Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, John received his B.A. in Biological Sciences from Cornell University (1971) and Ph.D. in Zoology from Duke University (1976). He retired in 2015 and is Emeritus Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology at Gettysburg College, where he was the founding Chair of the Environmental Studies Department. John taught laboratory- and field-oriented courses, including Principles of Ecology, Marine Ecology, The Coastal Ecology of Maine, and Environmental Issues. His interdisciplinary seminar courses included Human Population Dynamics, Water, The Environmental Effects of Nuclear War, and Dream Machine: The Impact of the Automobile on American Culture and Environment.
John’s research in marine ecosystems focuses on seafloor ecology in the Gulf of Maine, including predator-prey interactions, dispersal dynamics, and spatial ecology. He has also conducted research in North Carolina, Virginia, Norway, New Zealand, and Italy. He has especially strong ties to the Marine Biology and Ecology Unit at the University of Pisa. His recent work uses soft-bottom mussel beds (Mytilus edulis) as a model system and incorporates field observations, laboratory and field experiments, and computer modeling. He investigates recruitment facilitation as a driver of fractal power-law spatial pattern formation. He also studies the role of mussels as ecosystem engineers, including so-called “legacy effects” of massive amounts of shell material that carpet the seafloor when mussels die.
John spent his entire career teaching at small undergraduate institutions. He publishes with colleagues from around the world but is proud of the fact that most of his co-authors were and continue to be undergraduate students, many of whom have gone on to exciting careers in marine science, policy, and management. This mentoring relationship helps explain John’s slow rate of publication! Known for his humor in the classroom and his high expectations for students, he was the recipient at Gettysburg College of the Student Senate Faculty Appreciation Award, Outstanding Natural Science Professor Award, Most Outstanding Faculty Member Award, and Gettysburg College Distinguished Teaching Award. John was twice named the Carnegie Foundation Professor of the Year, for Maryland while at Hood College and for Pennsylvania while at Gettysburg College. Still active in marine research, he has also turned his attention in recent years to making art. John was a visiting artist at the Teichman Gallery in Brewster, Massachusetts, and has been in several exhibitions, including “Trash and Treasure: Sculptures from Found Objects,” a solo show at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and “Meet the Parents,” a group show at Essex Flowers Gallery in New York City.