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The Beetle Man of Georgia; G. William Wolfe III, Ph.D. '69

Wolfe photo
Photo courtesy of William Wolfe

Sitting in a dual cab pickup truck, G. William Wolfe III, Ph.D. '69, found himself face to snout with a rather disgruntled rhinoceros. Wolfe and his students had parked at a watering hole in the African safari where they were observing animal behavior.

"The watering hole is a wonderful spot to see nature," Wolfe says."Lions, elephants, hyenas and crocodiles all appear at different times, each looking for the other."

Wolfe, a professor of biology at Georgia State College and University, has been digging in the dirt and collecting insects since he was ten. "I specifically remember the age of 10 and collecting insects and salamanders. I loved to bring them home and study them," he says.

Back then he didn't need to post a lion watch or elephant watch for safety while collecting his beetles.

Since earning a doctorate in zoology from the University of Tennessee in 1979, Wolfe has traveled to more than 20 countries collecting specimens, and has found 20 to 30 previously unknown species.

His favorite spot is the Republic of Namibia in southern Africa. He has been passionate about Africa since childhood.

"Namibia is just a beautiful location," says Wolfe. "The students learn just as much from the culture around them as they do from the specimens we collect."

Wolfe regularly travels with students to collect beetles in the far reaches of the wild. Traveling in pickup trucks with a local guide, they spend nearly four weeks collecting insects from the rivers. "I've learned many things over the years, including the fact that trucks do eventually dry out after you get them stuck in a river."

Students are also immersed in the surrounding culture, which Wolfe feels is an equally important educational experience. "I warn my students, and their parents, before we leave. This is not a vacation," he explains. "I only take students who are serious in their study and are willing to rough it out."

Gathering his specimens is one of the easier parts of the trip. But, it can take upwards of a year to get government clearance to bring the beetles out of one country and into the United States. "The permit process is extremely complicated so we always work with a museum in that country to help us get our specimens home," Wolfe says.

Soon after his graduation from Albright in 1969, Wolfe was drafted into the Army for three years of active duty during the Vietnam War. The biology major credits his time at Albright with leading him to his true passion.

"I'm very grateful to Albright for the education and opportunity presented to me," he says. "They helped me find the direction I needed." Wolfe attributes his success to the guidance of Albright faculty members like Donald Daniel, Ph.D., John Hall, Ph.D., and Edwin Bell, Ph.D.

Wolfe's wife Jeane (Moen) also attended Albright. After 43 years of marriage Wolfe admits that they have committed the four things they swore they would never do: get married, have children, drive a station wagon and own a poodle.

–David Johnson

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