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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 and teaches global history, animal history, climate history and the history of ecology. His research interests reside at the intersection of environmental history, animal studies, science studies, and posthumanism.

Dan is author of Entangled Encounters at the National Zoo: Stories from the Animal Archive (University Press of Kansas, 2023) and is a Lead Editor of Animal History, the first journal of record in the field and currently housed at the University of Dayton.

He is currently writing a book manuscript titled The Zoo, Uncaged: A New History, under contract with Reaktion, which is a global history of zoological parks. And he is working on article projects concerning race, human zoos and zoology; the history of zoo-veterinary medicine; and the history of goldfish breeding and pet store supply chains. Dan also has a longstanding interest in the work of Slavoj Žižek, psychoanalysis, and their implications for historiographic practice.

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 (2017-18), and as an SSHRC-funded Postdoctoral Fellow in Animal History at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario (2016-17). He has previously taught at Wittenberg University, Kenyon College, University of Mississippi, Ball State University and The Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and Humanities. 

Dan earned his Ph.D. in Early American History in 2014 from The Ohio State University.

Selected publications


1. Entangled Encounters at the National Zoo: Stories of Science, Culture, and ConservationLawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2023.

** Finalist for the George Perkins Marsh Prize, the American Society for Environmental History's choice for best book in environmental history

** Winner of the Ohio Academy of History Junior Scholar Book Award for 2023

2. 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

(under review) Daniel Vandersommers, "Behavior, Habitat, and the Colonizing Work of Zoology: Displaying Indigenous Americans in the Cincinnati Zoo, 1895-1896."

(under review) Daniel Vandersommers, "Opening Aquaria," in Heterotopia, Radical Imagination, and Shattering Orders, ed. Paula Arcari. Routledge, forthcoming.

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

March 2024: "Animal History Workshop in China and Germany," Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies," online workshop.

November 2023: "Meet the Editors of Animal History," ASEH Connects Virtual Series.

November 2023: "Zoology after Wounded Knee: Settler Colonialism and the Search for 'Behavior' in Zoos," Portland, Ore., History of Science Society.

September 2023: Keynote address: "Scientific Cultures and Cultural Sciences: The Secrets of Zoo History," summer speaker series, Toronto Zoo.

September 2023: "Animal History: A Workshop Toward Layered Living in a Multispecies World," a workshop, Cal Poly University Humboldt.

September 2023: Keynote address: "Following Runaway Animals: Stories from the Zoo for Wilding History," Cal Poly University Humboldt. (Rescheduled from May)

March 2023: "Display Cree and Sioux in the Cincinnati Zoo: Indigenous Display, Critical Zoology, and the Violence of 'Behavior,'" Boston, American Society for Environmental History.

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.