Two UD professors assess habitat degradation in wake of Hurricane Sandy

December 4, 2013 under CANR News

Greg Shriver conducts research on habitat degradation due to Hurricane SandyUniversity of Delaware researchers Greg Shriver and Chris Williams have been awarded funds from a $162 million U.S. Department of the Interior project that will be invested in 45 restoration and research projects to better protect Atlantic Coast communities from future powerful storms by restoring marshes, wetlands and beaches, rebuilding shorelines, and researching the impacts and modeling mitigation of storm surge impacts.

Shriver and Williams will begin multiple projects to assess habitat degradation and restoration efforts with a focus on tidal marsh birds such as Nelson’s and saltmarsh sparrows, the American black duck and the Atlantic brant.

Shriver, associate professor and assistant chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology (ENWC), and Williams, associate professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, were awarded funding in large part because of work that occurred before Hurricane Sandy and the amount of pre-storm data that they collected.

“We were both well positioned,” said Shriver. “The challenge with determining the effects of disturbances is having the pre-disturbance data; Chris and I both have that so we can go back to the same place after the disturbance and assess the effects.”

SHARP continued

Shriver’s work will build off of the pre-Sandy work that he is conducting as part of the Saltmarsh Habitat and Avian Research Project (SHARP) research. SHARP aims to provide the information necessary for all states in the bird conservation region stretching from coastal New England through the Mid-Atlantic to protect regionally important habitats for tidal marsh birds.

Of particular interest is the saltmarsh sparrow, which is listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and has a limited breeding range from Virginia to Maine.

“The SHARP surveys are conducted at over 1,700 locations from Virginia to Maine where we are sample breeding tidal marsh bird populations and vegetation communities so we have a nice extensive survey that goes all the way through the hurricane impact zone, from the most intense area all the way to Virginia and Maine,” said Shriver.

Another goal of the project is to provide a regionally consistent platform for tidal marsh bird monitoring in the face of anticipated sea-level rise and upland/watershed development to produce population estimates for all bird species found in the high tidal marsh — including a global population estimate for saltmarsh sparrow — and identify regional population centers.

Shriver said the research team has two years of pre-hurricane data from 2011-12, and explained that this project will last until 2016 with a big part aimed at assessing the effects of Hurricane Sandy restoration projects. “A lot of them will be happening on places we already surveyed, and we will survey new sites that are identified as tidal marshes that are going to be restored. We will complete pre- and post-restoration sampling so that, as we get into 2015-16, the focus will be on the ‘before and after’ restoration sites.”

Black duck, Atlantic brant

Atlantic brant flockWilliams’ research focuses on the American black duck, which has been a bird of priority concern in the Atlantic flyway and the Mid-Atlantic, as well as the Atlantic brant, which is a small goose.

Explaining that he has been working with Southern Illinois University and the state governments of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia, Williams said that his research has many facets. “We monitor the populations of these two species, how they’re using the habitat, how productive the habitat is in the way of feeding,” he said. “All of this work has been going toward the greater goal of assessing the potential on the landscape at a very large macro scale over a long period of time for the populations of black duck and Atlantic brant.”

Williams said his research is looking at the initial impact of habitat loss and the secondary effects, such as loss of food supplies and the impact that might have on population. “For the black duck, we can come in a year later and we can measure how much habitat there is, and whether the food has responded or not, and we can do that at all of these sites that we previously measured,” said Williams.

The research is a little bit more complicated for the brant. Williams explained that the brant mainly eat sea lettuce, algae and eelgrass, and it is likely those food supplies were severely impacted by the hurricane.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is better map and predict where those foods are on the landscape,” said Williams. “If the models we have created work well using remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS), we can apply them to a series of aerial photographs that were taken pre- and post-Sandy. The goal is a really nice pre- and post-storm scenario to evaluate the effect that a destructive storm can have on the brant food supply.”

Williams said the researchers are both just happy that they can be of service to those communities impacted by the hurricane in any way possible. “From an academic standpoint, we’re lucky that we can help,” said Williams. “While we can only minimally help with the human component, we have a well developed program at UD to provide assessment of the ecological and wildlife community and provide recommendations for future landscape planning.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley and courtesy of Chris Williams

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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Doug Tallamy receives the Tom Dodd, Jr. Award of Excellence

September 17, 2013 under CANR News

Doug Tallamy receives the Tom Dodd, Jr. Award of ExcellenceDoug Tallamy, professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, was presented the Tom Dodd, Jr. Award of Excellence at the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference held at Western Carolina University this summer.

Tallamy was also chosen to be a presenter at the conference for his ideas on promoting change in the landscape paradigm. “Right now, about 80% of our ornamental plants are from Asia,” said Tallamy. “Our local insects can’t eat them because they haven’t evolved to deal with the defensive chemicals within the plants. Now at the same time, 96% of birds are rearing their young on insects. In fact, about six to nine thousand caterpillars are used to rear one clutch of chickadees. So we end up creating these landscapes that are actually one of the biggest hits on biodiversity.”

Robert Wyatt, professor Emeritus of Botany and Ecology at the University of Georgia and current Director of the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference, said Tallamy is likely to be the rare entomologist chosen for the award, as past award recipients are typically botanists.

Tallamy was chosen for the award in part due to the popularity surrounding his 2007 book, Bringing Nature Home. The book makes a strong scientific case for reintroducing native plants to landscapes and eliminating the “urban deserts” created by planting an abundance of nonnative ornamentals.

Tallamy said that there is a need for ecological literacy, and stresses the importance of increasing public awareness for why native plants are so important ecologically in terms of retaining biodiversity.  His attendance at this conference is a testament to his own goal of wanting to re-landscape the entire country.

In the past 30 years that the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference has been held, the number of native plant nurseries has increased substantially as more homeowners have come to value the beauty and understand the benefits of a natural landscape.

Invasive Species

Looking at invasive exotics such as Kudzu, Chinese privet, and Japanese honeysuckle, it is easy to understand the uncontrolled dispersal and harm invasive species can have on a landscape. Free from predators, these species have affectively displaced many surrounding native plants while offering little to no food for wildlife living in the area.

The reintroduction of native species could potentially thwart the damages caused by the introduction of some of these aggressive plants.

Other examples of the potential dangers nonnative species can cause includes unintentional introduction of pests and subsequent disease, like the American Chestnut, whose nuts provided a prime food source for many animals, and whose populations were decimated by an introduced fungus.

Not all nonnative species are detrimental. However, their decreased utility by wildlife as a food source and often uncontrolled growth means that introducing them at a greater rate than native species can adapt to them could lead to decreased diversity in an ecosystem.

Examples of some native trees that people could start planting as alternatives to nonnatives include Smooth Witherod and Winterberry, which have berries that birds depend on, Redbud, which provides a convenient nectar source for early pollinators, Summersweet Clethra, another popular pollinator shrub, and Pipevine which serves as a food source for Swallowtail larvae.  With their colorful flowers and berries, these plants offer all the aesthetics that homeowners and landscapers tend to seek in nonnative ornamentals.

About the Tom Dodd, Jr. Award of Excellence

The Tom Dodd Jr. Award of Excellence is presented annually at the Cullowhee Conference on Native Plants in the Landscape and are given to individuals who excel in one of the following areas: conservation of native flora in sites; studying and promoting the understanding of our native flora; building expertise in the propagation/cultivation of native plants; and the use of native plants in a diversity of natural and designed landscapes.

Past winners have included C. Ritchie Bell, professor of botany at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Founding Director of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, and co-author of the Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas; Dick Bir, professor of Horticulture and plant breeder at the Mountain Horticulture Research Center of North Carolina State University; and Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady of the United States and an avid proponent of native plants and natural areas.

Article by Angela Carcione

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The Nature Conservancy Partners with NASA to Study Bird Migration Patterns on the Delmarva Peninsula

August 22, 2013 under CANR News

A high-tech radar designed to study precipitation patterns will help identify migrating songbird stopover hotspots

Photo by NASA/David Wolff

Photo by NASA/David Wolff

Berlin, Md. — The Nature Conservancy and a team of researchers are partnering with NASA to use a high-tech radar designed to track precipitation patterns to also study the migration patterns of migratory songbirds that stop over on the Delmarva Peninsula.

“This is one of the most powerful and sophisticated research radars in the world,” said Chief Conservation Scientist for the Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve Barry Truitt, who is coordinating the project and partnership for the Conservancy. “This partnership with NASA is an exciting opportunity to use a precipitation tool in a novel way to benefit conservation.”

NASA uses the transportable radar, known as NPOL radar (which stands for NASA Polarimetric weather radar), to study weather patterns and precipitation around the globe. The Conservancy’s Maryland chapter helped NASA locate and secure a site for the radar near Newark, Md., just outside of Berlin.

It’s a tool sensitive enough to track the size, shape, speed and direction of individual raindrops. On dry nights, when there isn’t any rain for the radar to track, NASA is sharing the radar with the Conservancy and its research partners to track migrating songbirds that are traveling to Central and South America for the winter. Truitt explained that birds in the air look, to the radar, like large drops of water. Just like with the raindrops, the radar will track their size, speed and direction.

The radar detects birds as they emerge at dusk from daytime resting and foraging sites, known as stopover sites, to embark on their nocturnal migration. The research teams’ primary goal is to analyze where the birds stop over and identify the habitat they use for refueling. A high number of migratory songbirds—such as prothonotary warblers—stop during their migration in this region, particularly on the southern Delmarva Peninsula along the Pocomoke River. Data collection began last week and last night, Aug. 20, a team of scientists from NASA, the Conservancy, the University of Delaware, Old Dominion University and the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center reviewed the radar’s first scans.

“Using this radar, we’ll be able to identify the stopover hotspots that are most important for migrating bird species, many of which are declining in numbers,” Truitt said. “This is going to allow us to prioritize The Nature Conservancy’s protection of land and best adapt our management practices to ensure the birds have the habitat and resources they need when they rest here.”

While NASA’s radar scans the skies, scientists from Old Dominion University and the University of Delaware will be busy on the ground, using more traditional methods to study the birds. They’ll identify species, and note what the birds are eating and how they’re using habitat. Jeff Buler, of the University of Delaware and one of only a handful of expert radar ornithologists in the country, and ornithologist Eric Walters of Old Dominion University will analyze the data from the radar and field surveys.

“The primary purpose of the NASA Polarimetric (NPOL) radar is to support NASA precipitation science and ground validation studies for the Global Precipitation Measurement mission,” said Walt Petersen, Ground Precipitation Measurement ground validation scientist at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. “A byproduct of our science, and an efficient means of using the resource, is that we are in fact able to collaborate with The Nature Conservancy in collection of bird data because birds occur naturally in our radar data collections. We really have to do very little different in our daily operation to facilitate the collection of data that supports some of the work that the ornithologists are doing on the Delmarva Peninsula. This collaboration is making great use of NASA resources.”

This is not the first time scientists have shared radars to track birds in addition to weather. Buler and USGS wildlife biologist Deanna Dawson recently completed a study for the US Fish and Wildlife Service that used data from National Weather Service radars to map migratory bird densities at stopover sites across the northeastern United States. Their research in this project will help to validate the models that they developed in their previous research. They’ll also compare data from the National Weather Service radars with data from the NPOL radar and the field surveys to verify that the data from the radar matches what researchers see in real time.

Data from the NPOL radar and two National Weather Service radars will give researchers a picture of how migrating birds use habitat across the Delmarva Peninsula, including most of Delaware, southern Maryland and parts of southeastern Virginia. The NPOL research will continue throughout the fall migration season, ending Nov. 7, 2013.

Project funders are: The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; Virginia Department of Environmental Quality/Coastal Zone Management Program; and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Lindsay Renick Mayer
The Nature Conservancy in MD/DC and VA

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy works to protect our lands and waters in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, from the mountains and forests to the coasts, Chesapeake Bay, and Atlantic Ocean. Throughout the region we connect people with nature. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at www.nature.org/virginia and www.nature.org/maryland.

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CANR announces 2013 Benton Award winners

July 29, 2013 under CANR News

benton-award-winnersThe University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) has announced that Jacquelyn Marchese and Michelle Windle are the winners of the 2013 William J. Benton Graduate Student Awards.

The awards were established in honor of William J. Benton, former CANR associate dean of research and professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS).

Jacquelyn Marchese

Marchese received her master’s degree from the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in May. Of the award, she said she was “honored that I was even nominated, so it was pretty cool that I won. I was definitely very grateful.”

Marchese’s research has dealt with bumblebees and how they can be used to pollinate certain crops in Delaware, such as watermelon, cucumbers and strawberries.

After graduating, she decided to take some time off and go on a cross-country road trip before settling into the professional world.

Marchese acknowledged her adviser, Deborah Delaney, assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, and the rest of her committee: Gordon Johnson, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences; Vincent D’Amico, supplemental faculty in entomology and wildlife ecology; and Joanne Whalen, Cooperative Extension specialist in entomology and wildlife ecology.

Michelle Windle

Windle, a doctoral student in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences who previously received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from CANR, said her doctoral research focuses on silage, specifically how to increase the digestibility of starch earlier in the ensiling process to make it more readily available for cows to digest, which will in turn help them have more energy and produce more milk.

In addition to her research, Windle has also been a teaching assistant for many classes in fields as diverse as animal nutrition, which she taught for five years, production and genetics. She has traveled extensively to conduct research and present papers, and has given talks at conferences.

Windle said that it was an honor to receive the award, especially in light of the fact that she has interacted with some past winners. “That was really neat. It was an honor. I’ve known some of the other people who have gotten it, Laura Nemec and Kirsten Hirneisen, and it was an honor to be included with them.”

Windle pointed out that she could not say enough about her adviser Limin Kung, the S. Hallock du Pont Professor of Animal and Food Sciences who has been exceptionally helpful throughout her time at UD.

“I can’t talk about Dr. Kung enough. The guy is awesome,” she said. “He’s got drive, excitement, he thinks silage is cool, and he’s got the ability to inspire that in other students. He just genuinely wants to see you do well.”

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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3 CANR professors awarded UDRF projects

July 17, 2013 under CANR News

Jeff Buler studies ticks across newark, delawareDelaware has one of the highest incidence rates of Lyme disease in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The tick-borne disease can have debilitating consequences in humans, dogs, even cats.

University of Delaware scientist Jeffrey Buler aims to see the number of infections decline.

“In urban areas, humans face the greatest exposure to infected ticks along forest edges,” says Buler, who is an assistant professor of wildlife ecology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

With funding from the University of Delaware Research Foundation (UDRF), Buler will use radio telemetry to track bird movements in a network of 21 fragmented patches of forest in and around Newark, Del. He wants to better understand the role that birds may play in dispersing ticks in these forested areas.

UDRF, a private corporation chartered in 1955, awards seed funding on a competitive basis to researchers early in their careers at UD.

“The University of Delaware Research Foundation is tremendously valuable to our research community, particularly in these times of federal funding austerity,” says Charlie Riordan, UD vice provost for research. “These seed funds are critical for our new faculty to collect the preliminary data necessary to establish proof of concept and convince the funding agencies their ideas are worth further investment.”

A holistic approach to reduce tick-borne diseases in an urban landscape. Wildlife ecologist Jeff Buler and doctoral student Solny Adalsteinsson will study bird movements in 21 forest fragments in and around Newark, Del., to better understand how birds influence tick survival and distribution. This project will contribute to the development of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy to manage ticks that spread Lyme disease.

Impact of land-use activities on pollinators. Deborah Delaney, assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, will survey pollinator communities in northern Delaware to determine pesticide exposure levels in spring-summer 2013 and 2014 during the bloom periods for many trees and shrubs. Exposure risk will be linked with land-use activities such as agriculture, suburban lawns and gardens, roads, parking lots and other impervious surfaces.

Exploring plant immortality. Although climate-induced stress has caused plant mortalities worldwide, some plants native to the Baja desert can live over 500 years. Rodrigo Vargas Ramos, assistant professor of plant and soil science, will conduct experiments to understand the physiological mechanisms of resilience of long-lived plants in arid ecosystems, with special emphasis on carbon allocation.

Article by Tracey Bryant

Photo by Danielle Quigley

To read about the rest of the UDRF projects, check out the full article on UDaily.

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UD doctoral candidate conducts wood thrush studies around Newark

May 8, 2013 under CANR News

The University of Delaware’s Zach Ladin has been studying the wood thrush for the past three years — continuing research started by Roland Roth 37 years ago and continued by Greg Shriver, associate professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, in his Forest Fragments in Managed Ecosystems (FRAME) program – and is looking at how breeding birds can provide clues to the relative health of the environment.

“We use birds as environmental indicators,” said Ladin, a doctoral candidate in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “When you go to the doctor, they take different measurements, like blood pressure. By itself, your blood pressure may not mean anything but it gives the doctor insight into whether you’re going to have a heart attack soon or whether you’re suffering from some sort of heart disease, or any number of diseases that might be associated with that. So we’re using birds as a window into the health of the forest.”

To do that, Ladin has expanded the territory of the study originated by Roth.

While Roth’s initial study focused solely on the ecology woods located east of Delaware Stadium, Ladin’s study has spread out all over the city of Newark. Using 21 sites around Newark, Ladin looks at how the birds respond to human impacts in an urban landscape, using areas like Iron Hill, the Newark reservoir and White Clay Creek, among others.

Ladin said that Newark is the “ideal place to study urbanization since we’re right in this Mid-Atlantic region. We’re interested in how these birds are responding to an urban landscape.”

Zach Ladin studies wood thrush in UD's ecology woodsSome sites, like Iron Hill, are doing very well when it comes to having large populations of wood thrush, while other sites, such as the small patch of woods across from the hotel at the intersection of Routes 4 and 896, are completely devoid of wood thrush.

Just because a site has a large number of the birds does not necessarily mean that it is a healthy habitat, however. It could simply mean that the wood thrush are “getting pushed out of all the very high quality spots,” said Ladin. “Maybe they were pushed out of White Clay Creek or Iron Hill and this is a last resort for them, so you end up seeing the refugees getting shoved into a very small and isolated spot. It could be a bad sign.”

Ladin explained he trains crews of students that try to locate wood thrush nests, doing so by listening for audible cues, such as when the birds make an alarm call when the researchers get too close to their nests. Once they find the nests, they input the GPS coordinates and monitor the nest every three or four days.

“We keep close track of the eggs,” said Ladin, explaining that sometimes crew members will find eggs from a different species in the wood thrush’s nest. “There’s actually another type of bird called the brown-headed cowbird that will lay its eggs in other species’ nests. It’s called brood parasitism where they’ve evolved a really clever technique. They don’t raise their own chicks, they just go around and lay eggs in other birds’ nests and let those birds raise their chicks.”

Ladin said that while some species can recognize cowbird eggs and remove them from their nests, the wood thrush do not. “There’s an evolutionary arms race going on and the wood thrush have not figured that out quite yet.”

As far as the number of wood thrush breeding in UD’s ecology woods, Ladin said that there are currently around 20 birds per year, which is down considerably from the peak numbers of 70-80 during the 1990s.

Ladin’s research is trying to determine why the numbers are decreasing not just in the sites around Newark but across the eastern United States.

“One of the things we’re looking at is if the soil calcium is a limiting factor for birds, since they need it for their eggshells and the nestlings need it to grow their bones, and this is one of the highest concentrated areas of acid rain in the country,” said Ladin.

Ladin also wants his research to highlight the fact that on the East Coast, especially around the I-95 corridor, there may not be big patches of forests but there are lots of little patches that play an integral role in improving the environment.

“If you add up all these tiny patches of forests that have been subdivided, it’s actually over 1.2 million acres of forest,” said Ladin. “My motivation is to show people that this is highly critical habitat and that you can’t just discount a small patch of forest because its only three or four acres. Those patches provide really important services for us — like helping clean the water, and helping sequester carbon, reducing CO2 from the atmosphere — so we have to make sure we’re out to conserve their proper functioning. Studying the bird response in those patches is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to do that.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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Rieger, Rodgers and Allen attend rural economy summit in Washington

May 1, 2013 under CANR News

Chris Coons talks with Mark Rieger, Michelle Rodgers and Melanie AllenMark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of University of Delaware cooperative extension, and Melanie Allen, a senior studying wildlife conservation in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, recently participated in a half-day summit on issues of importance to rural communities across the nation. The event featured U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), and was hosted by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee and featured two moderated panels focused on rural economics, infrastructure, and access to critical services.

The panel highlighted the economic conditions facing rural communities and the agriculture industry, and what role the federal government can play in ensuring long-term support for the communities. Issues discussed during the summit included the importance of investing in the health of farmland, natural resources, and infrastructure. Another topic of discussion was connecting farmers and ranchers with consumers, including individuals, schools, hospitals and businesses.

“Our rural communities are central to our identity, our economy, and our values,” said Coons. “Between our agriculture sector, environmental conservation, and tourism, it’s no surprise that Delaware’s rural communities are thriving. It’s important that we continue to facilitate an open dialogue between our rural communities and our elected officials to ensure we aren’t hindering their growth and development. I thank the members of the University of Delaware for attending today’s event and sharing their views on how we can strengthen our state’s rural areas.”

More than 200 rural development advocates attended the summit.

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UD team wins first place in East Coast regional Linnaean Games

April 23, 2013 under CANR News

Entomology Graduate student team won the east coast regional Linnaean GamesA group of four University of Delaware graduate students studying in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology bested teams from Penn State, Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland to win first place in a regional match in the Entomological Society of America’s Linnaean Games, a competition in which teams are quizzed on entomological questions.

Having won the East Coast regional competition, the UD team will head to Austin, Texas, to compete in the national competition in November.

Team members include Scott Berg, Ashley Kennedy, Kaitlin Handley and David Gardner, all master’s degree students, with Kennedy having just completed her program.

In the first round of the tournament, the team defeated Virginia Tech and later topped Penn State in the finals. Each round lasted about 20 minutes and consisted of 16 questions. If a team got an answer correct, they were given a bonus question.

While some of the other teams had coaches to help them prepare for the Linnaean Games, the UD team had no such help. “Some schools take it really seriously and every year they have coaches,” explained Handley. “This is the first year that UD put together a team and it was all Ashley’s doing.”

Even though the team didn’t have a coach, Kennedy was able to find something extremely helpful on-line that helped the team prepare for the competition — YouTube videos of past competitions. She transcribed the questions and the answers from those past tournaments and handed them out to her teammates.

Watching the videos of past tournaments, however, did have some consequences, as well, with team members getting a glimpse of just how challenging the questions would be. “Hearing some of the questions that Ashley transcribed and watching some of the videos, oftentimes, they’ll ask a question and neither team gets it and then they’ll just turn to the audience for fun and say, ‘Does anyone know it?’ and the audience is silent,” said Berg. “So we were thinking that this was going to be pretty tough. But the questions they had this year — I don’t know if it was just luck or what — but they seemed a little bit more manageable.”

Kennedy also explained that while the team didn’t have a coach, they didn’t consider themselves underdogs. “We did have more of an advantage than some of the other schools just because we do have a good variety of entomology classes here that cover all the basic areas.” 

Gardner, who is relatively new to the entomology field having studied behavioral neuroscience as an undergraduate, agreed with that assessment, saying that the entomology department at UD is “great. The professors are great, colleagues are great, everyone is really interesting, so I enjoy it.”

Winning the Linnaean Games was not the only prize the group took home from the conference as Berg also won second place in oral presentation.

The team is now looking forward to the national competition and attending the five-day conference, with the hopes of recruiting a coach to help them prepare.

Kennedy noted that Charles Bartlett, associate professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, has agreed to coach them prior to the national competition.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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UD’s Allen travels to Ghana to conduct research, educate on water quality

April 22, 2013 under CANR News

As a wildlife conservation major, when University of Delaware student Melanie Allen got to travel to Ghana this past summer to conduct research, she was not expecting to be assigned to a project that looked at water quality.

“When I first got assigned to this project I was like, ‘What am I doing? I want to work with butterflies,’” said Allen, a senior studying wildlife conservation in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

It turns out, however, that the project enriched her in ways she never would’ve experienced has she not stepped out of her comfort zone.

Allen first went to Ghana in the summer of 2012 to conduct water quality research on polluted lagoons in Cape Coast, located in the central region of the country, through a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at Virginia Tech.

UD student Melanie Allen traveled to Ghana for water quality researchAfter receiving an Honors Enrichment Award through the UD Honors Program (UDHP), she went back during Winter Session to learn more about the challenges to conservation facing developing countries. This involved educating the locals and making sure that they knew about the dangers of polluting, and the risks involved with eating fish found in the water supply.

During her first trip to the region last summer, Allen said that she realized the need to go back to the country because she was “doing water quality research in lagoons that are used for human consumption” and recognized a lack of communication between the people studying the high levels of pollution in the lagoon and the villagers who were using the lagoon on a daily basis.

Allen said it was clear that the people using the lagoon “weren’t really being informed of what was going on, why they shouldn’t pollute, why it’s dangerous for them to consume water or any fish from there.”

She wondered, “What’s the point of this if we’re just going to publish this paper and there’s not going to be any kind of implementation? That’s why I wanted to go back and work with a local organization that’s directly involved in those lagoons doing environmental education and public awareness activities.”

Working with the Center for Environmental Impact Analysis, a new and small nongovernmental organization (NGO), as its first international volunteer, Allen had two main tasks. The first involved creating a curriculum and engaging students from five middle schools in learning about pollution.

“One of [the center’s] goals is to inform the youth about all of these issues since they’re going to be the future leaders, so they established these environmental clubs in five different junior high schools two years ago,” said Allen.

She devised a curriculum for the students — one that she is still tweaking now that she is back in the United States — with chapters that provide overviews on different topics such as water pollution, climate change and waste management.

Allen explained that the chapters also had questions for the students and group activities that they could do, as well as “take home” messages so they could try to spread their knowledge to the older members of their families.

Allen also worked on a community cleanup at one of the lagoons that she had been studying on her previous trip to Ghana.

Instead of simply having a community cleanup, however, Allen used the opportunity to engage people who had different stakes in the lagoon, such as the local fisherman and the local waste management company that donated supplies to the cleanup.

Allen said that though they were trying to clean up the lagoon, the real purpose was to educate residents about the risks involved in pollution, as the water in the lagoon is probably too polluted for healthy use at this time. “There’s a hospital a couple of blocks away that dumps all their medical waste in there,” said Allen, “and all of the runoff from the street goes in there, so it was just more of a raising awareness activity, bringing everyone together and informing the public.”

Tying in her first project with her second, Allen also brought in two professors who had conducted research on the lagoon to speak with the locals. “They gave a presentation, releasing all of their data on what they found in the lagoon,” said Allen. “It really was this holistic approach to community development so that was really exciting for me to work with people that I worked with over the summer but in a different manner.”

After her experience in Ghana, Allen said that she is no longer looking at master’s programs that deal solely with wildlife conservation, but rather programs that incorporate both of her interests. “I’m looking at master’s programs that integrate the two — like sustainable development, human environment interactions, conservation biology — so I definitely want to do something where it involves international development with a focus on conservation. The trip really has shaped my future career goals completely.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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UD hosts Colonial Academic Alliance Undergraduate Research Conference

April 17, 2013 under CANR News

Colonial Academic Alliance undergraduate research conference morning poster session

The University of Delaware played host to this year’s Colonial Academic Alliance (CAA) Undergraduate Research Conference. UD, which last held the conference in 2004, organized the April 12-14 event, which boasted approximately 80 students from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds.

UD junior Angela Carcione, a wildlife conservation and entomology double major and Honors Program student, presented her research on the genetics of honeybees.

Carcione’s research took her to the Arnot Teaching and Research Forest in Ithaca, N.Y., where she and her fellow students discovered a stock of survivor feral bees. She is attempting to uncover whether these feral bees are genetically distinct from managed commercial bees, and what enables these wild bees to survive.

Carcione suggested that the conference offers a perfect platform to network and to hone her presentation skills.

“When people question me about my research, it helps me to realize what I understand and what I don’t. Because of events like this, I can go home and research what I don’t understand, and I can become a stronger presenter for the next time,” said Carcione, who is advised by Deborah Delaney, assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology.

To read more about the CAA Undergraduate Research Conference, check out the full article on UDaily.

Article by Gregory Holt

Photos by Doug Baker

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