Assistant Professor of Biology,
West Liberty University
Someday Dr. Zachary Loughman may knock on your door and ask if he can wade into your creek to look for crayfish, crawdads, mudbugs or any of a number of names for the crustaceans that fascinate him.
"I've been a biologist and naturalist every second I've been on planet earth. From preschool until today, animals have fascinated me. The animals that really pique my interests are the creepy-crawlies of the world."
After high school, Loughman studied biology at what was then West Liberty State College, where he met biologist Bob Gordon.
"He was awesome," Loughman said. "He knew what my interests were and encouraged me to pursue them. At that time, I was a bit unfocused, though. He's had a tremendous impact on my life."
Gordon set boundaries so Loughman would know how to operate as a biologist within the confines of academics.
Loughman attended graduate school at Marshall University, where his graduate advisor, Dr. Tom Pauley, explained that everyone wants to go to the tropics, but very few will make a living doing that. Pauley opened Loughman's eyes to the natural history of Appalachia.
"While I was at Marshall, I realized there are not that many people that study crayfish. I saw an opportunity," he said. "Currently there are roughly nine biologists across the country including myself."
Loughman returned to West Liberty to teach, where he's maintained a laboratory since 2007.
"My students and I have done research on crayfish in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Texas," he said. "Anywhere there's a crayfish, I seem to end up there.
To date, Loughman has discovered and named three new crayfish species and has received more than $300,000 in funding, with the majority of that work focused in Appalachia.
Loughman lives in Wheeling with his wife, Kathy, whom he met at West Liberty, and 5-year-old son Colin. Kathy teaches biology and related classes at John Marshall High School in Moundsville, which Loughman graduated from, and where his parents taught.