Hope Valley resident’s education was ‘for the birds’

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He’s set to graduate from URI May 20 with wildlife conservation degree

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 8, 2007 – University of Rhode Island senior Malcolm Grant’s best days are those spent outdoors – kayaking, camping, backpacking and observing wildlife.

“My dad influenced me to pursue a career in natural resources, and my mom got me interested in birds during my freshman year,” said the wildlife and conservation biology major from Hope Valley who will graduate from URI on May 20.

His outdoor skills and passion for wildlife led Grant to a series of exciting summer jobs that provided him with close-up encounters with a wide range of wildlife, especially birds. He spent two summers working for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Fish and Wildlife monitoring the osprey population in Rhode Island and trapping small mammals to assess their population distribution. Another summer at DEM found him surveying freshwater fish populations in the state.

“Last summer I worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Massachusetts conducting various research, which included traveling around to offshore islands to survey birds,” Grant said. “Nomans Land Island National Wildlife Refuge is a small island with hardly any trees on it but a lot of nesting seabirds. We did bird surveys, counted eggs and chicks, and we even did a perimeter walk around the island, which used to be a Navy bombing range, to record the location of unexploded ordinance.”

The experience he gained in his summer jobs translated into academic and extracurricular success. As a member of the URI chapter of the Wildlife Society, he captained a team of students in a wildlife biology quiz bowl competition against universities from throughout the Northeast, and he led the team to the championship.

“There were four people on each team, and I wasn’t sure that I was even going to participate,” he said, “but someone suggested that I enter because I guess I know a lot of random facts about wildlife and conservation.”

With graduation approaching, Grant is trying to figure out plans for his future.

“I know I want to go to graduate school some day, but I don’t know where and I don’t know when. But it’s a goal,” said the URI student who received a scholarship from the Weekapaug Foundation for Conservation, among others.

This summer he has lined up what may be his most exciting wildlife experience yet: a job with the National Audubon Society restoring seabird populations to eight islands off the coast of Maine.

“They’ve re-established puffin colonies on some of the islands, and now they’re monitoring and measuring the productivity of the colonies, trying to bring back other birds like murres and razorbills,” Grant explained. “I’ll be a research assistant, helping out with all of these projects, and camping out on the islands for two or three weeks at a time. I’ll even get to stay in a historic lighthouse on one of the islands.

“After that, I’ll start getting serious about grad school,” he added.

URI News Bureau Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.