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John Reitman

By John Reitman

Kentucky's Potter bugging out after 43 years on the job

072622 potter.jpg

Graduate student Bernadette Mach, right, listens as Dan Potter, Ph.D., talks about butterflies during a 2016 University of Kentucky turfgrass field day. Below, Potter established the first Operation Pollinator site on an American golf course at the Griffin Gate Marriott just a few miles from the UK research farm in Lexington. Photos by John Reitman

After spending parts of six decades studying the kinds of organisms that others dismiss and simply want dead at all costs, University of Kentucky entomologist Dan Potter, Ph.D., is calling it quits.

Since 1979, Potter, 70, has been a leading voice in the study of all things creepy, crawly, and his work has helped make golf course superintendents, sports field managers, lawn care professionals and others better at their jobs. He will officially retire from his position at UK on Sept. 2.

072622potter2.jpg"It's time to step aside and allow my department to move forward with a new faculty hire who hopefully will continue to serve the turf and landscape industries through entomological research," Potter said. "Also looking forward to having more freedom and time for family, travel, fishing and other interests."

Potter earned a bachelor's degree in entomology at Rutgers and went on to earn a doctorate at Ohio State. Ever since, Potter has produced seminal work in entomology. His research has appeared in more than 200 publications and he is a leader in work to protect pollinators, including bees and butterflies. 

Potter was part of a renowned faculty that once included the late A.J. Powell, Ph.D., and Paul Vincelli, Ph.D., who has since turned his focus toward climate change research.

The 2010 recipient of the USGA Green Section Award, Potter's work is known throughout the industry. He established the first Operation Pollinator zone on a golf course at Marriott Griffin Gate Golf Club, which is just 3 miles from the UK research farm. Today, there are more than 60 Operation Pollinator zones on U.S. golf courses across the country.

His work has commanded respect from colleagues around the industry. Throughout his career, Potter has mentored 48 graduate students who have gone on to careers in academia as well as with companies such as Syngenta, BASF, Bayer, FMC, Valent, PBI Gordon and others.

"Dan has been a rock-solid applied scientist," Vincelli said. "If Dan did the work, you could trust it as high-quality and relevant to the real world."

Even in retirement, Potter plans to continue his work through volunteer outreach activities, and also will continue to do invited talks and workshops at Green Industry conferences and field days and webinars.

A grandfather of five, Potter plans on spending his retirement with family, traveling with Terri, his wife of 43 years, and fishing.

I'll fish for anything that swims but especially like fly-fishing in cold moving waters," he said. "New Zealand, when we lived there, was my favorite for fly fishing, but I have also enjoyed fishing the White River in Arkansas, Holston River in Tennessee, and Provo and Snake Rivers out west."

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