Stephen Welter
Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management


Stephen Welter

Stephen Welter
Peg Skorpinski photo

24 April 2002 |

If Professor Stephen Welter were to say, “Insects are amazingly cool,” no one who knows him would be surprised. He is, after all, a man with a passion for insects and the environment, and a knack for communicating that passion to students.

“It’s not really about getting students to understand the role insects play in our lives,” said Welter, who chairs the Division of Insect Biology in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management. “It’s more about helping them to appreciate the wonders of ecology and to become better stewards of the environment.”

Those who have taken Welter’s “Environmental Issues” class say he is particularly adept at conveying the political, social and scientific complexities inherent in protecting the environment.

Sarah McCaffrey, a former graduate student instructor of Weltner’s, notes his talent for using humor and his willingness to play devil’s advocate in class. “He is extraordinarily effective at drawing out students and getting the whole class engaged in discussion,” she said. “With over 100 students, this is no mean feat.”

“As a teacher, you have the potential to really affect somebody’s life,” said Welter, who began teaching at San Diego State University before coming to Berkeley in 1984. “I’ve had students come up to me and say, ‘I never thought about any of these issues before. You’ve really changed the way I think about the world.’ That’s worth a fortune.”

Beyond the classroom, Weltner’s research in plant-insect interactions has helped farmers reduce the use of pesticides for their crops.

“I tell my students that, with entomology, they have the potential to impart great societal value in near future terms,” said Welter.

His work has not gone unnoticed by peers such as Louise Fortmann, professor of forestry and sustainable development. “We need more teachers and mentors like Professor Welter if we are going to save the planet,” she said.


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