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Dr. John Wyatt Greenlee, PhD

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I am a medievalist and a cartographic historian, as well as a historian of roads and pathways and pilgrimage. But I am best well known for my work on the role of eels in pre-modern England from the tenth through the seventeenth centuries. I am heavily engaged in outreach and public engagement to make the eel history more widely known, and to raise awareness for the role of eels as an endangered species. My work with eels and eel history has been profiled in TIMEThe GuardianAtlas Obscura, Hakai Magazine, and The New Yorker  (click here for a full list of earned media)

I am (mostly) no longer an academic — the collapse of the academic job market and the advent of COVID just as I completed my PhD saw to that. But I have taken many of my academic interests and channelled them into a business drawing custom maps on commission: Surprised Eel Mapping. I work primarily with academic historians to provide them with clean, clear maps for their monographs, book chapters, and articles.


PhD, Medieval Studies, Cornell University (2020)

MA, Medieval Studies, Cornell University (2017)

MA, History, East Tennessee State University (2013)

MPA, Nonprofit Management, Park University (2011)

BA, History and Classical Studies, Hamilton College (2000)

Personal History

Academia offered a second career for me, and my work history is varied.  Prior to returning to school, I spent a decade coaching collegiate volleyball in Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.  Beyond coaching, I have been a guide for whitewater rafting and caving expeditions in eastern Tennessee, researched issues of corporate sustainability and global risk for the Conflict Securities Advisory Group. Immediately after college I spent a year working for the Pete Seeger-founded quarterly publication, Sing Out! Magazine. Despite this variety, however, certain themes have remained true throughout my working life.  I have gravitated towards work in service of others, I have always sought to teach people, and I have found value in stories and histories. My past points towards my present, and gives me a wide scope of experiences to draw upon.