Wednesday, April 15, 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.