John J. Van Niel is a professor of Environmental Conservation at Finger Lakes Community College, where he has taught for the last 22 years.
In addition to his classroom instruction, for which he received the 2015 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, he is also the Director of FLCC’s East Hill Campus.
His efforts have helped position the college as a national leader. Along with fellow FLCC professor James Hewlitt, John helped create a model of incorporating undergraduate research (UR) into community college curricula that results in engaging students from the moment they enter the classroom.
The program has received millions of dollars in grant funding and support from the National Science Foundation. In 2016, the program received a substantial grant to expand its national footprint – a development that former FLCC president Barbara Risser called “an exciting opportunity for (the college) to take its research initiative to a new level.”
John’s impact also extends to the local community. He gives several public lectures throughout the year on a variety of wildlife topics. He volunteers his time at Montezuma Wildlife Refuge — having served as past President of the Friends of Montezuma. He was a past volunteer tour guide for the Seneca White Deer and is a guest columnist for the Finger
Lakes Times – writing a monthly section titled “Speaking of Nature.”
For the past 16 years, Van Niel has also been a guest speaker in the Seneca Falls School District’s Kindergarten and Second-grade classes. There, he has earned the moniker “Bat Man,” for sharing his expertise on the insect predators.