Alumni profile: John Motz

Photo of John Motz
John Motz’s fascination with fossils began at Waterloo and has now returned full circle: he is a devoted volunteer at the Earth Sciences Museum. His enthusiasm for science and his dedication to volunteerism is why he has been selected as the 2009 recipient of the Faculty of Science’s inaugural Contribution to Science Award.

John is a graduate of Waterloo, completing his BSc, Master’s and PhD. Though he began his studies at Waterloo in chemistry, he developed an interest in geology.

I noticed that most of my friends were geologists, John says, and what they were doing was more interesting than what I was doing. I was drawn to the lab work.

John transferred from chemistry to geology, but his doctoral research combined elements of both disciplines. He demonstrated how hydrogen and oxygen isotopes that occur in the exoskeletons of fossil insects hold clues to the environments in which these ancient creatures lived.

Since retiring from the family business in 2004, John has been a dedicated volunteer to the Earth Sciences Museum, undertaking many projects such as updating the collection database and creating a variety of educational posters and labels for the museum displays. Using skills developed as a geologist and journalist, he provides information and explanation for what might otherwise just be sparkling rocks or old bones.

John’s educational posters piece together the stories behind the specimens. He brings them to life, says Peter Russell, the museum’s long-time curator and nominator for this award.

Last year John encouraged his parents to donate to the museum. The donation allowed the museum to purchase a collection of dinosaur paintings and replicas, including the head of Cryolophosaur, a dinosaur discovered in Antarctica.

John’s volunteer efforts extend beyond Waterloo; he also donates his time at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.  In the new year he will take his spirit of volunteerism abroad to spend the winter in New Zealand at the Canterbury Museum.

Peter Russell holds high praise for this year’s award winner.

John thinks highly of the University of Waterloo and is an asset to the Earth Sciences Museum. I hope he will continue to give freely of his time to the work of the museum.