Bill Capman's father
began keeping fish before Bill was born, and by the time Bill
was about eight years old he and his father had dozens of
tanks and plastic shoeboxes housing a great variety of fish,
turtles, frogs, and other aquatic animals and plants. As a
child and teenager, Bill was also obsessed with gardening,
insects, birds, and all other aspects of natural history.
Consequently, he studied biology in college at the University
of Illinois at Chicago, and then went on to get a PhD in ecology
at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. His dissertation
research involved field studies and computer modeling of host
plant finding behavior in herbivorous insects. In his postdoctoral
research positions he then used DNA and RNA-based techniques
to study plant hybridization and microbial communities.
When he began teaching biology at Augsburg
College in Minneapolis, Bill was encouraged to apply his experience
with aquaria to the task of setting up a reef system for teaching
purposes. He set up his first small reef tank in 1995, and
a larger multi-tank reef and seagrass system was set up in
1997. The reef tanks are expanding, and currently Bill and
his student helper are maintaining two multi-tank systems
totaling nearly 600 gallons of saltwater for teaching and
Teaching at Augsburg has also given Bill
the opportunity to teach marine biology in the Florida Keys,
and the photo above shows Bill on the boat returning after
a day with students at Looe Key, a reef near Big Pine Key,
Along with his daughters, Bill still keeps
far too many freshwater fish at home. These include a line
of guppies that he has had for roughly 40 years, and a great
number of freshwater angelfish (which Bill formerly bred on
a large scale).
Though he loves anything having to do with
biology, his other great passion is music, and when he has
the time he is a compulsive 5-string banjo and guitar player.
If there were multiple lives to be lived, he would surely
spend one of them as a professional banjo player!
Bill's reef systems at Augsburg College
can be seen at www.augsburg.edu/biology.