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John Warren Wenzel, Ph.D.

Photo of John WenzelJohn Wenzel started studying insects in 1978 when he was a field assistant to Edward O Wilson in Panama at age 19. His studies of social insects include ants, bees, and wasps, with a focus on the evolution of complex behavior and the organization of work. He was a pioneer in the use of behavioral characteristics for reconstructing evolutionary relationships. His career has taken him to many remote locations around the world, with about three years in the field in tropical America and Africa, and a year in Europe.

He 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. John joined Ohio State Department of Entomology in 1994. He served as Director of the OSU Museum of Biological Diversity for ten years. With the graduate students in his lab group, he has studied systems outside of social insects such as web spinning in spiders, photic displays of fireflies, host choice in leaf-mining moths, swarming behavior in locusts, and sexual selection in damselflies. He and his students have published more than 90 scientific papers, and are frequently invited to speak at meetings and universities across the US and internationally.

As a professor John enjoyed teaching across the whole curriculum, from introductory courses for non majors (Biology 101) to a popular honors course in the biology of social insects, to a graduate course in methods for calculating evolutionary trees. John is responsible for several new courses in the Entomology curriculum, as well as an elite workshop in methods of calculating evolutionary trees, taught for six years in the US, with satellite workshops in Brazil and Mexico. In 1997, he won the highest teaching award Ohio State gives.

John joined the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in January, 2011, as Director of Powdermill Nature Reserve, a 2000 acre parcel in the Laurel Highlands, already world famous for its bird banding station and research on birds. John has initiated new programs in aquatic entomology and water quality assessment, GIS technology tracking Marcellus shale gas development, improving habitats for native pollinators, and forensic entomology. Educational agendas include a workshop for federal certification in identification of Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera, and the first of its kind course in temperate zone ecology for Latin American students, a course whose pilot offering in May 2012 hosted 13 researchers from the Instituto de Ecologia, in Xalapa, Mexico. Sixteen students will participate in 2013.

John holds a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas, Department of Entomology, and a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College, Department of Biology.