Volume 11, Number 2, 2002


News from the Alumni Association

Alumni scholarship supports conservationist's studies

With the support of the University, Michael Cacciapaglia, AG 2003, of Wilmington, Del., has hiked to national parks across the U.S. and observed rain forest ecology along the Amazon River in Peru.

A wildlife conservation major, Cacciapaglia is one of seven Alumni Scholars at the University, a highly selective merit-based scholarship program sponsored by the University of Delaware Alumni Association. Selecting scholars from the pool of applicants to the University, the program awards half the cost of tuition, for both in-state and out-of-state students. Factors such as strength of academics, community and high school involvement as well as an interview are aspects of the selection process. Preferences are given to children of alumni. Cacciapaglia is the son of Pat Grim, AS '73.

The Alumni Scholars Program is funded by an endowment from income primarily generated by MBNA Affinity Card royalities. Almost $1.3 million has been placed in the scholarship program endowment.

For two weeks during the 2002 Winter Session, Cacciapaglia traveled by boat to three locations along the Amazon River in eastern Peru. The course, titled "Conservation of Tropical Biodiversity," was taught by Douglas Tallamy, professor of entomology and applied ecology.

Cacciapaglia says one of the locations they visited was like camping in the middle of the rain forest.

"There was a two- to three-mile hike from the river to the site and, when we arrived, we had cots with mosquito netting under a roof shelter."

His firsthand observation of a tropical environment further enforced his interest in wildlife conservation.

"I gained a better understanding of humanity's impact on the world and the intricate web of life in the world," he says.

One of the greatest benefits from studying abroad, Cacciapaglia says, was meeting Prof. Tallamy, with whom he is conducting research for his senior thesis.

Cacciapaglia says he is looking at how native plant systems support a more diverse and a more stable insect community without being non-aesthetically pleasing.

He says he hopes the results of his thesis "The Effect of Alien Plant on Insect Diversity and Biomass," will encourage homeowners and land managers to incorporate more native plants into their landscapes.

Last summer, Cacciapaglia was able to observe nature in another unique way when he went backpacking across the national parks of the United States in UD's Westward Bound program.

He also worked as a stream watch intern for the Delaware Nature Society in Hockessin, Del., last summer, where he was involved in presenting educational programs on stream quality and conducting a biological health survey of Red Clay Creek.

Currently a senior at UD with minors in English and biology, Cacciapaglia is actively involved in several on-campus activities including Best Buddies and the agricultural honor society Alpha Zeta. He is president of Amnesty International, a member of the Honors Program and historian for the Wildlife Conservation Club.

Cacciapaglia says he eventually plans to attend graduate school to study conservation biology, but after graduation, he wants to travel or find an internship to broaden his educational horizons.

"I want to gain some real world experience, all guided to pursue a life career in conservation and to better understand our place in the world," he says.

-- Tracy Ortiz, 2003