Powdermill Nature Reserve

John Wenzel, Director

John Wenzel

Powdermill Nature Reserve
1847 Route 381
Rector, PA 15677

John Wenzel 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 is defining Powdermill’s role within Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s high-level research balanced with broad-based education and outreach. Wenzel is incorporating conversations about topics surrounding biodiversity and ecosystems—such as habitat loss, climate change, and threatened species—into the museum’s worldwide effort to address these issues. Wenzel is committed to bringing the public into this process 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. His research findings have appeared in such journals as Molecular Biology and Evolution, Cladistics, Behavioral Ecology, and Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, and he has contributed to texts including Chemistry and Biology of Social Insects, Social Insects and the Environment, Social Biology of Wasps, and Phylogenetics in Ecology.

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.”

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