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School of Science

School of Science

John Wnek

B.S. Biology ’87 & Masters of Teaching ’94, Ph.D. Drexel 2010

Supervisor of Science and Research, Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES)

I was always connected with the environment. Since I was in elementary school, I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors in New Jersey. My interest turned from the forests of northern New Jersey to the Atlantic Ocean and Barnegat Bay when I moved to Ocean County during middle school. After high school, I entered Monmouth University (called Monmouth College back then). As a biology major, I was preparing for medical school, but realized that my passion was the environment and research. The Biology Department at Monmouth was a tremendous influence on my life. Thanks to Dr. Donald Dorfman (Doc), I was able to assist him with local research projects and gained invaluable research experience in the marine and environmental science field. After graduating Monmouth in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, I continued with work with Doc on projects involving blue crabs. I also attended Monmouth’s School of Education where I pursued a Masters in Teaching, which coupled with the Bachelor’s Degree prepared me for my career.

In 1994, I was charged with developing and instructing a marine and environmental science program with the Ocean County Vocational Technical School. The school was embarking on a program that would relate science concepts to “hands on” experiences. Thanks to my preparation at Monmouth, I was able to develop a program involving marine and environmental science projects. Dr. Dorfman visited my classes and I even took graduate classes with him throughout that time. Doc was also instrumental in me pursuing my doctorate through his encouragement and recommendation for me to continue on. Despite helping to develop a program that was called the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES), I still wanted to earn my Ph.D. However, I did not want to leave MATES so I was able to earn my Ph.D. as a part-time student. It was challenging, but well worth it as I serve in a capacity at MATES to involve students in research and work with partners on research focusing on Barnegat Bay. It is a unique job, but one that includes teaching, research and project coordination. In fact, I had an opportunity to work with six Monmouth University students during the summer of 2011 on a project focusing on diamondback terrapin at Shark River. It was a rewarding experience for me to work with such a great group of students. It made me even prouder to be an alumnus.

My current research focuses on the nesting ecology of diamondback terrapin where I started an initiative called “Project Terrapin”. This initiative included research, education and conservation of terrapins throughout New Jersey. I am also working on a project to remove derelict fishing gear from Barnegat Bay, mainly abandoned crab pots. Coincidentally, we were a partner with Monmouth University on this project. It all comes back to Monmouth. I’ve worked with thousands of students the past twenty-seven years at all levels and thank Monmouth University for setting a good foundation.