CANR alum hikes “Long Trail” for a cause

November 19, 2013 under CANR News

Matt Grasso treks long trail for a causeMatthew Grasso, a 2013 wildlife conservation graduate from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), embarked on an 80-mile “Trek for Cancer” this fall in order to raise awareness and funds for pancreatic cancer research and the Lustgarten Foundation. Accompanying him on the excursion was Erin Cordiner, a fellow University of Delaware graduate and organizational and community leadership major.

“For me it originated as just a mental and physical challenge I wanted to experience. Then I become more passionate about raising money afterwards,” said Grasso. “For Erin it was more geared towards raising money. Her grandmother died of pancreatic cancer and so it was originally her idea to start collecting donations.”

The nine-day hike, which ran from September 29-October 7, began at Pine Cobble trail in Williamstown, Massachusetts and took Grasso and Cordiner up through Vermont, bypassing many towns along the way including Stamford, Bennington, Stratton, and Manchester Center.

Grasso described his journey with Cordiner as being truly incredible and the result of a shared love for the outdoors and a passion for helping others in need.

“Not only were the sites and fall foliage breathtaking, but we learned a ton about ourselves, each other and the mental and physical challenges of backpacking,” said Grasso. “We also had the pleasure of meeting a bunch of unforgettable fun and quirky people.”

Grasso said that a typical day on the hike began by waking at first light, quickly making breakfast consisting of oatmeal and tea, and then setting off with 34-38 pound packs through sunshine or rain. “Even though we had rainproof gear, the rain still finds a way into your backpack, jacket and shoes,” he said.

The hike had the pair traversing over and through boulders, beaver dams, bogs, streams, and rugged peaks, although they always took time to stop and enjoy lookout points over the mountains. Dinner involved macaroni and cheese, ramen, or stuffing. “We were lucky enough to have fun people hiking the same way as us with whom we could talk and joke around with during dinner,” said Grasso.

Grasso said he and Cordiner had planned to complete the entire trail, which encompasses 273 miles, but after Cordiner received a marketing and public relations position in Manhattan, they had to cut the trip short.

“I considered finishing the trail by myself, but realized this was something we started together and thus had to end together. It simply wouldn’t have felt right going on without her,” said Grasso. The pair plans to complete the full trail in the near future. For more information, contact Grasso at or Cordiner at

For now, Grasso is working with an arborist as well as aiding William Macaluso, a master’s level student in CANR, to reintroduce Northern Bobwhite quail to Long Island until he and Cordiner decide to re-embark and finish their journey.

Article by Angela Carcione


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.


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


UD Embarks on New Study Abroad to Cambodia, Vietnam

December 18, 2012 under CANR News

January 2013 marks the beginning of an exciting journey for 12 adventurous students at the University of Delaware. In their Winter Study Abroad session, these students will embark on the University’s first expedition to Cambodia and Vietnam. The goal of this 27-day program is to give students the opportunity to explore the rich wildlife and unique history of Cambodia and Vietnam, while at the same time fulfilling two Wildlife Conservation courses: Conservation of Southeast Asian Wildlife and People and Wildlife of Southeast Asia. The students will venture on this journey with an Art study abroad program fulfilling–Indigenous Arts of Southeast Asia and Documentary Photography–led by Jon Cox, assistant professor of art.

The students will be blogging about their experience throughout winter session.

“All of our [conservation] programs have a human component, and look at how humans impact conservation. South East Asia has a long history, dating back much farther than most areas of the world,” says Jacob Bowman, associate professor of wildlife ecology, and one of the faculty members leading the study abroad session.

According to Bowman, these war-torn countries offer students an unusual view on culture and wildlife, as many of the region’s mountainous areas have been mostly untouched by humans (other than guerillas) throughout the war, thereby preserving the habitats of the indigenous animals.

“There are still tigers, elephants, leopards and a lot of large mammals left in some of these remote areas, partially because for a long time it was dangerous for people to go into these areas,” Bowman explains.

The program begins in Vietnam, where students visit ancient temples of Angkor Wat, journey through the Mekong River and the dated tunnels used in the Vietnam War. Next, in Cambodia, students will experience unique wildlife and learn first-hand about conservation issues. Students will study Cambodia’s history and people by visiting various locations, including sacred temples and the historical killing fields, where large numbers of people were killed after the Cambodian Civil War. It is from this visit to the killing fields that Bowman expects students to be the most affected.

“When you go there and see a tower of skulls from all the people that have been killed, it’s a powerful experience. Hopefully students walk away realizing how bad humans can be, and how we continue to not learn from our own historical mistakes.”

A strong conservation issue to be examined is how overpopulated countries over-hunt their wildlife, and how these countries could benefit from developing an eco-friendly balance. Says Bowman, “Because it [Asia] has such a large population, it tends to overexploit its resources. There is almost no wildlife here because of the economic dilemma. People care about the wildlife, but their situation prevents them from conserving. They are just trying to feed their families and survive day to day.”

While Bowman says the University supported his choice of studying in Cambodia and Vietnam, the group is still being careful in these areas. UD students will interact with students from The Royal University of Phnom Penh and will predominantly stay in hotels throughout the trip, as it is safer than camping.

Bowman, who along with Cox, has run numerous study abroad programs to Tanzania, Australia, and Antarctica, is very excited for this new trip, and for the students. “Being able to interact with the students in a way where you can get them thinking about things cognitively instead of just strict classroom assignments is very satisfying. If something happens, the group is small enough to talk about it.” He relates a story that on one of his trips to Africa, he came face to face with a lion at night. “Stuff like that is hard to put into words, but particular things happen on every trip, and that is what builds impressions.”

What Bowman really hopes each student walks away with is a new point of view. He hopes this journey will open their eyes about the challenges of conservation on an international arena, where they will witness a form of living very different from their own.

According to Carly Costello, a UD junior majoring in animal science and taking this in-demand program, “It’s all about the first-hand experience. I’m excited to experience another culture; everyday things that we think are ordinary are so different to them, and vice versa.”

Article by Samantha Walsh, UD Wildlife Conservation and Communication junior


CANR Study Abroad Blogs

January 10, 2012 under CANR News

Many of our CANR students are spending winter session studying abroad.  Follow them on their journeys through the blogs that they and/or their faculty leaders are writing.

Brazil (Plant and Soil Sciences)

Dominica (Food and Resources Economics/Geography)

Singapore and Indonesia (Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture)

Tanzania (Entomology and Wildlife Ecology/Art)

In addition, there is another CANR study abroad program traveling to Ecuador and the Galpagos (Plant and Soil Sciences/Biology). For more information about University of Delaware study abroad programs, visit UD’s Institute for Global Studies website.


UD senior Rubino spends summer interning at Philadelphia Zoo

January 5, 2012 under CANR News

Looking for a summer internship that would provide hands-on experience with a variety of different animals, University of Delaware student Gabrielle Rubino decided that she should apply to a place defined by its animal diversity: the Philadelphia Zoo.

Rubino, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources who is majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences with a minor in wildlife conservation, applied for the animal care internship through the zoo’s website after talking with an acquaintance who had interned at the zoo in the summer of 2010.

She explained that after submitting an application, writing a letter of interest and sending two letters of recommendation, officials selected her for an interview and, ultimately, the internship.

The internship lasted 11 weeks, from the end of May until the middle of August, and Rubino started her day at the zoo every morning at 8:30 a.m. She worked alongside the staff at the Children’s Zoo, and her main duties included preparing and distributing food for the animals.

Feeding a wide array of animals, ranging from ferrets and box turtles to owls, ducks and porcupines, Rubino received first hand experience on the dietary needs of diverse wildlife.

Feeding and preparing meals was not the only part of her job, however. Rubino explained that she also “learned how to maintain animal enclosures and exhibits with proper cleaning methods. I learned proper handling, crating and capture techniques for these different animals as well.”

One of the most interesting parts of her internship was learning about animal enrichment. “I learned what it meant to provide different types of enrichment for the animals such as visual, tactile and auditory enrichment,” said Rubino. “I never knew that a Senegal parrot could be so fascinated by bubbles, or that Macaws would be completely silent while watching a Disney movie.”

Rubino also got her hands dirty tidying up various animal living spaces, cleaning out the mini-horse and donkey yards, the bunny village pens and the chicken and turkey yards. Of the cleaning process, Rubino joked, “I have never spent so much time with hay in my life, nor do I hope to again.”

When it was time to take the animals out for “play time” for the public to see, Rubino had to make sure that she was sharp on the animal information so she could answer any questions that the zoo’s visitors might have. “I was always asked questions about the animal that was out for showing so I had to be very knowledgeable on all the types of animals.”

Rubino said that she “absolutely loved this internship.” She met great friends and learned fascinating information, all the while gaining hands on experience with a variety of different animals from a staff that she described as “always helpful and willing to teach.”

Although she is not 100 percent sure what she wants to do with her future, she said that she wouldn’t rule out working at a zoo because she “enjoyed every day I spent interning at the zoo.”

For those students interested in a summer internship at the Philadelphia Zoo, visit the website.

Article by Adam Thomas


Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology adds Kyle McCarthy to Staff

June 16, 2011 under CANR News

Kyle McCarthy, assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, has traveled all around the world, from a childhood growing up in Alaska, to living in Mongolia, to conducting studies on Snow Leopards in Kyrgyzstan in the Tian Shan Mountains. Now, McCarthy finds himself living in the first state, having landed a job as an assistant professor with the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

McCarthy said that he is very excited to be a part of the College and of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology.

“Once I interviewed, one of the leading factors for why I came here was just the department. It’s a smaller department and there is a lot of collaboration. I feel like everyone works well together, there’s an openness with everybody, and it seemed like a very positive work environment where they still managed to get a lot of important research done. So I am excited about that.”

McCarthy also liked the fact that the wildlife major resulted in the students being able to become certified wildlife biologists under the wildlife society.

“It’s a great part of the program because mine didn’t lead to certification where I did my undergraduate work.”

Last spring, McCarthy taught a wildlife ecology and conservation class, and will add a wildlife management class in the fall and an ornithology lab in the spring.

Having received his bachelor of science in wildlife biology from Colorado State University in 2002, McCarthy went on to earn his masters and doctorate degrees in wildlife conservation from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2007 and 2010.

It was while doing research for his masters degree that McCarthy got to travel to Kyrgyzstan to evaluate monitoring techniques for Snow Leopard populations.

After returning to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, McCarthy conducted his Ph.D. research on the behavioral response of loons to human recreation on Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge in northern New Hampshire.

McCarthy conducted his post doctorate work at the University of Florida where he worked with Florida panthers, assessing their behavioral response to recreational presence in Big Cypress National Preserve.

With all of his background in researching big cats, McCarthy said that he would like to develop a cat research program here at UD.

For now, McCarthy said that he looks forward to collaborating with his peers and educating his students.


Ducks in the dark

June 14, 2011 under CANR News

Orrin Jones is doing field work using night-vision riflescopes to study the behavior of the American black duck.

Chris Williams and his University of Delaware research team employ standard tools of the trade for waterfowl research – core drills for core sampling, binoculars for waterfowl viewing and lots of coffee for long stints in duck blinds. But Williams may be the first wildlife biologist to use apparatus more commonly seen on the battlefield – night-vision riflescopes.

Williams, associate professor of wildlife ecology in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is studying the behavior of the American black duck to determine if there are adequate food resources on the Mid-Atlantic coast to support this dabbling duck, which has been identified as a “species of concern” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Although there’s lots of data on the daytime behaviors of the black duck, up until now no one had a good idea what it was up to at night.

“We were aware that the American black duck isn’t exclusively diurnal because of anecdotal knowledge about its nighttime calls,” says Williams. “But we didn’t know the extent of its nocturnal activities because we didn’t have the tools to study this.”

Until recently, night-vision technology wouldn’t have been up to the challenge of detecting subtle movements in the dark-colored (and aptly named) black duck, which is just 13 to 19 inches in height. But night-vision technology has improved dramatically since the military began using it extensively during the Iraq war. The latest devices can amplify light up to 50,000 times, producing clear images even on moonless nights.

It’s critical for Williams to know what black ducks do at night, as well as during the day, so he can accurately determine how much energy the birds expend. With this data, Williams and his research team will be able to establish an area’s “carrying capacity,” the number of birds a habitat can support.

“Habitat loss is a threat to the American black duck,” notes Williams. “Nationwide, black ducks have declined by as much as 60 percent. We need to understand the carrying capacity for the black duck so we can make appropriate land management decisions.”

Graduate student Orrin Jones led the field research for the project, which took place in Edwin B. Forsyth National Wildlife Refuge, six miles north of Atlantic City.  American black ducks overwinter on the Jersey shore, as well as refuges and open land on Delaware’s coast, from November through March.

Field work is never a piece of cake but the black duck project could have qualified for that old reality show America’s Toughest Jobs. Jones, graduate student Jeremiah Heise (who is studying the Atlantic brant but helped with the duck research) and four technicians divvied up round-the-clock shifts, five days a week.

Because it was important to study the duck’s behaviors in a variety of habitat, from high marsh to mud flats, some study sites were only reachable by boat. After 15-minute paddles in a canoe or hour-long motor boat rides, Jones would settle in for the 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift and painstakingly record each time a duck swam, flew or preened. Weather ran the gamut – the infrequent mild spell, but more often, cold, rain, snow or outright blizzard conditions.

“We only missed one day of observation, during the 2010 Super Bowl blizzard, because the snow was too deep even using our 4×4 work trucks,” he says.

But for Jones field work is a piece of cake compared to what this summer holds – hour after hour inside a climate-controlled laboratory, where Williams’ research team is cataloging how much energy was available in the marsh core samples.

Working in the laboratory as part of the black duck research are Zariel Johnson, Alexandra Joesten, Amanda Dunbar and Marissa Goldstein.

“I enjoy the challenges of rugged field work; it’s one of the reasons I got into avian research,” says Jones. “It’s going to be hard to be stuck inside.”

Hard but necessary. It takes about 64 hours in the lab to analyze data from each quadrant of marsh studied, estimates Williams. All told, that’s 8,000 hours of lab work for Williams’ research team.

“The American black duck was once one of the more abundant waterfowl species in eastern North America,” says Williams. “I hope this research gives us a much better understanding of the black duck’s habitat needs.”

Article by Margo McDonough

Photos by Danielle Quigley

View this article online on UDaily by clicking here.



Allison Rogers named Plastino Scholar

May 19, 2011 under Spotlight on Success

Allison Rogers, a pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major and wildlife conservation minor from Scarborough, Maine, has been named a Plastino Scholar.

With the Plastino Scholarship, Rogers will travel across the country–from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh to Rhode Island–spreading awareness about the world parrot crisis, an issue involving the smuggling, overcrowding and neglect of the exotic birds.

Rogers said that being named a Plastino Scholar is “very surreal; it’s hard to grasp the magnitude of an award like the Plastino Scholarship. The students I have met who have received this award are such amazing individuals, and though I’m a scholar just like them, I feel so humbled when I talk with them.”

Working with birds is nothing new for Rogers. She has raised ducks and chickens since the age of eight, and in addition to all that she learned during her time at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), she pursued various internships to gain even more hands on experience with birds.

When Rogers found out about the award, she said that she was “over the moon. I literally teared up. When you have worked so hard towards a goal such as this scholarship, to have someone say ‘We believe in you, you should pursue this dream, and we will help you’ is the most incredible feeling. It’s indescribable.”

Rogers said that she hopes other CANR students will apply for the award in the future. “I really believe that some of the brightest and best minds are in CANR. The students in CANR are really out there trying to improve our world and the environment, and I think this scholarship could be a stepping stone for those talented and creative students.”

To follow Rogers as she travels across the country, visit her blog, which she will be updating throughout the summer.

For information on all the Plastino Scholar check out UDaily >>