Central College News

Central College’s Russ Benedict Selected for USC Wrigley Institute This Summer

Featured: Central College’s Russ Benedict Selected for USC Wrigley Institute This Summer

May 21, 2024

Russ Benedict, Central College professor of biology, has been selected for the 2024 cohort of Wrigley Institute Storymakers fellows. The summer program at the University of Southern California Wrigley Institute for Environment and Sustainability chose Benedict as one of 13 fellows from across the nation.

The Storymakers program is a weeklong intensive training for environmental and sustainability researchers in the art of environmental storytelling. Benedict and his cohorts will be stationed at the Wrigley Marine Science Center on South Catalina Island, California. The week-long program in June includes lectures, workshops, studio time for creating original content and networking opportunities.

“As a field biologist, the last decade has been painful as the amazing organisms I have come to love vanish around us,” Benedict says. “Furthermore, the connection that the average citizen has with nature is fading as more people live in cities, children spend less time outside and electronic devices create a constant distraction.”

Benedict explained in the application that his goal as an educator, whether interacting with college students, first graders or the public, is to build that connection by helping people experience the beauty and amazing stories of the organisms around them.

“To do my part to reverse these trends, I am being drawn back to my early years as an environmental educator, trying to build people’s love of nature,” Benedict adds. “This workshop will strengthen my ability to connect with the public, including using modern communication technologies. The primary focus, building the storytelling skills of scientists, will better allow me to bring the findings of my research to non-scientists, in a way that is more impactful than numbers and graphs.”

Benedict joined the Central faculty in 2002. He is passionate about connecting the public with nature. His areas of interest include prairie studies, ecology and restoration, conservation biology, natural history and mammalogy. He is known throughout Iowa as a bat and endangered Iowa species expert. In 2021, he brought his bat expertise to the Discovery Channel’s “Expedition X.” Each year, Benedict conducts research with students on prairies and completes prairie management on Central’s Carlson Kuyper Field Station, near Knoxville, Iowa.