Backgrounder: John Wenzel hired as
Director of the Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania … The newly launched Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems will be headed by John Wenzel, who comes to Carnegie Museum of Natural History from his position as Professor in the Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology at The Ohio State University (OSU). Previously, Wenzel served as Director of the OSU Museum of Biological Diversity, managing a faculty of 10 biologists and their students as well as 63,000 square feet of biological collections.
As director, Wenzel will define the Center’s role within Carnegie Museum of Natural History and manage the museum’s Powdermill Nature Reserve satellite location. “The Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems requires a leader who can balance high-level research with broad-based education and outreach,” said former Carnegie Museum of Natural History Director Sam Taylor. “John Wenzel understands the big questions about biodiversity and ecosystems—those of habitat loss, climate change, threatened species—and how the museum can increase its profile in the worldwide effort to answer these issues. And he knows how to bring the public into those efforts to advance understanding and to serve as participants in science.”
John Wenzel began studying insects at the age of 19, working in Panama as a field assistant to the legendary biologist Edward O. Wilson. He went on to study entomology at Harvard and to receive his PhD from the prestigious entomology department at University of Kansas. Since then Wenzel has held positions at the University of Georgia, the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France, and at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, joining OSU in 1994.
As a researcher, John Wenzel has studied social insects such as ants, bees, and wasps, and was a pioneer in the use of behavioral characteristics as a basis for understanding evolutionary relationships. He has served as President or Chair of the Entomological Society of America (section on Systematics and Evolution), The Willi Hennig Society, and the North American Section of the International Society for the Study of Social Insects. Wenzel also frequently serves on review panels at National Science Foundation, as a consultant to universities in the United States and abroad, and as an editorial reviewer for professional journals.
Equal to his track record in research, however, is Wenzel’s reputation for his long-standing devotion to creating science programming for a broad spectrum of audiences. He was a catalyst and organizer of events such as the annual Insect Fair at the Columbus Zoo, and he launched many programs that bring OSU biology educators into Ohio public schools. He has been featured in educational films and television programs on National Geographic TV. In addition, Wenzel has always insisted on teaching introductory biology survey courses, a practice he lobbies others to emulate in his publications and presentations.
“It’s important that our peers—our politicians and community leaders, neighbors and fellow voters, and of course our children—have a foundation of scientific literacy,” says Wenzel. “Most people don’t often end up in our entomology doctoral programs. But they do come to Carnegie Museum of Natural History. And this museum can help to ensure that the next presidents, school board members, philanthropists, and regular voters are engaged in scientific curiosity and share our understanding of nature and its wonders.”
Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is ranked among the top five natural history museums in the country. It maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 20 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. More information is available by calling 412.622.3131 or by visiting the website, www.carnegiemnh.org.
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