus of Biology at San Francisco State University.