Logs and Luxe Living
By Jennifer Spencer
It sounds like a real estate dream that’s too good to be true:
Water views, beautiful terraces, brand-new stainless steel appliances and a sunny eat-in kitchen plus dining room—all nestled in a pristine nature retreat.
But for graduate students at the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station, it’s home. The opening of the log cabin-style residence was celebrated with a ribbon cutting on Sept. 21 attended by Fordham students, faculty members and administrators.
With room for up to 12 students, the cabin further distinguishes the Calder Center, which already was known as one of the nation’s most distinctive ecological research sites. Located 30 miles north of New York City in Armonk, N.Y., the center and its unspoiled natural environment has been attracting students for more than 30 years.
John Wehr, Ph.D., director of the center, said that providing affordable housing on-site will mean more opportunities for Fordham students who study and conduct research there.
“We have had students commute from great distances to work with faculty members and do research. That is a great testament not only to our faculty, but also to the commitment of our students,” Wehr said.
“Now that students don’t have to spend their time on the Cross Bronx Expressway or the George Washington Bridge, they can invest that time in even more thoughtfully designed research.”
For the students who call the cabin home, living at Calder also means more sleep. First-year doctoral candidate Dawn Konkoly is conducting research that involves tagging birds, often in the wee hours of the morning.
“My field station is literally 50 yards from my bed. I stumble out of bed to go to work,” Konkoly said.
Third-year biology doctoral candidate and Calder resident Jason Aloisio conducts research in urban ecology, examining how rooftop gardens can reduce energy usage and run-off. Though he collects his field samples at Rose Hill, he said living so close to his lab has had a significant impact on his work.
“I’m able to walk three minutes from the cabin to the lab to do my work—I’ve actually timed it. It has increased my productivity dramatically,” Aloisio said.
For Konkoly, who grew up in rural Eastern Pennsylvania, the Calder Center is an ideal living environment. “I’m not a city girl,” she said. “If I want noise, I’ll invite people over or go out. It’s very quiet here, and I love that.”
Konkoly is an avid runner who trained for the Westchester half-marathon in the tree-lined roads near the center.
Aloisio, who also serves as Calder’s resident adviser, said log-cabin living bears a stark contrast to the apartment he lived in last year.
“When I fall asleep now, it’s to the sound of crickets. In the Bronx, it was car horns,” he said.
While the design of the cabin honors the property’s 19th-century history, its interior is chockablock with 21st-century amenities. The residence boasts DirectTV, spacious bedrooms and modern luxuries that would make any New York City apartment dweller swoon—including on-site laundry, two full-size ovens, two dishwashers, two refrigerators and more.
Konkoly, who moved to Calder from her apartment in Eastern Pennsylvania, said she takes it all in stride. “I like the fact that we have two dishwashers,” she said. “One’s always clean, and the other’s always dirty.”
As Aloisio showed admiring visitors an upstairs common room with a terrace overlooking the Calder property, he admitted that the cabin wasn’t perfect straight out of the box.
“Oh, it comes with DirectTV, but I brought in the Wii myself,” he confessed.
Though Aloisio and Konkoly embrace their woodland residence and easy access to their work, they also appreciate being so close to the opportunities of New
Ram Van service connects Calder with Rose Hill three times daily, and students make frequent trips to the city for class and leisure. Upon showing her guests a row of work boots in the cabin’s entryway, Konkoly said she has a separate wardrobe for her jaunts into Manhattan.
“My fancy shoes are inside my room,” she said. “I’ll actually be wearing a pair this week to go see Zarkana [Cirque du Soleil] at Radio City Music Hall.”
Wehr said he is eager to see the scientific community at Calder develop as more students move into the cabin in the years to come.
“Students are highly creative. I look forward to them coming up with new ideas,” he said.