'Mull'-ing Over Entomology

Meet John Mull, Weber State University’s own Ant Man.

“What got me interested in ants is the range of ecological effects they have,” said Mull, a professor in the Department of Zoology. “They are involved in a whole slew of interactions with other species, from bacteria and fungi, to plants, to larger animals that eat them.”

To hear Mull speak so passionately about ants, you’d never know the narrow-waisted insects weren’t his first choice of study. Mull earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh, where he researched birds. He attended Utah State University for his doctorate in biology/ecology. It was there Mull switched his focus.

“When I got to graduate school, I thought I would continue to work on birds, but my advisor said he wasn’t interested in having a student working on birds, so he gave me three different options: spiders, grasshoppers or ants,” Mull said.

And the rest is history.

Mull’s current research involves the ways in which animals — including ants — disperse seeds from the endangered dwarf bear-poppy, a plant that grows only in a few locations in Washington County, Utah. He’s also done extensive research on harvester ants, a species with colonies in the foothills near the Ogden campus.

Mull shares his research findings with students in his courses, including ecology and entomology. He has also joined students for their fieldwork, including research on bees in Snow Canyon State Park and research on two federally endangered plant species.

Mull is also involved with WSU’s annual Ritchey Science and Engineering Fair, the Environmental Issues Committee, the Honors Program and Zoology Club. His work in the community includes having served as chair of the board of directors for HawkWatch International, a nonprofit group dedicated to birds of prey, and co-founding Antelope Island State Park’s annual spider festival. He was named an Honors Eccles Fellow in 2004 and the Nye-Cortez Honors Professor in the 2004-05 academic year.

Recently, WSU honored Mull as a 2016 Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor. “It was a very gratifying and humbling experience,” Mull said. “There are a lot of very worthy people on campus, so to be selected for that was very nice.”