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Daniel Vandersommers

Assistant Professor

Full-Time Faculty

College of Arts and Sciences: History


Email: Daniel Vandersommers


  • Ph.D., The Ohio State University, 2014


Dan Vandersommers is an assistant professor of environmental history. He teaches courses across the field, including upper-level courses on animal history, climate history, wilderness history and the history of ecological thought. His research interests reside at the intersection of environmental history, animal studies, science studies and posthumanism.

Before arriving at the University of Dayton, Dan served as an NEH Postdoctoral Fellow at the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM) in Philadelphia (2017-2018), and as an SSHRC-funded Postdoctoral Fellow in Animal History at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario (2016-17). He also taught at Wittenberg University (2014), Kenyon College (2015), the University of Mississippi (2015-16) and Ball State University (2018-20). Dan earned his Ph.D. in 2014 from The Ohio State University.

Dan just finished a book titled Entangled Encounters at the National Zoo: Stories of Science, Culture, and Conservation (forthcoming, University Press of Kansas).

He is currently working on a book manuscript titled The Zoo, Uncaged: A New History, under contract with Reaktion, which will be a global history of zoological parks. 

He is also pursuing two article projects. The first focuses on how American zoos (1870-1940) staged race and indigeneity for zoogoing publics. This project examines how racial violence shaped zoological thought and vice versa. The second project focuses on the history of zoo-veterinary medicine and its influences on human medicine between 1890 and 1960.

His next book-length monograph project is a global history of goldfish, which will examine the breeding practices, technological milieus, evolutionary histories, cultural-ideological beliefs, pet store marketplaces and economies of capital that lift up the Anthropocene from everyday tabletops and gardens.

Selected publications


Entangled Encounters at the National Zoo: Stories of Science, Culture, and Conservation. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, forthcoming.

Zoo Studies: A New Humanities. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2019. (Co-edited with Tracy McDonald.) 

** Winner of the Choice “Outstanding Academic Title” award, December 2020

Other publications

(In progress) Daniel Vandersommers, "Decolonizing Aquaria," in Heterotopia, Radical Imagination, and Shattering Orders, ed. Paula Arcari.

Daniel Vandersommers, "The Sectionalism of the National Zoo, 1888-1891: Animals, Language, Politics, and Laughter," in Animal Histories of the Civil War Era, ed. Earl Hess (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2022): 228-239.

Daniel Vandersommers, "Failed Zoo Experiments: Primatology, Aeronautics, and the Animality of 'Modern Science,' 1891-1903," in Zoo Studies: A New Humanities (Montreal: MQUP, 2019): 65-92.

Daniel Vandersommers and Tracy McDonald, "Introduction: Towards a New Humanities," in Zoo Studies: A New Humanities (Montreal: MQUP, 2019): 3-18.

Daniel Vandersommers, "Narrating Animal History from the Crags: A Turn-of-the-Century Tale about Mountain Sheep, Resistance, and a Nation," Journal of American Studies 51, no. 3 (August 2017): 751-777.

Daniel Vandersommers, "What's All Happening at the Zoo?" Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective (January 2017).

Daniel Vandersommers, "Animal Activism and the Zoo-Networked Nation," Humanimalia 6, no. 2 (March 2015): 111-165.

Talks and presentations

November 2022: "Monkeys, Public Health, and Breathing Tuberculosis: A Zoo Story, 1901-1914," Chicago, History of Science Society.

October 2022: "Zoo History: The Hauntings of Zoo Animals," Bowling Green State University, Invited lecture for History graduate seminar.

October 2022: "Bighorns, Bison, and Zoo Animals in the American West," Cal Poly University, Humboldt, Invited talk for Environmental History of the American West undergraduate seminar.

October 2022: "Decolonizing Aquaria: A More-Than-Human History for the Future," Purdue University, Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts.

May 3, 2022: "Excavating Zoo History: Hidden Knowledges in the Zoo," Toronto Zoo, ReNewZoo Student Symposium.

May 1, 2022: "Excavating Zoo History: The Meanings of Animals," Toronto Zoo, ReNewZoo Student Symposium.

March 2022: "Zoo Autopsies, Ecologies, and the Airborne Nature of Tuberculosis," Eugene, OR, American Society for Environmental History.

February 2022: "The Crossroads of Science and Popular Culture," OSU, Talk and discussion for Environmental History and History of Technology graduate seminar.

November 2019: "The Civil War and the Zoo: Animals and Political Laughter," UC Irvine, Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts.

September 2019, Keynote Address: "Toward Ecological Futures: Zoo Conservation and Embracing Narratives of Entanglement," Calgary Zoo, CAZA annual meeting.

April 2019: "The Sectionalism of the National Zoo: Animals, Language, Politics" Columbus, OH, American Society for Environmental History.

October 2018: "Fish and the Problem(s) of Historical Scales," Toronto, ON, Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts.