An internationally respected ornithologist and 37-year faculty member at Ohio Wesleyan University, Edward H. “Jed” Burtt Jr., passed away at his home on Wednesday.
Burtt, 68, a resident of Delaware, was born on April 22, 1948, in Waltham, Mass. In addition to his wife, Pam, he is survived by children, Jeremy Bredon Burtt and Michelle (Burtt) Bauman.
Burtt earned his bachelor of arts degree in biology from Bowdoin College (summa cum laude) and both his master of science and doctor of philosophy degrees in zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He joined the Ohio Wesleyan department of zoology in 1977 where, as a professor and two-time department chairman, he impacted the lives of thousands of students and co-workers.
Burtt was recognized as the 2011 Ohio Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. In receiving the award, Burtt stated that watching students succeed in their professional and personal lives motivated and inspired him. “The most exciting part of teaching is working one on one to help each student fulfill her or his special potential,” he said. “As a friend, colleague and mentor, I can share my values by living them and sometimes by speaking of them when consulted by a student dealing with a difficult situation. I hope that I convey to all students my passion for the birds I love, the science that provides me with boundless excitement, and the privilege I feel in becoming a trusted confidant in their lives. Awakening a passion in a young person and helping each student fulfill a newly formulated dream is the essence of teaching. There is no higher calling, no greater purpose in life.”
Throughout his career, Burtt delivered hundreds of presentations at national and international scientific meetings, often in collaboration with undergraduate students. He wrote seven books and many research papers, often co-authored with his students. Burtt received research grants totaling more than $3 million, helping to provide research stipends to nearly 100 students. He was awarded two patents and three equipment grants totaling about $800,000, helping Ohio Wesleyan to purchase its original scanning electron microscope as well as its replacement scanning transmission electron microscope.
Burtt was a world-renowned ornithologist whose research into the microbiology of feathers led to his discovery of feather-degrading bacteria on wild birds, and new insights into the evolution of avian color and feather-maintenance behavior. His research earned patents on a composting process for feather-waste from the poultry industry.
In 2010, Burtt was elected a Fellow of the International Ornithological Union, where he was one of 100 Fellows worldwide.
In 2013, he received the Margaret Morse Nice Medal from the Wilson Ornithological Society for lifetime contributions to ornithology, and he served as the society’s president from 1997-1999. In 2015, the Wilson Ornithological Society created a “Jed Burtt Mentoring Grants” program in his honor, awarding funds to mentors of undergraduate students working in collaboration on ornithological research projects.
From 2008-2010, Burtt served as president of the American Ornithologists’ Union, where he also was a Life Fellow.
Locally, he served for many years as co-director of the Ohio Wesleyan Honors Program and in numerous volunteer service roles as well as on several nonprofit boards.
At his request, no services are planned. In lieu of flowers, he requested contributions in support of Ohio Wesleyan’s Natural History Museum, which he curated for many years. To support the museum, gifts may be made to the William D. Stull Endowment Fund, Ohio Wesleyan University, in care of Jodi Bopp, Mowry Alumni Center, 61 S. Sandusky St., Delaware OH 43015.
Information for this story was provided by Ohio Wesleyan University.