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Copley brothers donate living lab for UA research

6/21/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

Photos: Dale Dong
COPLEY — Lush, green wetlands expanding as far as the eye can see served as the backdrop for the June 13 Panzner Wildlife Wetland Reserve dedication ceremony. The University of Akron (UA) alumni and brothers Steve and Jerry Panzner, of Copley Township, donated the 104.67-acre outdoor laboratory to UA for use by biology, archaeology, geology, geography, environmental science and other departments. Already students and faculty use the property to conduct research on how wetlands control flood waters, on the area’s wildlife and pollinator inhabitants, on how climate change affects wetlands and other projects.

The land was acquired by Jerry and Steve’s grandparents Joseph and Elizabeth Panzner in 1921, and for eight decades, from 1921 to 2001, three generations of Panzners farmed the land. After 25-plus years at the helm, Jerry and Steve decided to convert it back to wetlands by creating wet meadows, marshes, woods and shallow ponds, according to UA officials.

Newer generations of the family — Matt Panzner on the shoulders of his father, Matthew Panzner, the son and grandson of Steve Panzner — are shown above at the ceremony.

“[They] made a shift from this being a restoration step to a learning facility for UA,” said Randall Mitchell, Ph.D., pictured at at right, who is the Glenny Endowed professor of biology and director of the UA Field Station. “We need this kind of science in the future to understand how humans can relate to the environment in a positive way for both.”

Ceremony presenters included Mitchell; Monte Turner, Ph.D., professor and chair of biology and acting interim director of UA’s Integrated Bioscience Ph.D. program; Helen Humphrys, president of the Copley Board of Trustees; Chand Midha, Ph.D., dean of UA’s Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences; and Jerry and Steve Panzner.

“Our goal was to create a wetlands to educate,” said Jerry Panzner. “Family is what built this land, and we found another family to take [it] over.”

Shown at right, from left, are members of the Panzner family: Janet Mardis, Mary Panzner, Steve Panzner, Jerry Panzner and Joe Panzner.

The Panzner Wetland Wildlife Reserve is located at 2428 Wright Road.

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