Panzners donate living laboratory to UA


Steve, left, and Jerry Panzner amid the Panzner Wetland Wildlife Reserve donated toThe University of Akron as a living laboratory.

Cattail clusters, monkey flowers, shallow ponds, wet meadows, marshes, rare wood turtles and an abundance of other wildlife and plant species embody The University of Akron's new 104.67-acre outdoor laboratory, the Panzner Wetland Wildlife Reserve (PWWR) in Copley Township. Donated to UA by brothers Jerry and Steve Panzner, the land is an authorized site for compensatory mitigation. In other words, the land, previously altered for farming use, has been restored as a wetland.

Honors biology and chemistry alumnus Marcel Nwizu studies bumblebees and the plants they visit at the Panzner Wetland Wildlife Reserve.

The Panzner brothers, both UA alumni, describe the property as a living laboratory committed to promoting understanding and research of Ohio's wetland environments. Here, UA students and faculty in integrated bioscience, biology, chemistry and other disciplines can study the wetland's riches, such as its insect inhabitants and flora. Here, the Panzners are watching their dream unfold.

Sharing the wetland's riches

"It's really cool to walk out there and see so much wildlife, but having others come out and study it makes it ultimately better. It's what we wanted in the first place. It was our mission goal from day one," says Steve Panzner.
As an Honors biology student, Marcel Nwizu had the opportunity to study the PWWR's plant life and resident bumble bees to help determine whether native plant species compete with each other for the bees' pollination services. Nwizu, a recent graduate, marked the bees with small, individually numbered tags in order to track their movements.

"Several UA classes have already done field work at the preserve, including field ecology, flora and anthropology fieldschool," says Dr. Randall J. Mitchell, the Glenny Endowed Professor of Biology and director of the UA field station. "The Panzner Wetlands will expand opportunities for environmental research for students in the integrated biosciences Ph.D. program. It provides a field site to study and understand wetlands, their role and their restoration."

Generations to benefit from gift

Dr. Randall J. Mitchell, Glenny Endowed Professor of Biology and director of the UA field station, studies the pollinators of the square-stem monkey flower at the Panzner wetland. Here, he examines and measures the flowers.

When Joseph and Elizabeth Panzner, Jerry and Steve's grandparents, acquired the land in 1921, they cultivated it as part of the "Little Farms" district in the Copley swamp. For eight decades (1921-2001), three generations of Panzners farmed the land. After 25 years at the helm, Jerry and Steve decided to convert it back to wetlands by creating wet meadows, marshes, woods and shallow ponds.
"We wanted the property to be a teaching and research mecca. We believe it is one of the best such examples in Ohio," says Jerry.
The PWWR received its permit from the Army Corps of Engineers and Ohio EnvironmentalProtection Agency in 1999. The University of Akron, which was one of five universities conducting studies at the thriving wetland, emerged as the most suitable recipient, according to the Panzners.
"We saw such enthusiasm from the University and it was an easy decision," says Steve. "We haven't met a single person from UA who doesn’t share the same interest and pride in the wetlands as we do. It's one of the best things that have ever happened to me.”

Read more: Copley wetland created by two brothers goes to UA, Akron Beacon Journal, Jan. 11.

Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or