Dr. Jacqueline McLaughlinDr. Jacqueline S. McLaughlin

The Pennsylvania State University - Lehigh Valley
Associate Professor of Biology
CHANCE Founding Director
2017/18 Jefferson Science Fellow

Dr. Jacqueline McLaughlin is an Associate Professor of Biology at Penn State Lehigh Valley, and Founding Director of Penn State's award-winning, international, environmental education engaged scholarship program called CHANCE (Connecting Humans and Nature through Conservation Experiences). Whether she is working as a cell and developmental biologist on cancer cell lines with her undergraduate students in her research laboratory or as a conservation scientist studying the effects of global climate change on ecosystem diversity and dynamics with high school teachers and undergraduates in the fields of Australia, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, or Panama, her overall mission is to create learning environments wherein students, at any level, are inspired and effectively learn science by doing actual research.

As a scholar, she has published, as an author or editor, 67 publications in peer-reviewed books, journals, proceedings, and online environments, and has gratefully accepted numerous awards at the local, state, and national levels – all of which attest to her expertise in undergraduate teaching and learning, teacher professional development, and international programming and education. Dr. McLaughlin prides herself in being a visionary who effectively "reimagines" science educational interfaces, course delivery, and programs – in both traditional or non-traditional settings. Her experiences as a master teacher of biology, research scientist in the field of cell and developmental biology, education researcher in the field of biology teaching and learning, and director of a university-wide international education program have also provided her expert training in creating effective web-based educational materials and interfaces, partnership building (CHANCE has 45 partners worldwide), and leadership skills.

Beginning in August 2017, Dr. McLaughlin will serve as an appointed Jefferson Science Fellow of the National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine wherein she will spend one year on assignment at the U.S. Department of State or USAID in Washington D.C. as a science adviser on foreign policy and international development issues.

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Dr. Karen Kackley-DuttDr. Karen Kackley-Dutt

The Pennsylvania State University - Lehigh Valley
Associate Professor of Biology

Dr. Karen Kackley-Dutt, is an Instructor of Biology at The Pennsylvania State University, Lehigh Valley campus. She teaches undergraduate courses in general biology, ecology, environmental science, economic botany and leads international field experiences. She received a doctorate in botany/plant pathology from the University of Maryland at College Park. Dr. Kackley worked as a research scientist and technical specialist in the horticulture industry for eighteen years before returning to academia. She is the recipient of multiple teaching awards at the University of Maryland and Penn State. Dr. Kackley regularly presents at regional and national conferences on the use of technology to facilitate learning biology outside the classroom both in the United States and abroad.

Amanda SmithAmanda Smith

Amanda is the STEM Outreach and Engagement Liaison with Penn State Center for Science and the Schools. Her role focuses on building relationships with school divisions and the STEM industry to better support science education and enhance professional development opportunities for teachers. She also is the 100kin10 lead for Penn State - an organization built under the Obama administration to prepare 100K STEM teachers by 2021.

Prior to Penn State, Amanda spent 8 years in Loudoun County Public Schools in Northern Virginia teaching honors and AP biology as well as an Independent Science Research course, where she also received the 2007 Teacher of the Year award from the Tourette Syndrome Association. Amanda also earned a master degree in Education Leadership with a K-12 administration certification from George Mason University. Amanda has been engaged in several outreach professional opportunities, such as participating in the Zero Gravity Flight program sponsored by Northrop Grumman and leading a student/adult group on an ecological science trip to Costa Rica.

Dr. Amanda WendtAMANDA WENDT, Ph.D.

Amanda is the Education and Research Liaison at La Selva. She earned her PhD at the University of Connecticut where she studied tropical forest regeneration and ecology. She has also worked in both the United States and Costa Rica as a restoration project manager, and has used restoration as a tool for education and community engagement.

Prior to joining the La Selva team, Amanda directed a wildlife refuge in Sarapiquí.

Amanda’s interests include forest landscape restoration, landscape connectivity, plant-animal interactions (especially mammals and seed dispersal), patterns of seedling regeneration, forest disturbance, reserve management, and the interaction between ecosystem health and human well-being. She has worked actively in Costa Rica with the Biodiversity Partnership Mesoamerica, San Juan-La Selva Biological Corridor, Sarapiquí Conservation Learning Center, and the Sarapiquí Commission for Environmental Education.

Dr. Diego DierickDIEGO DIERICK, Ph.D.

I was born and raised in Belgium near the city of Ghent. With a training in electronics, but interested in natural resources, ecology and biology I took up bio-engineering land- and forest management at Ghent University. My doctoral studies at Gottingen University, Germany brought me to the tropics for the first time and I guess I was hooked right away.

I spent most of the last ten years living and working in the tropics. At La Selva Biological station I have been collaborating with a number of projects since 2010 looking at carbon movement in the forest ecosystem and streams and more recently at the impacts of leafcutter ants (Atta cephalotes) on the ecosystem around them. I always remained interested in technology and in particular its applications in environmental and biological sciences. As measurement technology is essential to understand the world around us, I work/struggle with instrumentation on a nearly daily basis. At present I live with my spouse Raelleen and two sons Andres and Mikael in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica a few minutes away from La Selva Biological Station.

Marcelo ArayaMARCELO ARAYA, Ph.D. Candidate

My research focuses on using Neotropical study systems and novel analytical and field methods to evaluate current ideas in behavioral and evolutionary biology. I am particularly interested in the vocal behavior of hummingbirds and the new insights for our understanding of animal vocal learning that can be derived from this fascinating taxon. I recently co-authored two studies on hummingbird behavior, derived from my Ph.D. research, showing for the first time that 1) their bills have adapted to serve as weapons in agonistic encounters and 2) hummingbirds exhibit open-ended vocal learning. I also co-authored a recent study suggesting that vocal learning does not seem to accelerate the evolution of acoustic signals in Neotropical parrots. I plan to continue this research as a postdoctoral associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, evaluating whether cultural transmission can promote signal divergence and clade diversification over evolutionary time.

I have also been involved in the development of computational tools for the analysis of animal vocalizations on the R platform. Grace Smith-Vidaurre and I have made available an R package (warbleR) that provides tools to streamline high-throughput acoustic analysis of animal sounds. Owing to this experience, we have provided training opportunities in animal communication research in regional (Central America) and international conferences.

Dr. Carlos de la RosaCARLOS DE LA ROSA, Ph.D.

Dr. de la Rosa holds a Ph.D. in Aquatic Ecology from the University of Pittsburgh, where he carried out research on resource partitioning among a complex assemblage of freshwater insects. Since then, Dr. de la Rosa’s research has bridged the fields of ecology and taxonomy of aquatic insects, natural resource conservation and management and outreach to citizens about science and conservation.

He has written several books and over 50 articles, papers and field guides in various aspects of science and conservation, as well as given more than a hundred presentations in national and international conferences and meetings. His links to Costa Rica are deep, professionally and personally. “My children grew up in the forested slopes of Volcán Orosí, in Guanacaste, as well as in Monteverde, where they learned to love and appreciate nature, science and reading (they never watch TV, to this day),” he says. “To us, Costa Rica is more than a wonderful place to live and work. It is the home we’re returning to.”

As Director of the La Selva Station, Carlos provides leadership and direction to an important suite of projects and initiatives in research, education, management and outreach.

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