Alumni 2012

Meet the Speakers 2012

Hello! My name is Caleb Arellano, and I’m a senior biology major concentrating in ecology and evolutionary behavior. I grew up surrounded by woods, birds, and prairie reserves in the small village of Grand Detour, Illinois, and the plants and animals around my area fueled my passion for conservation. My parents readily encouraged my love for nature by teaching me about the birds in our woods and gardens, exploring local parks with me, and developing with me a respect for wild animals. I’m looking forward to sharing my passion for nature with others!
Hi! My name’s Marissa Cardillo and I’m a senior  in CALS studying Biology and Entomology. I grew up in Pennsylvania where I was always outside in my backyard catching bugs and raising them as my pets (especially grasshoppers and caterpillars). At Cornell, I do research in Dr. Rayor’s lab on spider metabolism, and am excited to teach you about spiders! I love teaching and am hoping to pursue a career in medicine and teaching.
Hello, my name is Talia Coppens and I am a Junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell, majoring in Biology. Growing up in a suburb of New York City, I developed a love for animals when my father and I would watch the birdfeeder in our backyard and record all of the species we saw (and sometimes even stand so still that a Chickadee would take seed right out of our hands!). Having great Biology teachers in middle and high school encouraged me to pursue the pre-veterinary track that I am on today. I also enjoy Tae Kwon Do, drawing, and I am currently the Recruitment Advisor for my co-ed fraternity on campus.

Hi, I am Gabriella DiGiovanni, and I grew up in the beautiful Hudson Valley where I fell in love with the outdoors, from hiking, playing with salamanders, fishing (catch and release, of course), camping and many things in between. I spent my freshman year in Boulder, attending University of Colorado, and then transferred to Cornell University. Here I am a junior majoring in international agriculture and rural development and minoring in natural resources. I focus my studies on sustainable agriculture and how it connects to the natural world, combining concentrations in agricultural and food systems with environment and ecosystems. I completed my fieldwork in Tanzania where I did HIV/AIDS awareness and sustainable agriculture outreach. I have a soft spot for all living creatures and their biology, and love to share my excitement with others. I hope to continue my outreach in the future in national parks and science centers.

Hello, my name is Ashley!  I grew up in Northern New York and I’ve always had a passion for animals.  When I first came to Cornell I planned on going to vet school.  However it didn’t take me long to realize that being a vet wasn’t my dream career.  I’ve always been passionate about the environment and wildlife, so I am currently double majoring in animal science and natural resources. When I graduate I plan to work in the conservation field, and I’d love to educate people about the importance of our natural resources and wildlife.

Hi, my name is Caitlin Etri and I am currently a junior at Cornell University majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. It’s been said that some people are born to teach; I, however, was born to teachers. My dad, a biology teacher, took every opportunity to explain the natural world to me, whether we were on the beach in Montauk collecting mermaids’ purses or examining fossils in the Catskills. Growing up in front of my parents’ classrooms made me realize my love of teaching, which is why I’m also pursuing an education minor. Science has always been a part of my life both at home and on vacation. Whether it be swimming with dolphins or rafting on the Snake River, I love traveling with my family and exploring a variety of habitats different from my own.

Greetings! My name is Karryssa Fenderson. I am a junior in CALS majoring in Animal Science on the pre-veterinary track, with a minor in Dance. A native of Long Beach, California, I have aspired to be a veterinarian since before I could even properly pronounce the word. I spent a month this summer in South Africa doing veterinary volunteer work, including caring for a white rhino and assisting with a female lion spay. I hope to continue working with animals and sharing my passion with others along the way!

Hello Everyone! My name is Kayla Garcia, and I am a senior studying Natural Resources with a concentration in Applied Ecology. Originally from Florida and North Carolina, I fell in love with the natural world through many hours spent observing alligators at the lake near my home. Now living in Ithaca, NY, I have worked with a variety of bird species and currently help take care of the thousands of arachnids residing in the Rayor Lab. Fresh from a summer spent filming juvenile lobster in Maine, I look forward to talking with students and sharing my passion for science and animals with as many people as possible.


Hi, I’m Kristen Haynes, a senior majoring in Natural Resources. I grew up just an hour and forty-five minutes northeast of Ithaca in the village of Clinton, NY, but have also spent every summer and numerous holidays in Inlet, a small town in the Adirondack Mountains. It was my experiences exploring the beautiful woods and waters of the Adirondacks that fostered my love for nature and encouraged me to study ecology and the environment at Cornell.  I hope to pursue further study in ecology, evolution and behavior in graduate school before teaching at either the high school or college level.  I am also constantly working toward my long-term goal of becoming an amazing naturalist!


Hello, I’m Jacob Hurst and I am a senior majoring in Entomology and Plant Science.  He studies running and jumping in spiders using high speed cameras. He grew up in Central California and has always had a passion for nature and the outdoors. He is very excited to share his enthusiasmfor biology with others! Presentation: Protective coloration and shape (crypsis and mimicry)


Hello, I’m Shanna Johnson. Like many of my peers, I have been happily neck-deep in observing and working with members of the animal kingdom since before learning how to tie my shoes! Hailing from Houston, Texas, I came to Cornell as an Animal Science major and along the way picked up Biology as a second major with a concentration in Animal Physiology.  As an aspiring veterinarian, I am fascinated by the functional morphology of different animal species and how they have adapted to fill such unique ecological niches throughout the globe.  The coolest thing I have ever done was take a field ecology course this past winter, which allowed me to study a fascinating variety of African wildlife in their exotic habitat! Presentations: “How to Eat and Avoid Being Eaten (Mammals)” and “Ecological Adaptations in Birds (with Rebecca Hagge)”


Hi, my name is Cat Lauck and I love birds, bees, whales, big cats, fungi, and plants. I roamed the fields and forests and wetlands of central Virginia for all of my childhood and can’t imagine living without some way to explore the natural world! I dream of being a big-shot researcher aboard a Sailing School Vessel and developing a DNA library for baleen whales. Right now I’m a junior in Biology at Cornell University about to embark on the same quest for Tree Swallows. I’ve got enthusiasm to spare, and can’t wait to share it with you.

Hello, my name is Mou Jian Lee. Hailing from the city-state of Singapore, I’ve have had little contact with the natural world until becoming a Natural Resources major at Cornell. Thus, I approach the natural environment from an urban perspective. I believe that environmental conservation cannot be achieved without urban involvement, and I believe in the immense potential of communities and individuals to appreciate the natural world. I aspire to develop their unique potentials. More than spreading the wonder of the natural world, I want to help you discover the wonder of yourself.

Hello, my name is Sarah MacLean! Growing up in suburban Southern California made it difficult to satisfy my lifelong love of the outdoors, but I could spend hours entranced by the birds that visited my backyard feeders. What started as a hobby grew into a passion that brought me across the continent to study Natural Resources at Cornell, and to hone my skills as a field researcher at the Lab of Ornithology. Since then, my love of birds and biology has had me tracking chickadees in the shady forests and frozen fields of Ithaca, navigating gull colonies on the rocky coast of Maine, learning about falconry at an international festival in Abu Dhabi, monitoring threatened sea ducks at the northernmost point in Alaska, and giving my first research presentation in Vancouver. I look forward to helping children connect with the great outdoors as part of the Naturalist Outreach Program.


My name is Myra Manning and I am a senior in Agricultural Sciences, concentrating in Education and Communication. I grew up in the Poughkeepsie area of New York along the Hudson River on a small hobby farm. Through my involvement in the 4-H hog program and in founding and leading an environmental club in high school (along with other experiences along the way), I developed a lifelong goal of getting others involved in outdoor activities and in our food system. Here at Cornell, I am currently involved in Dilmun Hill, the student-run organic farm on campus, and Cornell Outdoor Education, where I teach backpacking and rock climbing. In the future, I hope to introduce more agricultural/gardening programs to public schools in order to enable future generations to get their hands dirty and learn more about the world around them.


Hello! My name is Loron Neil and I am a junior studying Biological Sciences with a concentration in Biochemistry. I am originally from the beautiful island of Jamaica. I love to be in the water whenever the opportunity presents itself. Growing up in the Caribbean has led me to be passionate about the natural world. I have a deep appreciation for wildlife and the environment. Bees are quintessential to pollination and this fascinates me immensely. Furthermore, bees are imperative to life, and I anticipate relaying this to others. I am really excited to be a part of the Naturalist outreach program and hope that I can share my passion for science!
Hello, my name is Anh Nguyen. I grew up on an old, 90-acre farm in Central New York that was teeming with wildlife. From a young age, I loved exploring and experiencing the richness of the forests and ponds around my home. In my first high school biology class, I found my calling and decided that I wanted to be a part of the scientific community for the rest of my life. Currently, I study biology with a concentration in microbiology at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University and hope to become a medical doctor.

Hi, my name is Gabriella Roman. My parents are both Mexican immigrants and I grew up in inner-city Boston . The only greenery I saw were in Boston’s beautiful city parks and arboretums. Although I spent most of my play time on concrete, my best adventures were in the parks. Luckily, my school teachers recognized my adoration for science and nature; they urged me to never give it up. My parents, whom never had the opportunity to study what they wanted, pushed me to study what I love and never settle for anything else. When I arrived in Ithaca to study Natural Resources, I saw farms, farm animals, non-urban wildlife and natural areas for the first time up close. What delighted me most were the deer! I am now a senior in Natural Resources working with the Deer Management Program, studying the movements of deer. I also works with Cornell Plantations; I am a graduate of the Cornell Plantations Natural Areas Academy. I hope to foster a love for science in urban youth, particularly with underprivileged minorities, through education. If it weren’t for my school teachers, and the endless support from my parents, I think I could not have come to Ithaca to study what I love.

Hey there! I am Morgan Shaver and I am Junior in Agricultural Education and International Agriculture and Rural Development. Growing up in the petite agricultural community of Henderson, NY, it was common to see me venturing in our back woods for hours on end, playing school, and helping out with chores at a neighboring farm. Later on in life those interests evolved into involvement: becoming a camp counselor at Oswegatchie Educational Center, teaching students about premier leadership, personal growth and career success through the National FFA Organization, and 4 trips to Southeast Asia involving agriculture and nutrition.  The little interests of my youth have transformed me into who I am today: a young woman who is passionate about agriculture, investing in youth, and meeting global needs.

Hello, my name is Mariah Slone and I am a third year Entomology major at Cornell, with a special fondness for honeybees and long runs in the woods. I discovered the joys of outdoor science education while interning at a nonprofit organization in Chicago, where I led K-12 field trips to the Chicago River and taught students how to catch and identify macroinvertebrates. I spent much of my childhood singing in a classical choir, but my favorite songs are truly the sounds of cicadas and peepers on a summer evening. This semester, I  will be presenting on acoustic communication in insects and other animals in the upstate NY region. I hope to pursue a career in science education after graduation.


Hi! My name is Rebecca Soloway and I’m a senior studying Molecular Biology with a special interest in genetics. However, my passion for science extends from the molecular level to every aspect of the world around us. I’ve studied and worked at Shoals Marine Laboratory and Scripps Institute of Oceanography which has lead me to develop an intense interest in marine life and ocean conservation.  I hope to explore a career path in which I can share my passion for all aspects of biology with others!


Hi!  My name is Ellie Taylor, and I’m a junior Plant Sciences major and Film minor at Cornell.  I grew up in rural southern Virginia, and if I wasn’t in my grandfather’s garden, I was running around with my cousin in the woods.  I spent the last summer working with children at the Ithaca Children’s Garden, and loved spreading my knowledge and enthusiasm about plants to them.  I currently take care of two rats and about a dozen potted plants cramped into our tiny apartment, and when not doing work I’m usually hiking around the gorges or the Plantations, or watching movies.


Hi, my name is Karen Tracy and I am a junior Biology major who is interested in infectious wildlife diseases and how they cause host species to evolve.   Currently, I am studying how amphibian immune genes evolve in response to a serious fungal pathogen that is killing many amphibians around the world.  I love looking for frogs, salamanders, and other cool wildlife around Ithaca and am excited to share how easy and fun it is to do!


A poet and children’s author, my name is Zach Velcoff and I am currently working on a book about global biodiversity. I spent the summer as a tour guide at the American Museum of Natural History, where I wrote a tour – “You are what you eat” – for visiting camp groups. I am arriving to Naturalist Outreach a week late, as I had a brain tumor removed at the beginning of the semester. I am still hairless and kinda groggy from the medications sloshing around my head, but I looks forward to meeting you. If you ask nicely, I’ll let you feel my scalp.


Hi, my name is Mike Wolfin and I am originally from Queens, NY.  I am a first year graduate studying chemical ecology as part of the entomology department at Cornell University.  I have a bearded dragon named Rex, but have a passion for all critters.  In my spare time I like to hike, cook, and play with Rex.



My name is Martin Zorrilla, and I am a senior majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Entomology at Cornell University. My interest in biology is the unequivocal result of growing up in one of the most bio-diverse places on earth.  I had the good fortune to be born and raised in deep in the Ecuadorian Andes, my backyard was a 850 acre reserve of pristine cloud forest. I knew I wanted to work with insects since I was five years old, and spent many hours filling jars with centipedes, click beetles, or the odd wolf spider. I enrolled in Cornell as an entomology major, before realizing that my true passion lies in teaching others about the magical world of insects.