Scituate resident set to graduate from URI as top environmental science student

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KINGSTON, R.I. — May 17, 2006 — As a young boy, Michael Narcisi spent a great deal of time catching frogs and turtles. Now he’s hoping to make a career of it.

On May 21, he will graduate from the University of Rhode Island as the school’s top environmental science student and recipient of the university’s President’s Award for Student Excellence.

“In high school English class we did some readings from Thoreau and Emerson, and I had no idea there were any writings out there that shared the same thoughts I had about respect for the environment,” said the 22-year-old Scituate resident who grew up in Smithfield. “I developed that respect as a kid catching frogs and turtles and visiting the mountains of New Hampshire with my family. When we’d go up there, I never wanted to leave.”

At URI, Narcisi excelled academically, earning a long list of scholarships and awards, including the Rhode Island Italian-American Hall of Fame Award and scholarships from Rotary International, New England Gas Co., and the Grange Society.

As a sophomore he worked with a forester at the Providence Water Supply Board learning how to manage the lands around the Scituate Reservoir. “I took stand inventories – measuring the diameter and height of trees – and learned about the different tree species and the tools of trade of a forester.” Later he worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture mapping farmland in the state.

He returned to his frog-catching roots this year working with URI Professor Frank Golet and research associate John Mitchell on a project to assess the amphibian habitat value of vernal pools in the Queens’ River watershed in Exeter, West Greenwich, Richmond and South Kingstown.

“Vernal pools are seasonal ponds in the woods that go dry in most years,” he explained. “Amphibians depend on them for breeding, and there’s a lot of biological diversity associated with the pools as well.”

Narcisi intends to continue studying vernal pools and the wildlife that lives in them as a graduate student at URI next fall. “There’s not a lot of vernal pools on the landscape,” he said, “I don’t want people to overlook them and to not realize their importance. It’s possible that some homeowners think they’re just a wet spot they should fill in with lawn clippings, but there’s a lot going on in them.”

After earning a graduate degree, Narcisi hopes to work as a wetlands biologist for a private consulting firm, perhaps doing remediation work to restore degraded wetlands. “I’m also toying with the idea of getting a Ph.D. afterwards and maybe becoming a professor some day. But that’s probably a long time in the future.”

For now, he’s happy keeping an eye on the local frogs and turtles in Rhode Island’s vernal pools.

URI News Bureau Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.