In search of the Northern Map Turtle

By Alisa Sonsev

Richard Seigel is out to save the northern map turtle.

And that is no small feat. Until the Towson University biology professor began his research five years ago at the request of the state and federal governments, no one had seen the turtle in Maryland since 1992.

Richard Seigel

Richard Seigel

Seigel has since found enough to estimate there could be between 150 and 200 of the turtles in the state.

“One of the things you have to understand when you’re dealing with animals in the wild is that you never say something is not occurring, you say that there isn’t any evidence that anything is occurring,” Seigel said in a recent interview. “The animals are secretive and they surprise you all the time.”

For this efforts, Seigel was featured in the April 26th issue of a blog called Freshwater Species of the Week, run by National Geographic

“Sometimes media outlets have a tendency to already know what they want you to say, and you don’t get quoted accurately, but I think National Geographic did an especially good job with accurately reporting our work,” Seigel said.

Seigel was contacted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in 2008 and was asked to begin research on the northern map turtle. The study is in its sixth year now.

Most of the work has been done in Port Deposit, Md.,which Seigel described as being extremely supportive in the conservation efforts. Port Deposit is one of the only towns along the Susquehana River that plays host to the northern map turtle, according to Seigel.

“Very often the reaction to a community finding out that there’s an endangered species in the town limits is fear of restrictions that stop economic development, but Port Deposit realized that the turtle could become an economic asset to the town,” Seigel said.

Northern Map Turtle

Northern Map Turtle

Port Deposit has gotten investment from both the state and federal government as well as private funding, Seigel said. The town has also become a local hotspot for ecotourism, which is helping increase the town’s finances.

There is a plan in the works to revamp the Jacob Tome Gas House, an old historic structure in Port Deposit, and turning it into a combined environmental education center and field station for Towson University, Seigel said.

“This education center and field station will certainly be attracting a lot of people to come to the town,” Seigel said. “So, there’s a good upside to the turtle being a benefit to the town and from what we can tell there’s virtually no downside.”

The only restriction placed on Port Deposit, Seigel said, is that drivers must be careful where they drive their cars in certain areas because the turtles sometimes cross the roads.

Seigel said that the town also has a safe harbor agreement with the state, which says that if the town makes certain commitments to protect the turtle and the turtle population expands, then the town won’t face further restrictions on economic development.

“That’s something that’s been done on the national level, but to my understanding that was one of the first times, if not the first time, it’s been done in the state of Maryland,” Seigel said.

While the Port Deposit aspect of the conservation effort is important, Seigel said that it is not a large enough segment of the population to sustain a viable species in Maryland. The biggest impact on the species, he said, is the affect of flooding from the Conowingo Dam in the Susquehana River.

“One of the problems that the turtle faces is the amount of water that the dam releases when it’s generating electrical power,” Seigel said. “There is a big increase in the water level, and most of the natural basking sites for the turtles gets covered by the water.”

With funding from the Exelon Corp., the researchers have put an emphasis on making artificial basking platforms that adjust with the water level for the turtles. Basking is essential for all reptiles to raise their body temperatures, and it’s critical for them to keep their reproductive cycles going.

In 2009, Seigel brought Teal Richards-Dimitrie, a former graduate student, onto the project to do field work such as behavioral observations and nesting surveys. There are now five Towson students, four undergraduates and one graduate, who are involved in the project.

“There’s always been a good number of students who want to participate in the project,” Seigel said. “It’s a great opportunity for Towson students to get involved in doing undergraduate research.”

Graduate student Kaite Anderson has been involved with the project for two years and has decided to write her master’s thesis on the study.

“In short, my thesis is basically about how habitat characteristics influence basking behavior in northern map turtles,” Anderson said.

Undergraduate Kristen Kolenda said she has only been involved with the project for a few weeks, but she wants to continue doing extended research on the topic.

“One of my life goals is to work with endangered species, and I consider this to be an extremely lucky opportunity for me,” Kolenda said.

Port Deposit has made many great strides to preserving the turtle, and Seigel said that according to his knowledge, no other small towns along the Susquehana have northern map turtles.

Art students raise $6,000 during pottery sale

By Phil Roszak

Towson University art students raised $6,200 last weekend by selling their work at the 40th Annual Pottery Sale in the Center for the Arts, according to ceramics faculty member Richard Holt.

Holt said the students keep 70 percent of the profits from the sale while the school’s Department of Art gets 30 percent.

Throughout the semester, the funds go back to helping students do things like attend a national ceramics convention, purchase specialty clay and materials for projects, or to fund unexpected expenses–such as if a kiln needs to be replaced, Holt said.

“So when they are putting the money in, we’re going to put it right back to them,” he said.

Ceramics Professor Richard Holt has expanded the Pottery Sale beyond objects made on the potter’s wheel to include ceramic sculptures.

Ceramics Professor Richard Holt has expanded the Pottery Sale beyond objects made on the potter’s wheel to include ceramic sculptures.

 

The sale included functional and decorative pieces in a number of styles.

“We also have jewelry, soaps and blown glass,” said Diana Hazelip, an ‘06 Towson graduate who volunteered at the sale.

Holt said he has tried to expand what the Pottery Sale offers since he began leading the ceramics classes.

“I’ve tweaked it so that it involves ceramic sculpture and not just the potters wheel,” he said. “Our students are multi talented and so it’s an opportunity for them to sell other items.”

Towson senior Rosie Abate had 64 pieces in the Pottery Sale. Not everyone in ceramics classes enters work in the sale, she said.

“Its mostly people who have a really big interest,” she said.

“Rich’s wife taught me to throw when I was 14.”

After she first learned to throw clay on a potters wheel Abate said she worked with ceramics intermittently until last year when she was a summer camp councilor and taught campers how to work with clay. This semester she is in the potters wheel class.

“That is where you really get a taste of being a production potter,” she said.

Sixteen students have work in the sale, which Holt said was more than usual.

The three adjunct ceramics faculty and Holt have work in the sale as well.

“The sale is nice because it is all students and faculty,” Hazelip said.

It is really held for the students, Holt said.

“We try not to put in as much because we want the students to be able to see and have a good feeling of being able to sell their work,” he said.

The Pottery Sale benefits students in more than just financial ways.

“It teaches the students how to sell their work and that it is not just making the work, that your making quality items that you can go out and sell,” he said.

Students are part of the entire process of planning the sale, he said. They are involved in everything from planning the postcards to promote the sale to taking money and wrapping up what people buy.

The sale is held twice a year during the first weekends in May and December.

“As soon as we are past the one sale I am already telling them to start making work for the next one,” Holt said.

Every year, Holt said, they aim to have something new and different in the Pottery Sale.

“The most current thing that we have right now is students are able to put prints on clay,” he said.

Students can create an image using a computer and use “transfer paper to apply it to the ceramic and then fire it right on,” Holt said.

In the sale’s 40-year-history, he said, the Pottery Sale has made over $300,000for the department.

Electric car stations coming to Towson

By Alexa Lazerow

Towson University students, faculty members and staff who drive electric cars will soon be able to charge them up at any one of the campus parking garages, the school announced.

The university, which originally announced that the station’s would be activated by May 1, has not given a new date for when the service will be provided. The university chose to make the 18 stations free, which is not the case for stations nationwide.

“Right now there is not a huge need for the electric charging stations [at Towson]… but somewhat,” said the director of Parking and Transportation Services, Pamela Mooney.

Mooney said the university hopes the Towson community will be encouraged to purchase electric vehicles if the school provides the electric charge stations.

The stations were given to the university by Baltimore City.  The only expense for Towson was covering the  $15,000 installation cost,  Mooney said.

The  university saved over $100,000 in equipment from the gift, Mooney said. There will be four stations in each garage and two by the Administration Building.

”Last Fall, Baltimore City obtained two out of the three grants they wanted for the stations,” Mooney said. “The two grants allowed them to purchase the stations. The grant denied was for the installation. This is when the city offered the stations to Towson University.”

The  university had been looking into the electric charging stations for some time but was waiting for the price to go down, said Mooney.

Each station costs  $5,000 to $7,000, depending on the company.  Once the stations are bought and installed, electricity needs to be run to each station.

Mooney believes “this is a long term investment [for the university] and should last many years.”

“At some point,” she added, “we would have purchased them but [it would not have been possible] if the city did not give them to use now.”

Clara Fang, the campus planning and sustainability manager, is in charge of promoting the charging stations through announcements and social media.

“The stations promote themselves,” Fang said. “The benefits are short and long term. By having them [here at Towson] it is now a hub for electric vehicles.”

The public is welcome to use the stations with the purchase of a parking pass. The station has to be activated by an app on a smart phone or by calling a toll free number.

They are “self support operations,”  Mooney said. “Expenses are covered by the user.”

Electric cars are a balancing act on saving money on fuel but spending more money initially.           “These cars are relatively new, more expensive and have some glitches that need to be worked out,” Mooney said.

The university owns several electric vehicles for facility workers — yet  another step in the school’s  “green initiatives.”

“University presidents across the country have signed onto the Presidents Climate Commitments,” Mooney said. Towson is a member of this project and has made enormous changes on campus to reduce our carbon footprint, she added.

Dundalk community takes stand against Baltimore County

By Cayla Baker

Members of Dundalk United, a multi-community coalition, showed up at a Baltimore County Council meeting on Monday to strongly oppose the county’s plan to sell the North Point Government Center and surrounding park to a developer.

An estimated 20 community leaders and citizens of Dundalk took to the  council floor for the fifth time to urge council members to vote against the proposal to sell the center on the corner of Merritt Boulevard and Wise Avenue in Dundalk.

The proposal also calls for the county’s smallest elementary school, Eastwood Elementary Magnet School, to be closed and for the relocation of the Dundalk Police Precinct.

Many community members urged  the council to do the “right thing” and reject the proposal.

Linda Gossman, a resident of Dundalk, explained that the sense of community would be completely destroyed if the North Point Center was sold. The park, located on the center’s grounds, is often filled with families and children, she said.

The North Point Government Center is home to several performing arts camps, a 650-seat theatre, recreational indoor and outdoor sports, and a 27.8-acre community park.

The proposal is part of a much larger movement by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz to sell several pieces of taxpayer owned land in the area, including the Towson fire station on York  Road and a police substation in Randallstown.

“It’s [the North Point Government Center] an aging building that needs to be replaced,” Ellen Kobler, a spokesperson for the county executive, said in an interview.

The center is located on prime commercial real-estate, Kobler said. The revenue that is received from the sale will go towards rebuilding North Point at a different location.

The new location for the center has not been determined, she said.

Potential buyers will submit bids for the property.

The Bid Review Committee is hoping to make a recommendation for the future of North Point by mid-summer, Kobler said. After the recommendation is made, the council will make the final decision.

Karen Cruz, a longtime resident of Dundalk, said she hopes that Baltimore County will listen to the community and its wants.

“I really hope they [the Baltimore County Council] vote with their conscious,” she said in an interview on Tuesday. “What if this was their neighborhood?”

To gain more support, Dundalk United has taken to spread the word about the proposal. The “Save the North Point Government Center” Facebook page has over 1,000 “likes” and continues to gain support every day.

When asked if Kamenetz has taken the community’s protest to heart, Kobler said that only “some members of the community are upset.”

“I don’t think there has been an official survey to conclude that ‘all’ of Dundalk is upset,” Kobler said.

Ron Shafer, a 60-year resident of the Dundalk area, explained his frustration with the lack of input the community has had in the decision making process to the council.

“Who knows more about the community than the community?” Shafer asked at the  council meeting on Monday.

Debbie Staigerwald, a 22-year resident of Dundalk and coordinator of a performing arts camp at North Point Government Center, said that most of the community was unaware of the proposal until a newspaper article was published.

“All of a sudden, one day, out of the blue, I read in the newspaper that they were going to sell the building. Our building,” Staigerwald said.

Staigerwald said that the county’s refusal to release developer’s plans for the sites is a cop-out of allowing the community sufficient time to fight back.

Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly attributed a direct quote about “building prisons” to Linda Gossman, a resident of Dundalk. We apologize for the error.

Towson’s Dangerfield is heading to the Bills

By Eric Arditti

Jordan Dangerfield thought his life-long dream had come to an end.

Then the Buffalo Bills called.

Dangerfield, a Towson University senior who played safety on the Tiger’s football team for three years, was facing the end of his career when he was passed over during last month’s NFL draft.

Instead, Dangerfield will put on Number 46 and head to Ralph Wilson Stadium Fieldhouse in Orchard Park, N.Y., to attend his first rookie mini-camp.

“It was so surreal. That’s a team that’s been keeping in contact with me throughout this whole process,” Dangerfield said. “I knew they liked me and in the end of the day it was my decision to pick Buffalo.”

This was the second time that Dangerfield’s career was in jeopardy.

In 2009, Dangerfield was left without a team when Hofsta University, where he played his freshman year, shut down the university’s football team due to a lack of funds and fan interest.

Towson’s football coach, Rob Ambrose, knew a few members on Hofstra’s coaching staff and they let Ambrose know that Dangerfield was interested in Towson.

“One reason why I came to Towson is because playing time was available if I came with the right work ethic and attitude,” Dangerfield said. “I knew what I had to get done to make it to the NFL. I worked hard on that during my career at Towson.”

Dangerfield made an immediate impact once he arrived at Towson, leading the team in tackles. He also led all defensive backs in the CAA in tackles per game.

Dangerfield continued to make plays for the Tigers in his junior season, again leading the team in tackles.

Dangerfield’s playmaking ability also helped him be named to first team All-CAA, first team All-ECAC, and first team All-American honors from the College Sports Journal.

The hard-hitting safety is a leader on and off the field, some teammates say. Towson Linebacker Eric Schuster said Dangerfield would be the first one in the weight room and the last to leave.

“Hardest worker I’ve ever seen. He was always out to prove something and always had another level,” Schuster said.

At the end of the 2012 year, Dangerfield again headlined the 2012 CAA first team.   During his senior year his play also caught the attention of the Buffalo Bills.  Pete Harris, a scout from BuffaloBills.com, raved about Dangerfields physical play.

“He’s got decent speed, but he’s a physical presence. If you come over the middle he’ll hit you,” Harris said on BuffaloBills.com.

Harris also wrote that Dangerfield played well against LSU, which Dangerfield said was the biggest game he has played.

The Bills contacted Dangerfield after the draft and he reached an agreement to sign with them. He also had offers from the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos.

Dangerfield said he will let his actions on the field speak for themselves. He compared being passed over in the draft to colleges not recruiting him.

“I just want to go in and compete to the best of my abilities,” Dangerfield said. “I will do anything I have to do to make the team better. I also just want to learn from all the veterans on the team. I’m looking forward to this experience.”

Towson receiver gets chance to be a Raven

By Justin Silberman

After getting passed over in the 2013 NFL Draft, Towson University wide receiver Gerrard Sheppard said he was exhilarated when he received a phone call from the Baltimore Ravens minutes  after  the April 27 draft ended.

Sheppard, who officially signed with the Ravens as an undrafted rookie free agent on Friday, said that the Ravens’ call was a defining moment for him.

“It was one of the best calls I’ve ever received on the phone,” Sheppard said. “To know that a simple phone call can change your life, plus knowing that all your hard work has paid off, is a wonderful feeling.”

Sheppard will be competing to fill the vacancy at wide receiver left by last season’s leading receiver, Anquan Boldin, who was traded to the San Francisco 49ers earlier this off season. Sheppard said his skill set and leadership qualities would make him a reliable target in the Ravens’ passing game.

“(I’m) a hard working man,” Sheppard said. “I’m a man that plans on being a dependable leader and someone they (the Ravens) can count on. I’m a strong receiver that will go deep to stretch the defense as well as go across the middle in order to move the chains.”

Sheppard, listed at 6-foot-2-inches, 212-pounds, also acknowledged that his rare combination of size and speed could make him a multi-position asset for the Ravens.

“I’m fast and strong at the same time,” Sheppard said. “Playing any position on special teams is definitely something I could capitalize on.”

Though Towson is not known for being a football powerhouse, Sheppard, who transferred to Towson after playing his first two years of college football at the University of Connecticut, said that his time with the Tigers taught him several valuable lessons.

“It encouraged my mindset of fighting adversity,” Sheppard said, referring to his two-year stint at Towson. “Coming into Towson, the record was rough. With constant fighting and determination, I told my guys this had to change. We fought together as a family and changed that.”

Brian Bower, who covers the Ravens for Football News Now, attested to Sheppard’s blue-collar mentality and tireless work ethic. While Bower recognized that Sheppard faces an uphill battle just to make the Ravens’ roster, he said Sheppard’s drive and determination could outweigh the challenges he faces.

“He faces overwhelming obstacles of making the 53-man roster,” Bower said. “But his heart and willpower overshadow the odds stacked against him. Sometimes, in this business, that can be enough to overcome talent.”

Meanwhile, Sheppard’s family adviser, Brent Conner, said Sheppard’s off season regimen has prepared him for this opportunity.

“He devised a great plan to improve his game, which included working with a track coach,” Conner said. “He wanted to make certain that he trained and worked hard to get a shot with someone.”

However, if playing for the Ravens or another NFL team doesn’t come to fruition for Sheppard, he said he would continue to pursue a career in sports.

“If it doesn’t work out in the NFL, I want to work in something relating to sports,” Sheppard said. “I have a passion for sports, so that is my dream.”

To ensure that doesn’t happen for another several years, Sheppard stated that he is going to do whatever it takes to separate himself from the rest of the receivers he will be competing against to make the Ravens’ roster.

“I’m going to go hard every play of everyday,” Sheppard said. “I’m going to give it my all, knowing my playbook inside out. I have full confidence in my talents, and I believe that will show.”

Correction: The original headline for this story erroneously reported that Sheppard was “drafted” by the Ravens. He was actually picked up by the team after the draft.

Students get lesson in art history

By Lexy Wright

Towson University held its 4th Annual Art History Symposium last night in the Center for the Arts, where six selected students discussed specific eras of artistic style.

The first student, Anna Helene Mihm, discussed how 14th century painters used Satyrs to show Greek men how not to act.

Satyrs were dark skinned men with animal features, who were often wild and unable to control their desires for sex and alcohol, Mihm said. Many painters would paint these Satyrs acting on these uncontrollable urges in a barbaric manner, Mihm said, so as to show Greek men how ridiculous they would look if they acted that way.

“Satyrs were often used for comic relief, but they also served as a warning to greek men,” Mihm said.

Greek men, unlike Satyrs, were tall, clean, muscular men with light skin, Mihm said. They were supposed to be higher beings than Satyrs, and therefore able to control their desires.

In many ways, Satyrs were a form of natural being, close to barbarism, but were shown in a dirty way by painters of that century in order to keep  Greek men from falling into the temptation of their desires.

Aurora Engle-Pratt gave a presentation  on  the 15th century, explaining  how printmaking  during the Italian Renaissance helped influence the paint strokes that most artists use today.

Printmaking was the artistic drawing on paper, rather than painting or sculpting. Although printmaking did not start in the 1400’s, Engle-Pratt said, it was revolutionized in the 1400’s when many artists like Francesco Rosselli and Antonia del Pollaioulo began using Broad Manner strokes rather than  Fine Manner strokes in their drawings.

Broad Manner, Engle-Pratt said, was the art of using a variety of different strokes  to make darker lines, or a deeper black in certain areas.

“These lines created dense areas of dark to contrast areas of light so that the drawing would focus on how light defines form,” Engle-Pratt said.

This innovation was then used in many drawings by many artists, and because they were in such high demand, it created the first type of artistry that could be more or less mass produced, Engle-Pratt said.

This style of stroke was so influential because once it took off in printmaking, it was soon being used in paintings and pottery, Engle-Pratt said.

Dayna Powell presented  on artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Three Muses, or the three lovers that were most influential in Rossetti’s paintings.

Rossetti lived and painted in the mid to late 1800’s, and is best known for his portrait paintings. Three of his most used models for his paintings were also his three most prominent lovers: Elizabeth Siddal, Fanny Cornforth and Jane Morris, Powell said.

Siddal, Rossetti’s first lover, was the focus of his work for eight years, Powell said, and although their  relationship was unstable, he came closest to marrying her. However, Siddal committed suicide in 1870, and shortly after her death, Rossetti created one of his most famous paintings, Beata Beatrix, which is said to be in memory of Siddal, Powell said.

Cornforth was Rossetti’s second lover, although the years that he spent with Cornforth and Siddal overlap considerably, Powell said. Rossetti’s relationship with Cornforth was consciously kept hidden for many years, Powell said, most likely because Cornforth was a professional prostitute.

However, his time with Cornforth led him to what he was most known for; paintings of moderately sexualized women, using mainly oils, which can be seen in Rossetti’s painting of Cornforth, Bocca Baciata, Powell said.

Morris was Rossetti’s last lover, and the woman with whom he was the most obsessed with, Powell said. He referred to her as his ideal figure of a woman, and his paintings became only about Morris. Morris, however, left Rossetti because of his drug addiction, but not before he painted one of his most famous paintings, Reverie, which is clearly a portrait of Morris, Powell said.

Regardless of how many mistresses Rossetti had, Powell said, their influence on his work is undeniable, and many question how famous his work would be without them.

Kimberly Burgess then presented on Winslow Homer’s portraits of freed slaves during the Reconstruction era.

Homer’s work is discussed often among art scholars, Burgess said, because Homer purposely took no political stance on any issue, and very rarely gave his opinion. This made it very difficult to come up with a clear consensus on his portrait’s meanings, Burgess said.

Homer focused his paintings on showing the realities of African American life after freedom, including the racial tension and the stereotypes of white and black people in that time period, Burgess said.

However, many people have argued that Homer sided with the  South because  his paintings depict black people in dark clothes and white people in lighter clothes, Burgess said. In addition, she said African Americans were often hidden in the shadows while white subjects faced the day light.

This could be countered by showing Homer’s Cotton Pickers, a painting of a black woman with Caucasian features, who looks toward the sky with hope rather than picking cotton, Burgess said. Many artists have said that this painting proves Homer wanted to show all angles of the time period, and didn’t pick a side, Burgess said.

“The paintings embodied the era,” Burgess said, “rather than his own opinion. In Homer’s mind, his opinion was his own business, and didn’t belong in his paintings,” Burgess said.

Yvonne Tolker discussed the Epoch of Great Spirituality, an ideal created by German expressionists that valued a utopian lifestyle.

Three  German expressionists were especially famous for creating utopian paintings: Fanz Marc, Ernst Ludwig-Kirchner and August Macke. All three artists used bright colors to signify a bright life, Tolker said, and nude figures to represent a carefree world where people could blend into nature and become a part of their surroundings.

Although they had that in common, they also differed slightly, Tolker said. Marc used animals in his work more than he used people because he felt that people were not innocent enough to realistically live in a utopian paradise.

Macke, unlike the other two expressionists, felt that every utopia needed a unity of city life and nature, Tolker said, adding that a utopia is about an urban and natural setting  harmoniously.

Although each expressionist had different views of what a utopia would be, they all had in mind that a utopian society would make humans more spiritual. The last student to present was Julianna Dzierwa, who discussed the controversial art of Kara Walker.

Walker’s art depicts the violence of slavery in ways that are purposely exaggerated to get people to take notice and understand the hardships that thousands of slaves went through every day, Dzierwa said.

However, the violence that surrounds her work has given rise to many critics who say her work insults the African American community and should be censored, Dzierwa said.

Walker disagrees, saying that her art is violent on purpose, taking influence from works like Gone with the Wind and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Dzierwa said. Walker’s works are supposed to show a struggle with identity and with many different stereotypes in ways that are  in the audience’s  face, Dzierwa said.

Regardless of Walker’s critics, her work has allowed her to be the youngest artist to receive the MacArthur Genius Award, Dzierwa said, and Walker continues to say that her work is supposed to allow a wide range of interpretations, criticism included.