Biologist Thomas Daniels, Ph.D., a senior researcher at the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y., has been appointed the center’s new director.
Daniels, associate research scientist in Fordham’s Department of Biological Sciences, took the reins from John Wehr, Ph.D., professor of biology, on Jan. 1. Wehr, who has overseen the doubling of the center staff and the construction of a 3,800 square-foot, 12-bed, log cabin-style residence for graduate researchers, has served as Calder’s director since 1986. A renowned limnologist, Wehr has also overseen research projects in the center’s 10-acre lake and in lakes and streams across the nation.
Tom Daniels, left, will direct Fordham’s Calder Center, taking the reins from John Wehr, right. Both men are among Calder’s most senior researchers.
Photos by Bruce Gilbert (left) and Bill Denison
The Calder Center is 25 miles north of New York City and consists of 113 forested acres and a 10-acre lake. It is one of the few field stations in North America with relatively undisturbed natural communities near a large urban center. Calder supports scientific and interdisciplinary research in ecology, evolution, and conservation, and provides hands-on education for students of diverse backgrounds and academic levels. The center was established in 1967 on the former estate of Louis Calder, chairman of the Perkins-Goodwin Company.
Daniels earned his doctorate in biology in 1987 at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and joined Fordham as an adjunct professor in 1994. He is currently the co-director of the Vector Ecology Laboratory at Calder, where he and fellow co-director Richard Falco, Ph.D., lead a team of scientists and students in researching disease-carrying insects (vectors) such as ticks and mosquitoes.
In his own research, Daniels has focused on vertebrate-tick relationships and the ecology of Lyme disease in the northeastern United States, as well the ecology of the West Nile virus in the Northeast. He credits co-researcher Wehr with laying a successful foundation for the center.
“I’m flattered to be asked to take over as director when John steps down, and excited to begin the next stage in Calder’s growth. The center has untapped potential that we all see, and I’m committed to help move us along the path to reaching that potential,” Daniels said.
Daniels said his primary role would be “helping to facilitate the research efforts of our faculty and graduate students at Calder.”
“That, in turn, will generate opportunities for our undergraduate students to assist in active research and come away with a unique field experience. It is why Calder exists.”
Jonathan Crystal, Ph.D., associate vice president and associate chief academic officer in the Office of the Provost, said the office is “thrilled” that Daniels is taking the position. He likewise noted that “without the work of John [Wehr], there would have been no Calder Center.”
Wehr will stay on at the center and continue research in aquatic biology.
“The Calder Center is an important asset for Fordham, supporting research and educational opportunities not only for our own faculty and students, but for others across the region and nationwide,” Crystal said.
“We have a lot of confidence that, under Tom’s leadership, Calder will make great strides in fulfilling the field station’s potential.”
Currently, one in six of Fordham’s undergraduates are majoring in biology or pre-health, or both. In 2013, Calder’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program attracted 170 applicants for 10 positions. Calder’s graduate students regularly go on to careers that make use of their biological training, including positions at the Alaska SeaLife Center, the Central Park Zoo, the Malcolm-Pirnie environmental consultancy, the National Wildlife Federation, the New York Botanical Garden, New York Medical College, New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
For Nancy Busch, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and chief research officer/associate vice-president for academic affairs, the transition is a good time to reflect on how Wehr’s work helped make the Calder Center a nationally and internationally recognized field station whose scientists are at the forefront of research and education on issues of ecological significance and global conservation.
“I believe that Tom Daniels will continue to establish Calder’s prominence as a center for the study of key issues in ecology involving urbanization and conservation, such as invasive species, water quality and vector borne illnesses like Lyme disease,” she said.
“Tom has great passion for Calder and understanding of its unique position as a biological field research station at the urban-rural gradient in one of the world’s foremost urban environments.”