UMCES remembers professor and entomologist Dan Harman

March 27, 2024
Dan Harman, UMCES retired professor of forest entomology

UMCES mourns the loss of retired professor and forest entomologist Dan Harman. He was known for his work on the locust borer, a serious pest on eastern black locust timber tree, and his collaboration with colleagues in fisheries and wildlife at UMCES’ Appalachian Laboratory in Frostburg, Maryland.

Dan passed away peacefully in his home in Frostburg on March 5. Born in Van, West Virginia, he was a son of the late Snyder Simon and Anna (Myers) Harman. Dan is survived by his wife of 60 years, Dr. Amy (Litten) Harman; sons, Dr. Eric Harman and wife, Angela; and Benjamin Harman and wife, Michelle; as well as several siblings, grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Dan graduated from Harman High School in West Virginia and received his B.S. (1961) and M.S. (1962) degrees in forestry from West Virginia University. He attended Oregon State University before completing his education with a Ph.D. in forest entomology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1966. His dissertation was on the biology and natural control of the white pine weevil (Pissodes strobi) in Virginia.

In 1966, Dan began his career as research assistant professor with the University of Maryland’s Natural Resources Institute in LaVale, Maryland, and later became biologist-in-charge. The laboratory eventually relocated to the Frostburg State University campus in 1973, becoming the Appalachian Environmental Laboratory, where he was an associate professor. After an illustrious career as a forest entomologist, Dan officially retired in 2003.

During his career, Dan conducted research into forest entomology, insect behavior and morphology, forest management, and biology of freshwater macroinvertebrates. He published numerous papers on the white pine weevil and larch sawfly (Pristiphora erichsonii) early in his career. Later, Dan became known for his work on the locust borer (Megacyllene robiniae), a beetle that is a serious pest on eastern black locust, an important timber tree. Infestations of the locust borer have resulted in devaluing its economic value. Several of Dan’s graduate students completed their degrees while working on this insect. Dan was active in the Entomological Society of America where he gave many oral presentations at annual meetings over his long career.

Besides his research on invertebrates, Dan also collaborated on vertebrate research with other faculty in fisheries and wildlife at the Appalachian Laboratory. As co-investigator and author, he made major contributions toward understanding the relationships between different ectoparasites and their vertebrate hosts.

Dan contributed to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) through teaching, including several courses of importance to Appalachian Laboratory graduate students, and serving on search and promotion committees and the Faculty Senate. His written recollections about the genesis of the Appalachian Laboratory were a critical resource for the book on the historical development of UMCES that President Emeritus Dr. Donald Boesch is completing for the 100th anniversary.

A lifelong learner, Dan was an avid student of history. He read most extensively about the Civil War, but also more broadly about American history, and traveled to numerous historical sites. He was a talented musician and played the guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and enjoyed singing in multiple choirs, including the Chorus of the Potomac and Flight 93 Memorial Chorus. Dan was a gifted painter and left many treasured oil-based scenes.

Having grown up in rural West Virginia, Dan was also an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed fishing, hunting, and mountain climbing. His fishing and hunting exploits were legendary. Dr. Jay Stauffer, a longtime colleague of Dan, told a story about the day that Dan walked into his office grumbling because he missed a deer. Dan said, “I should have had it. It walked directly under my tree stand, and I just missed." Jay asked Dan if it was a buck, or a doe. Dan’s response was “I don’t know; it was too dark to tell.”

Dan would often engage interested colleagues in discussions of the status of wildlife in western Maryland, particularly ruffed grouse and turkey, and lamented on the lack of active research on gray squirrels. Dan lived on a farm and was at heart a farmer. He greatly enjoyed working on his farm and in the garden.

Dr. Joe Chapman, a long-time colleague, stated, “I was sorry to hear about Dan Harman’s passing. He and I had many good times exploring Dolly Sods, the Sinks of Gandy, Savage River State Forest, and so many other wonderful places in western Maryland. Dan was a great friend and I know we will all miss him deeply.”

In retirement, Dan hardly missed a seminar or failed to ask a question of the speaker, regardless of the topic. Before a seminar, he would frequently drop by the offices of former colleagues to say hello and chat about current happenings. Dan fits the Wiktionary definition of a Renaissance man: A man with extraordinarily broad and comprehensive knowledge. He will be greatly missed by current and former colleagues, as well as his friends that knew him outside of UMCES.