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BW biology grad forges a wild and wonderful career

Photo of Brian Tornabene

From the Cleveland Metroparks to the prairies of Montana and North Dakota, from the Cloud Forests of Ecuador to Lake Erie's Put-In-Bay, wildlife biologist Brian Tornabene '08 has immersed himself in ecological research and conservation efforts.

More than a decade after earning his Bachelor of Science at BW, he looks back on his undergraduate days with fondness and credits his educational experiences with BW biology faculty as integral to his career path.

Making science fun

"Dr. [Michael] Melampy nurtured my curiosity for, and catalyzed my interest in, understanding the natural history of species and conducting meaningful research," Tornabene said.

"He made science so much fun and took students out to the field so we could learn hands on. I even studied abroad with him in Ecuador, which was an incredible experience! I still use many of the techniques I learned with him in my work today."

After graduation, BW faculty recommendations helped him land full-time employment as a teacher and research assistant at The Ohio State University Stone Laboratory on Lake Erie.

Tracking turtles in Bozeman

Photo of Brian TornabeneTornabene then went on to earn his Master of Science in Fish and Wildlife Management at Montana State University in Bozeman, where his thesis focused on spiny softshell turtles in the Missouri River in central Montana.

Tornabene tracked the turtles using radio telemetry and closely monitored nesting activities, following their movements over a six-month period for three years, during which he and his team encountered weather extremes from blizzards to floods. Tornabene said, "It's not often you get to spend that much time and become intimate with such a wild, untamed place."

Amazing amphibians

Photo of Brian TornabeneTornabene joined Purdue University as a research technician - working with North America's largest salamander, the hellbender, which can grow up to two feet long - and a laboratory manager investigating the influences of environmental contaminants and diseases on diverse amphibian species.

Tornabene is currently working toward his doctoral degree in wildlife biology at the University of Montana in Missoula, where he is studying the effects of oil extraction on amphibians. He has also been awarded the W.A. Franke Endowed Graduate Fellowship, the Clancy Gordon Environmental Scholarship and the prestigious Bertha Morton Scholarship.

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