Colleagues and friends surprised Genie and Nat Wheelwright at the end of their final classes this semester with a couple rounds of hearty applause. Both professors will be retiring from long careers at Bowdoin, where they inspired countless students to pay attention to and take care of the world around them, learn Spanish, study abroad, and pursue research.
Nat is Bowdoin’s Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Natural Sciences, and Genie is a senior lecturer in Spanish. Nat earned his B.S. in biology from Yale and Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Washington. He joined Bowdoin in 1986 as director of the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island, New Brunswick. There he established a long-term, on-going study of the population biology and behavioral ecology of Savannah sparrows and tree swallows, as well as on the pollination biology of island plants.
The author of many scientific articles on Savannah sparrow ecology and evolution, tropical ecology and conservation, plant-animal interactions, and temperate and boreal island biology, Nat is also the co-editor of both the English and Spanish versions of Monteverde: Ecology and Conservation of a Tropical Cloud Forest, published by Oxford University Press in 2000. Additionally, he is the author of The Naturalist’s Notebook: An Observation Guide and 5-Year Calendar-Journal for Tracking Changes in the Natural World Around You, which is coming out next October from Storey Publishing.
With support from the Fulbright Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and Bowdoin College, Nat has taught and conducted research while living with his family in Spain, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Botswana, Ecuador, and New Zealand. His recent awards include the 2015 Eugene S. Odum Award for Excellence in Ecology Education from the Ecological Society of America, and the 2008 and 2010 National Science Foundation OPUS Awards.
Genie earned a B.A. in Latin American studies from Yale, and an M.A. from the University of Washington in Latin American history. She taught Spanish and music at The Bush School in Seattle, Washington, as well as directed the school’s foreign study program in Costa Rica. In addition, she taught in Cornell University’s Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics.
Before starting at Bowdoin fulltime in 2002, Genie taught Spanish and Latin American studies at Mt. Ararat High School, in Topsham, Maine, for fourteen years. At the high school, she helped organize exchange programs with Costa Rica, and directed four musicals. In 2001, she received the Maine Foreign Language Teacher of the Year award.
Since 2008, Genie has been a mediator for family matters and small claims cases in the Maine court system. Since 1990, she’s sung for the Choral Art Society in Portland, Maine.