Undergraduate Spotlight: Angie Casella

Angie Casella is a senior EES student with a concentration in Soil science. She spent the summer of 2022 as an Ecology Research Assistant for the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station located in Irvine PA. Over the summer she worked on assigned projects as well as an independent project (which was forestry based). Most of her time was dedicated to helping with Wood Turtle surveys.  Other projects consisted of surveying for Broadwing hawks, red tail hawks, hellbenders (very slimy but cute creatures), mussels, song birds, etc.

Her independent project was studying the aftermath zones of Beech Bark Disease and Beech Leaf Disease in forest stands in various ages from young to old growths, which was suggested by supervisor Dr. Scott Stoleson. The aftermath zones would provide an interesting discussion on unkept forest research stands in the Allegheny National Forest. Basically, Beech Bark Disease completely altered the forest structure when introduced in the 80’s and now most of the American Beech population consists of young samplings formed into thickets. Beech Leaf Disease is the most current threat to the American Beech as the disease is believed to prefer younger trees. Therefore, her research is one of the first to look at the correlation between the two diseases in the Allegheny National Forest. Angie’s research is still being analyzed, but a short summary would include that forest stand data recorded in the 90’s that had a large % of old American Beech are now dominated in American Beech sampling thickets. This plays a major role in forest structure as American Beech towers in the canopy, but now is outcompeting understory trees, an example would be Sugar Maple. With the loss of canopy cover, environments have more access to light which has done more harm than helped the habitats within the Allegheny National Forest.

When asked for advice about finding internships, she recommended to be open minded with any opportunities that may present themselves. Her focus in school is in soil sciences and hydrology, and when being offered an ecology position she was hesitant at first thinking it would not be beneficial for her career path. Though, through her internship, she was able to set up multiple job shadows with hydrologists and soil scientists that work for the government. Angie was also able to focus on a project that stemmed outside of ecology and into a topic she is more comfortable with studying. All while learning so much about ecology, which is a study she knew little about prior to my position. She is very thankful for the opportunity to gain a lot of ecological knowledge outside of a classroom setting!