Skip to main content

Dennis Profant, 1956-2015


I learned today of the death of one of Ohio's premier naturalist/biologists, Dennis Profant. The news was a shock to all, and his passing yesterday was terrible news.

Dennis was a professor at Hocking College, where he taught ornithology, dendrology, and entomology. He really was a jack-of-all-trades when it came to natural history knowledge, but he was probably best known for his encyclopedic knowledge of moths. Dennis published extensively on the Lepidoptera, especially his beloved slug caterpillar moths (Limacodidae). He was lead author of the definitive work on these gorgeous little animals: The Slug Caterpillar Moths (Lepidoptera: Limacodidae) and other Zygaenoidea of Ohio. Don't let the academic title fool you. The book, which appeared in 2010, is a richly illustrated, easily understood and highly useful guide to these moths.

I have known Dennis for at least 20 years, and spent many hours afield with him. Never, ever, did one of these forays conclude without myself and anyone else who was along being greatly enriched in our knowledge of the natural world. He was a born teacher and it was fitting indeed that Dennis's career path took him into sharing the wonders of the natural world with young people, which he did for 25 years at Hocking College. In spite of a busy schedule, Dennis often made himself available to assist with events and workshops. Attendees at the last two Mothapaloozas benefited from his expertise, and we will sorely miss him at this year's Mothapalooza. Dennis also exposed people worldwide to the wonders of Ohio's hill country via his blog, Field Biology in Southeastern Ohio.

Students, especially when given the opportunity to do so anonymously, can be harsh critics of their teachers. It doesn't surprise me that Dennis scored an A+ on the site Rate My Professors, on which many an instructor has been savaged. Here's a telling comment from that site: "Dennis is by far the best natural resources instructor at Hocking College. He is very knowledgeable and his enthusiasm is contagious. I only wish he taught all the classes in my curriculum."

Last July was the last time that I had an extended field trip with Dennis, in this case to Wahkeena Nature Preserve in Fairfield County. We all stayed well into the night, capturing moths, seeking caterpillars, and whatever other critters we could find. As always, it was an excellent adventure, made all the better by Dennis and his stores of information.

I'll dearly miss him, as will many others.

Comments

Lisa Greenbow said…
A lovely tribute. I am sorry to hear about your loss.
KaHolly said…
A lovely tribute, indeed! I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend, so young. I, too, just lost a dear friend and can share your pain.
Anonymous said…
The youngest, and the brightest usually go to an afterlife on another plane, where they can use their talents without sickness fear, and pain. Don't believe it? It's still a nice thought
Anonymous said…
Thank you for your kind words Jim.Dennis was my cousin.He left his mark on anyone he came in contact with I think.God bless.
cass said…
Thank you Jom McCormac , the world is a better place because of Dennis Profant. He thought the world of you .
Ron Cass
Derek Hennen said…
Very well-put Jim. It's a testament to Dennis's character that so many people are grieving for him today. He will be missed.
Sue said…
Oh, how sad. He was young.
Be glad you got to know someone so special and spend some quality time in the great outdoors. Sounds like some great memories.
Lisa Sells said…
Micro Moths and Jazz Music...2 things that totally rocked his world.
Julie Gee said…
Thank you so much for this tribute Jim. Dennis was a "larger-than-life" personality who will be sorely missed here at Hocking. We are all in shock. I shared an office area with Dennis and his ability to make me laugh was a gift.
Julie Gee
Eileen Jones said…
What a sad loss. I had Dennis as a teacher at Hocking from 1978-1980 and learned so much from him. Not only about birds and plants, but jazz and life as well.
Anonymous said…
I had Dennis as an instructor for several of my courses at Hocking, and he was one of the most passionate, caring, inspiring, and engaging of instructors. I miss him. Thank you for this blog, Jim. -Joshua York
KC Clark said…
I always enjoyed talking to Dennis. He got a kick out of me asking him to sign my copy of the slug caterpillar book. Definitely going to miss him.
A.L. Gibson said…
Thank you for this touching tribute to Dennis. He was one of my favorite professors during my influential time at Hocking College and it brought me great joy to become good friends and field companions in the years following. He was a bird of a different feather and that's what made him so memorable and a joy to be around. I'll miss him dearly and will cling to the memories I have and the ones I wish I could have made. Thanks again.

Andrew Gibson
becaherbtravel@gmail.com said…
Jim, what a lovely and poetic tribute to Dennis, it is all true as was his love of nature, tromping through the forest and sharing his knowledge, all with a twist of wry humor! We where students together at Hocking in the mid 7o's yes a long time ago, but too soon I feel for Dennis not to be here to point out the 'drink you tea' or zee zee zee zayy ' our fine feathered friends! We would key out unknown plants, and he would just answer my questions on various caterpillars, a true love of his!
He did in fact inspire students for many years and had a unique way of sharing the 'green spark', I will miss him and think of him each time I lift my binoculars! Here's to you Dennis! Rebecca Wood
Dan Best said…
Dennis and I go way back. We served together on the YCC staff at the College of Wooster in 1978 and have been friends ever since. Denny had a great intensity about him and deep passion in all his endeavors be it natural history, jazz music or teaching. We'd see each other now and then over the years; the annual ODOW Wildlife Diversity Conference afforded the opportunity to stay in touch. His passing is great loss to the conservation community with his foremost knowledge and experience in field biology and the natural sciences. As testimonials from his students demonstrate, Hocking Tech lost a tremendously effective educator.
Deb Platt said…
So sorry to hear that Dennis has passed on. What a loss to all of Ohio's nature lovers.
strmywthr3 said…
I had Dennis as an instructor when I was at Hocking. He was one of my favorite instructors. He'll be missed.
Ann Flynn said…
Dennis was first my co-worker, then a thirty year plus friend. I was a park ranger at Blue Spring State Park in Orange city and was at the main gate when his rust-pocked yellow Trans-
Am (with Ohio plates) pulled in... and out he hopped... for his job interview. We connected immediately due to the Ohio Connection... I had been at OU while he was attending (what was then) Hocking Tech.

I had worked for the Ohio YACC...we knew some of the same people.

The rest is history. I stayed here in Florida. I was his "place to stay" when he came back south for visits and vacations.

I miss him. Listening to jazz right now. And I still think..".when I talk to Dennis I have to ask him about..." (chose anything, he knew so much)... Miss you my friend.

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Ballooning spiders

Fear not, ye arachnophobes. The subject of this entry is indeed about spiders, but the star of the show is about as cute as a spider can get. And you'll want to know what we're about to learn...

On my recent West Virginia foray, we were strolling down a seldom-used lane, when a bright yellow object caught our eye. It was a goldenrod crab spider, Misumena vatia, on top of a post! Not only that, she - it is a girl - was acting extraordinarily goofy. The spider would stilt up as high as she could go on her legs, weave back and forth, jig side to side, and otherwise engage in what appeared to be spider break-dancing.

Click the pic for expansion, and you can see two columns of silk issuing from her spinnerets. This is an important point, as we set about determining what this non-web-making spider is doing.


So fixated was our spider on her task that she even rejected what would seem to me to be a perfectly scrumptious meal. This little caterpillar climbed rapidly up the post and dire…