Myers, a leading scholar in mammalian systematics and biodiversity, retires


Apr 22, 2014 Bookmark and Share

Phil Myers weighs a mouse.

Phil Myers weighs a mouse.

Philip Myers, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and curator, Museum of Zoology, retired from active faculty status on December 31, 2013.

“Phil has had an extraordinary dual-track career at the University of Michigan,” said Professor Diarmaid Ó Foighil, director of the U-M Museum of Zoology. “In addition to the standard academic path of dedicated mammalian biodiversity expert and lecturer in the UMMZ and the EEB Department, Phil has made an enormous contribution to science education worldwide. 

“He is the founder and director of the enormously successful Animal Diversity Web. This award-winning site is a leading online searchable database of animal natural history, distribution and classification. It has developed innovative approaches to teaching K-12 students about biodiversity, climate change, and how scientists think about the world, and currently provides over 1.5 million page views to more than 450,000 site visitors monthly.”

Myers received his B.A. degree from Swarthmore College in 1969 and his Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1975. He joined the University of Michigan faculty as a visiting assistant professor and visiting assistant curator in 1975, and was promoted to assistant professor and assistant curator in 1976, associate professor and associate curator in 1982, and professor and curator in 2008.

Myers is a leading scholar in mammalian systematics and biodiversity, with special expertise in South American mammals. More recently, his research explored the impact of climate change on the biogeography of northern hemisphere mammals.

He has a notable history of successfully securing research grants and has published numerous articles in the leading, peer-reviewed journals. An innovative instructor and dedicated mentor, Myers taught a wide range of courses including Biology of Mammals, Field Mammalogy, and Introduction to Animal Diversity.

In 1995, he launched the Animal Diversity Web, which has become a world-class educational resource for students from kindergarten to college. This novel educational tool fosters inquiry-based learning by utilizing content collaboratively developed by students, faculty and staff.

Myers has received numerous honors in recognition of his many achievements including the American Society of Mammalogists's Joseph Grinnell Award for Excellence in Teaching (1999), LSA's Excellence in Education Award (2004), and the Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize (2009).

“The teaching awards that Phil has earned are just a small testimony to the impact that his patient leadership and collaborative spirit have had on his graduate students and the thousands of undergraduates he has taught,” said Tanya Dewey, research program officer for the ADW. “He has dedicated his career not just to teaching, but teaching in meaningful ways – by giving students opportunities to engage in the process of scientific discovery. Phil's love of the natural world and his insightful questions have helped many students to grow as scientists.”

Myers and Dewey are engaged in a new venture through the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps program, essentially trying to find ways to make the Animal Diversity Web self-sufficient by marketing products derived from their database of natural history.  They’re working on app and print "animal guides" that will combine their very rich data on species with information provided by individual parks on programs, trails, research, and more.  They expect to be able to include park-specific content for any species the park wants to highlight. The plan is to work with parks, zoos, nature centers, and the like, both large and small.  They’re starting with some local units – Huron Clinton Metroparks, Leslie Science Center, U-M Museum of Natural History, Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, and others, who will test and help them to focus the guides.  

This summer, Myers will teach Field Mammalogy at the U-M Biological Station. “I'm also continuing to work on questions related to the impact of climate change on Great Lakes mammals and on generating new content and photographs for the Animal Diversity Web.  I hope eventually to get back to doing some work on the biosystematics of South American mammals, but that's on hold until the ADW/ICorps project is under control!”

The U-M Regents salute this distinguished researcher, scholar and educator by naming him professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology and curator emeritus.

Read more in previous EEB web news: ADW and NSF Innovation Corps program join forces.

The U-M Regents salute this distinguished researcher, scholar and educator by naming him professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology and curator emeritus.

The U-M Regents salute this distinguished researcher, scholar and educator by naming him professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology and curator emeritus.