Secret Lives of Faculty: Dr. Dan Galiffa, tarantula enthusiast

There’s so much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see them doing on campus. In this occasional series, we take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time. 

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

Two of the most frightening things known to humans – advanced math and tarantulas – are some of Dr. Dan Galiffa’s favorite things. The associate professor of mathematics owns thirteen tarantulas and says the highly venomous spiders make great pets.

“They are one of cleanest and most fascinating animals,” Galiffa said, as his Honduran curlyhair “Curly” (Tliltocatl albopilosus), a thirteen-year-old tarantula about the size of his palm, slowly walks over and around his hand. “Each spider has a unique personality.”

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Dr. Dan Galiffa with two of his pet tarantulas

Rosalinda, a Chilean rose, was his first tarantula. Galiffa acquired her eight years ago and liked her so much that he has since gathered twelve more tarantulas, for a total of thirteen spiders of twelve different species, including greenbottle blue, Venezuelan sun tiger, Costa Rican zebra, Chilean copper, Mexican red knee, Arizona blonde, Brazilian salmon pink, Columbian giant red leg, and Mexican red rump.

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One of his most beautiful and exotic is Blue, a cobalt blue tarantula native to Myanmar and Thailand. As with most things in nature, the vibrant color is a warning.

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“They’re high venomous, extremely fast-moving, and one of the most defensive species of tarantula,” he said. “Many people who own them don’t handle them.”

Galiffa does and said she is a calm and “sweet” spider. That said, he is always respectful of the spider’s space and temperament. No stranger to deep research, Galiffa has done his homework.

“I spend a lot of time learning about them, reading whatever I can find, including some scientific articles and papers that can be pretty specific,” he said. “But I actually did a lot of my mathematical research work in epidemiology, so I’m familiar with the biological science.”

There is much work to do in tarantula taxonomy. “Scientists are still learning a lot of basic things about them,” he said. “The classifications are still not solid.” He estimates there are more than 1,000 species of tarantulas and new discoveries lead to changes in taxonomy. “There are about 45,000 known spider species, in general,” he said.

We talked with Galiffa and Curly (though she was pretty quiet) to learn more about tarantulas and how they can sometimes serve as teaching aids.

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What types of courses do you teach at Behrend?

The entire calculus sequence, differential equations, linear algebra, and other advanced math classes.

What is appealing to you about tarantulas?

They make really great pets. They are clean, quiet, easy to care for and they all have their own personalities. It is an exciting challenge to try and understand a species that is so far removed from humans. They communicate with their actions and behaviors.

Why do you think people are so afraid of spiders?

I think spiders get a bad rap. Anytime someone has an odd welt, and it has a visible hole, they call it a spider bite. I always ask the question, “Did you see the spider bite you?”  I’ve never had anyone say yes. More than likely, the injury was inflicted by a different insect. Spiders rarely bite unless they are directly threatened.

Where did you get your tarantulas?

I bought them at pet stores, online, and at exotic animal expos. A couple of them are rescues from people couldn’t care for them anymore.

What do they eat?

Worms, crickets, roaches. Basically, they eat anything alive that is smaller than they are. They only eat a few times a month.

You handle all of your tarantulas. Does each species feel different?

Oh, yes. The bristles can be soft, hard, very long, short, thick, or thin. Additionally, some tarantulas are much faster than others. Blue’s speed would blow you away. She could be on the other side of my office in seconds. The same is true of the Sun Tiger.

Are they venomous?

Yes, every one of them is venomous, but they are not aggressive. The venom is not all bad. It is used in some medicines, and it’s not lethal to humans.

What would happen if you got bit?

I have held my tarantulas thousands of times and have never been bitten. If someone were to get bitten, it would probably because they were careless in handling the spider.  In any event, there are two types of bites, dry and wet. A dry bite is a puncture wound from fangs. A wet bite is when the tarantula actually uses their venom. They rarely do that. They don’t even use venom when catching their prey unless it is absolutely necessary. A dry bite would be handled like any normal puncture wound with some antibiotic cream and a bandage. A wet bite should probably be seen by a doctor but, again, it’s rare and the venom is not lethal.

How long do they live?

Twenty to forty years with females living longer than males. I have eleven females and two males. When the males mature, they seek out females for mating and will die shortly after, so if a keeper has a male, it’s best to send him to a breeder after he matures.  I will have to do this with both of my males, and I’ll be very sad when that time comes. By the way, females can produce egg sacs with over 1,000 eggs!

You’ve used your tarantulas as teaching aids before in Behrend’s K-12 outreach programs. What do you teach with them?

There are many things we can teach with spiders – web strength and construction, genetics, population dynamics, gait analysis, and blood flow, which is quite fascinating in tarantulas since their blood flows through their entire body. They don’t have veins like humans do.

How can you use them to teach math modeling?

We can model them as predators and as prey. We can also study the genetic probability of obtaining certain variations of a given species using probabilistic models. For example, there are three forms of Chilean rose tarantulas – the gray, red, and pink color forms. My spider, Rosalinda, is gray form and Charlotte is a red form. The students in my workshops do a basic version of this very type of modeling and then get to see the differences in the color forms in my actual tarantulas.

Do you have any other pets?

I also have Madagascar hissing cockroaches and a skinny pig (hairless guinea pig) named Hamilton. I previously had two skinny pigs—Perry and Ty—who played games and did tricks.

What do you want people know about tarantulas beyond what we have covered above?

Here are some interesting facts:

  • Tarantulas do have eight eyes, but scientists are not sure how well they see.
  • Tarantulas have bristles, not hair. Only mammals have hair. The bristles give them a lot of information. So, yes, “spider senses” are a real thing, not just something made up for the Spider-Man comics.
  • Tarantulas use their senses to assess everything that’s happening around them and they have amazing perception despite the fact that they cannot smell and have no ears.
  • At the end of each of the tarantulas eight legs are two retractable claws, similar to those in a cat. They use these for mobility.
  • In addition to their eight legs, they possess two pedipalps or additional appendages that are located at the front of their bodies.
  • Since tarantulas are arthropods, they have to molt in order to grow. When a tarantula molts, it can often change color and grow exceedingly large.
  • Tarantulas can spin webs. The webs are not like commonly seen ones used to catch prey but are used to line their burrows and keep them safe, for example, spinning a trip “wire” near their home to sense prey and potential predators.
  • Tarantulas are opportunistic predators, which means they wait for the prey to come near their home, then attack it with extreme speed and accuracy.
  • Tarantulas have a wide variety of coloration and patterns. They are quite stunning when viewed in the right light.

Young Recycling Recruits Thrive at Bootcamp

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

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Plastics recycling class opens eyes, options for high school students

When you toss your 2-liter soda bottle or yogurt container in the recycling bin, you may not think about where it ends up or how it might be recycled, but ten Erie-area students, recent “graduates” of Penn State Behrend’s Recycling Bootcamp, sure do.

The students, ages 14-18, saved their home plastic waste for a week before the all-day bootcamp event in August in Burke Center. It was led by Plastics Engineering Technology (PLET) faculty members—Dr. Alicyn Rhoades, associate professor of engineering; Dr. Gamini Mendis, assistant professor of engineering; Anne Gohn, assistant research professor; and Dr. Xiaoshi Zhang, engineering researcher. Several Behrend PLET students helped throughout the day, as well.

The students started the day identifying the different types or families of plastics they collected. They then counted the number of pieces in each family and calculated the weight fractions of each type of material, which is critical for cost-effective recycling.

“Students shredded their high-density polyethylene (recycling code #2) materials, extruded to pelletized form, and injection-molded test samples and plastic building bricks,” Gohn said. “Samples were tensile- and impact-tested at various levels of recycling content. The students then stretched and impact-tested the samples to analyze changes in material properties.”

The work they put into recycling their plastic waste opened their eyes to the challenges involved in the process.

“They were surprised by how much recycling affects the strength of plastic material and how complicated the process can be,” Gohn said.

Comments from student participants reflect the value of outreach efforts and learning in a hands-on environment. Several students said they were now “excited about plastics” and at least one is considering a career in plastics engineering. That’s just what organizers of the event hoped would be the result.

The bootcamp was funded through a $500,000 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program grant awarded to Rhoades. The CAREER program is designed to support early-career faculty members who serve as academic role models in research and education.

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Raise a Toast to Lake Erie: Faculty members partner with brewery and PA Sea Grant to raise awareness of aquatic invasive species

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

On a sunny August Saturday, a half dozen fans are lined up in front of the Mysterysnail Speedway, a four-foot plastic box with plexiglass dividers creating race lanes for a field of ten large snails. They place their “bets” and cheer for their chosen snail, each marked with a race number on its shell.

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As the oversized gastropod invaders make their way to the finish line, Dr. Lynne Beaty, assistant professor of biology at Penn State Behrend, explains why we don’t want them in our waterways.

“Mysterysnails are so named because females produce young, fully developed snails that ’mysteriously‘ appear. They’re a group of invasive species that originate in Asia but have found their way to Lake Erie,” Beaty said. “They compete with native species, alter nutrient ratios, and transmit parasites to wildlife.”

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Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are non-native plants, animals, or pathogens that harm the environment, the economy, and human and animal health. They are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity and native communities of other species, and they can spread easily through unwitting human assistance and connected waterways.

Beaty and two other Biology faculty members, Dr. Adam Simpson and Dr. Sam Nutile, have been working with Kristen McAuley, lecturer in marketing, and Sara Stahlman, extension leader for Pennsylvania Sea Grant, to raise awareness about invasive snails (and other species) in the waters around the Erie region. Last summer, the team came up with a novel idea to reach adults: craft beer.

“Good beer needs high-quality, clean water and invasive species threaten our freshwater supply,” Beaty said. “So we thought a collaboration with Erie Brewing Company in Behrend’s Knowledge Park was a great way to promote AIS awareness because controlling invasive species can help improve water quality. We were thinking too that this might be an excellent way to reach adult audiences who are more likely to accidentally transfer AIS when they move boats to different water bodies.”

The group met with Erie Brewing’s brewmaster, Tate Warren, who was on board with creating a ‘draft series’ of special AIS-themed brews for invasive species awareness.

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The first, Mysterysnail Ale, “an amber ale loaded with flavors of bread, biscuit, and caramel malt,” debuted at a launch party, complete with the aforementioned mysterysnail racing, at Erie Brewing. Visitors had the opportunity to try a new brew and also learn about many AIS at tables manned by Behrend School of Science faculty members and staff members from Sea Grant, a research, education, and outreach program administered by Behrend.

The event was well-attended, and the Mysterysnail Ale was well-received. It currently has a 3.6-star review (out of five) on Untapped.com, a website where beer lovers rate and review brews.

Three more brews are planned in the AIS series: a Round Goby Rye, a Zebra Mussel Malt, and a Hazy Hydrilla. Each beer will launch with an event to raise awareness of the AIS the brew is meant to thwart.

In addition, for each of the beers, a promotional poster will be developed that will highlight the beer, the flavor, and the facts about the highlighted species. QR codes on the posters, which will be displayed at Erie Brewing  and other locations on the Lake Erie Ale Trail, will lead users to even more information about the featured AIS.

Mysterysnail Ale is currently on tap at Erie Brewing and other participating Ale Trail breweries, including Lavery Brewing, Arundel Cellars and Brewing, Twisted Elk Brewing, Brewerie at Union Station, Nostrovia, and Erie Ale Works. For more information about aquatic invasive species, visit seagrant.psu.edu.

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Students Celebrate Album Release

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

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Dr. Joel Hunt, associate teaching professor of music and digital media, arts, and technology, and students, Alison Huffman, and Adam Boaks.

People of faith believe that things, even bad things, happen for a reason. Alison Huffman, a senior Computer Engineering major, recalls the injury that ended her college soccer career at Behrend through that lens.

“You know if I hadn’t torn my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), I wouldn’t have had the time to get so involved in music, so in some ways it was a gift,” Huffman said.

Huffman and a fellow student, Adam Boaks, a senior Biology major, recently released their first album, For Your Glory, at the request of The Cross, an Erie church that Huffman and Boaks attend.

The pair wrote and performed the songs, all taken from the Bible’s Book of Psalms. They also played all of the instruments and handled vocals, as well. When it came time to mix it all together, they enlisted the aid of Dr. Joel Hunt, associate teaching professor of music and digital media, arts, and technology.

Huffman, who is also working on a Music Technology minor, was even able to earn college credit for the project. Though the minor is offered at University Park, she was able to fulfill the course requirements taking classes with Hunt at Behrend. That included INART 258A Fundamentals of Digital Audio and a variety of independent studies.

“When we were trying to find an independent study topic for Alison, I learned about the album she was making with Adam,” Hunt said. “We thought it would be a great way to dig deeper into music production.”

After the album was mixed, Huffman and Boaks handed it off to a distributor for final mastering and to set the levels required by Apple, Spotify, and other platforms. The album was released this summer and is available on any major music streaming platform by searching for “The Cross Worship” and For Your Glory.

Huffman and Boaks will be performing live at an album release party tomorrow – Friday, September 10 – at 7:00 p.m. at the stage at Perry Square in downtown Erie.  

Can’t make it Friday? Catch them at 1:00 p.m. at Saturday’s West Bayfront Porchfest. They’ll be performing at 627 Myrtle Street.

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Wilson Picnic Grove: Tribute to Love and Kindness

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

Before Penn State Behrend became a college, it was a country estate owned by Hammermill Paper Company founder, Ernst Behrend, and his wife, Mary (pictured above). The two built Glenhill farmhouse—and many of the outbuildings that remain today—as  a fresh-air reprieve from life on the East Lake Road mill property, which could be, well, odiferous. (In those days, factory owners often lived on the plant property or next door.)

At the “farm,” the Behrends and their children, Warren and Harriet, kept goats and chickens, raised German shepherds (including the renowned Bruno, for whom the café in Reed Building is named), rode horses along the bridle path into Wintergreen Gorge, and picnicked in a wooded spot near Trout Run.

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Years after Mary Behrend donated her property to Penn State to establish Penn State Behrend, a longtime Hammermill employee, Norman W. Wilson, who recalled fondly many picnics with Ernst and Mary, donated the funds to build – you guessed it –Wilson Picnic Grove, a rustic shelter with a wood-burning fireplace tucked in the shade of tall trees and overlooking a tributary of Fourmile Creek.

Wilson donated the shelter in memory of his wife, Flora Nick Wilson, who had died two years earlier in 1969. Like many couples, they met at work. Flora was a private secretary for Ernst Behrend, and Norman was a young man Ernst had taken under his wing.

Norman had started his career at Hammermill as a millhand and office mailboy at the age of sixteen after having attended just a year of high school at East High in Erie. By twenty-nine, he was vice president of the company, a feat that a September 1970 Erie Times-News article called “a Horatio Alger-type story seldom equaled in Erie history.”

Wilson News story

In that 1970 article, Wilson was quoted as saying, “I’ll never forget the kind reception I got from Ernst R. Behrend the day I went to see him about a job. I had a letter of introduction from a minister, but remember that I was just a young boy, not even through high school. Yet he treated me as a man and put me to work.”

Wilson spent his entire career working for Hammermill, and after Mary donated Glenhill Farm to Penn State, he became involved in the college, as well, serving on the Behrend Campus Advisory Board.

Members of the board conceived of the idea of a picnic shelter, wanting to encourage use of one of the most beautiful spots on campus. But recognizing the greater need for athletic and academic facilities at the growing college, they felt they couldn’t ask the University for funds to take on a recreational project.

That’s when Wilson stepped up and asked to build the pavilion as a memorial to his late wife who had loved the outdoors.

The Flora Nick Wilson Grove and Pavilion was dedicated on November 9, 1971, to the “enjoyment of the students, faculty, and friends of the Behrend Campus.” Photos from the dedication show snow covering the ground around the shelter, which was filled with wooden folding chairs and guests, including Norman Wilson who spoke warmly about his former boss, his wife, and his hopes for the future.

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“I could not feel comfortable about participating in this ceremony without expressing my respect and affection for Mr. Ernst R. Behrend, after whom this campus is named,” Wilson said  at the dedication. “It was he who gave me my first job at Hammermill. It was he who introduced me to his lovely private secretary, who was destined to become my Guiding Star, for always.”

“Mrs. Wilson loved the outdoors. She contrived impromptu picnics on the shortest conceivable notice. She rarely missed the early morning breakfast rides, or late moonlight supper rides on the Arizona ranch we liked best. She loved to motor, and to take her turn at the wheel. In her youth, she played basketball, fenced, golfed, and skated. She ran a tight house (and that included me!) She shopped, was a marvelous cook, and gave a great party. She liked people and they liked her.”

“Now, may I record my pride in everything about the Behrend Campus, including the students, the faculty, the advisory board, the director and the tremendous progress that has been made already. It is my fervent hope that the students, faculty, and friends will indeed find enjoyment in the frequent use of this memorial, and that the fellowship and goodwill for which this campus has become noted, will be enhanced thereby.”

Norman W. Wilson died July 5, 1979 at 94, but his generosity and spirit lives on at Behrend in the quaint shelter along Trout Run. He’d love it if you’d picnic there soon. It’s beautiful in any season.

Wilson Picnic Grove in 2021

Special thanks to Jane Ingold, instructional librarian and archivist at Penn State Behrend, who provided the background photos and articles for this story. Ingold has spent many years documenting the college’s history, assembling a treasure trove of memorabilia and recollections in Lilley Library.

Virtual Concert Commemorates Unusual Year

By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

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Penn State Behrend choir students weren’t able to gather in person at all this academic year, but they were still able to raise their voices to make beautiful music, culminating in  a year-end virtual concert, now on YouTube at https://bit.ly/3xP0UEG.  

Dr. Gabrielle Dietrich, director of choral ensembles and associate teaching professor of music, said that about twenty choir students continued singing through the pandemic, which meant learning how to use the online recording platform, Soundtrap, to record their parts.

“We used group Zooms during our normal rehearsal times to learn sections of each piece, then used one-person breakout rooms (we called them ‘recording booths’) to individually record what we’d learned in rehearsal,” Dietrich said. “Then, the next time we met for class, we’d listen to the edited recordings to talk about what went well and what we’d like to improve for next time.”

“It was slow going” she said, “but students reported that they liked getting feedback on their performance and having the recordings to reflect on as they worked to improve.” 

COVID-19 safety precautions made in-person sessions impractical, since everyone would have to have been masked and spaced nine feet apart and in a single line. Additional requirements would have made gathering to sing together nearly impossible, so the choir worked together virtually.

“It was hard not to be together in person, but it was a relief to know we were keeping one another safe and still making music,” Dietrich said.

The virtual concert represents the final project for choir students, just as an in-person concert would in a normal year.

“The nice thing about having it on YouTube is that anyone can watch it from anywhere whenever they have time, so students can ‘invite’ family and friends from around the world,” Dietrich said.

Another benefit? Guest performers.

“We had help from a Behrend Choir alumnus, Taylor May, and two guest performers from my own musical community: flutist Emma Shubin, who teaches music in the Denver area, and guest bass Dr. Edward Cetto, who was my college choir director and musical mentor,” Dietrich said.  

Among the pieces performed is a rendition of the theme song for the 2014 film Selma, recorded by Common and Legend, Make Them Hear You from the musical “Ragtime,” and Halloran/Bolk’s arrangement of Witness.

“This concert has been quite the labor of love, which is reflected in the themes of the pieces in the concert, Dietrich said. “It’s about love between individuals, love for a world that is learning hard truths, love for what we have lost, and love for what we still have and for what is possible in our future.”

Watch the entire concert here

 

 

Disc Golf Course Doubled to 18 Holes

By Heather Cass, publications manager, Penn State Behrend

Five years after the college’s first 9-hole disc golf course opened, one thing was certain: It was a popular addition to the Penn State Behrend campus. Rare is the rain-free day when you don’t see players tossing discs toward their targets, medieval looking chain-link baskets on metal poles, that snake through campus.

Now, players will have even more targets to hit as the course was recently expanded to 18 holes. See the new course map here.

Brian Streeter, senior director of athletics, ordered the new targets last fall but they arrived too late to install in 2020, so Athletics staff took the extra time to design the expanded course – reworking some of the original nine holes and creating nine new ones with input from members of the Erie Disc Golf club.

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New tees are temporarily marked with flags. Signage will be installed when the course is finalized.

The new holes opened April 1 and expanded play from the west side of Jordan road to the east side of the road. Streeter said the course is a work in progress.

“We’re still tweaking it,” he said. “We discovered some things that weren’t working, like a hole that was too close to Junker Center, which resulted in players trying to throw over the building, and we are listening to feedback from players.”

Additionally, construction now underway on Federal House near Junker Center required some planned holes to be placed in a temporary location.

Once the course is finalized, Streeter said that the plan is  to put up permanent signage, including a full course map and signs at each tee. For now, the new hole tees are marked with orange flags. Maps are available at hole no. 1, near the tennis courts.

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Pick up a course map at hole No. 1 in front of the tennis courts.

Student legacy

The original 9-hole course was a student-driven project, initiated by Kyle Stephan ’14, a former SGA president, who got the ball rolling discs flying. Stephan was joined by then students, Trey Neveux, Mark Malecky, Steve Lester, and Tyler Ferraino, now 2016 graduates, who together designed the course, located equipment, and secured funds. Even as they finished the original course, the team hoped it might be expanded one day.

“I’ve talked to all the members on the original board of the club, and we’re all extremely happy the course was expanded to make it a full 18 holes,” said Neveux, who is now a launch engineer at Space X in Los Angeles. “I’m excited that the new course takes players into less explored parts of campus on the east side of Jordan Road. I’m looking forward to playing the expanded course and have already talked to friends and former professors about playing a round next time I’m in Erie.”

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Former students Tyler Ferraino and Trey Neveux, both 2016 graduates, are two of several students who developed the original 9-hole disc course. File photo from 2015. 

Disc Golf 101

Equipment

basic disc golf set contains three discs—a driver, a mid-range disc, and a putter. Just as with golf, the driver is used for long drives from tee, the mid-range disc is used for shorter distances, and the putter is used when a player is close to a target.

Several sets of discs are available for students to borrow for free at the registration desk at Junker Center, or players can pick up sets of their own at most retailers or online for less than $30.

How to play/rules

Standing at the tee, a player throws the driver disc toward the basket. Players — typically in groups of two to four — take turns throwing their discs with the one whose disc lands the farthest from the basket going first (as with golf).

One point (stroke) is counted each time the disc is thrown and when a penalty is incurred. The goal is to play each hole in the fewest strokes possible. A disc that comes to rest in the basket or chains marks successful completion of that hole. The player with the lowest total strokes for the entire course wins.

Most of the holes on Behrend’s course are a par 3, but there are also some par 4 and 5. Map here.

Learn more about how to play disc golf here.

Visitor parking, course notes

  • Visitors may play for free anytime the course is available. Users are encouraged to park in the overflow lot on the south side of Jordan Road on Old Station Road, which is the closest lot to start and finish of the 18-hole course. A visitor parking pass can be obtained from Police Services. In current times, players are asked to wear masks and stay socially distanced from other teams.
  • Note that, at times, some holes may be closed for safety reasons when an athletics event, such as a baseball or softball game, is underway nearby.
  • Penn State students, faculty and staff members may borrow a set of three discs (driver, mid-range, putter) at the Junker Center registration desk with their Penn State ID.

RELATED: Check out this post from the Behrend Blog archives about the original 9-hole disc golf course at Behrend.

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Don’t toss it, pickle it!

LEAFS Club to host Creative Food Preservation workshop with Behrend’s head chef

By Heather Cass, Publications Manger, Penn State Behrend

According to the Food and Drug Administration, 30 to 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted. That figure is particularly hard to swallow given that an estimated 35 million people in our country experience hunger every year.

“This means that the food isn’t being consumed or even turned into compost, but instead ends up in our landfills,” said Pearl Patterson, a senior Psychology major and president of the Leaders in Education and Action in Food Systems (LEAFS) Club. “While much of the change needed to develop sustainable food systems must come at the policy-making and law-making levels, being able to reduce waste in our own homes is absolutely of importance and can make an enormous difference.”

To help area individuals learn how to safely extend the life of their food, the CLUB is hosting a webinar on Creative Food Presentation Wednesday, April 7, at 6:00 p.m. with Penn State Behrend’s Chef Kyle Coverdale.

“Creative food preservation means using techniques that are traditionally used for preserving food, like pickling, while transforming the food into something new,” Patterson said. “For example, Chef Kyle will be demonstrating a very flexible pesto recipe.”

Making pesto is a great way to preserve leafy greens, such as cilantro, kale, or chard, which can spoil quickly in their original form. Once they are made into pesto, however, the greens will last much longer and can even be frozen for later use.

During the session, participants will also learn about different pickling methods and how to make sauerkraut and ricotta. Participants can buy the ingredients and cook right along with Chef Kyle from their own kitchens or watch and try it on their own later.

To register for the event and get a Zoom link and list of ingredients, email Patterson at pbp5102@psu.edu.

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Eight ways to enjoy a spring day at Behrend

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

Spring has finally sprung and it looks like we will be enjoying some warm and sunny weather all week! Here are eight great ways to get outdoors and make the most of a beautiful spring day at Penn State Behrend.

*** Don’t forget to mask up; masks are still required at all times on campus, even outdoors. Photos below were taken prior to January 2020 or were taken with high social distancing measures in place. ***

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Play a round of disc golf. Penn State Behrend is home to a 9-hole disc golf course that starts in front of the tennis courts. Students, faculty, and staff can borrow discs for free at the Junker Center. Just ask the student worker at either entrance desks. Never played? It’s not hard to learn. For instructions, check out this story or this how-to video.

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Have a picnic. If there is no event going on (and there aren’t many right now), Wilson Picnic Grove, adjacent to the Wilson Lot, is available for use by the Behrend community. It’s open air and big enough to allow for social distancing.

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Go to the gorge. Wintergreen Gorge on the edge of campus has winding wooded paths, gorgeous vista views and, if you walk down far enough, a babbling creek to wade in or skip rocks. There’s no better place to enjoy a spring day than in the gorge. Access it from trailheads behind Trippe Hall or in the back corner of the Prischak Lot.

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Take a walk or run. The paved Bayfront Connector Trail starts at the corner of the Erie Lot and runs all the way to Erie’s bayfront (about 8 miles). The path meanders along the Bayfront Connector through fields, marshy areas, woods, and more. For more details, see this story. Need a 5K route? Check out this story from the archives.

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Play some games. Behrend has outdoor ping-pong tables (in front of Reed, behind Trippe) and a permanent cornhole game (behind Reed) as well as cornhole boards that you can check out and set up anywhere. You can borrow equipment for any of these games at the Reed Union Building desk with a University ID. They also have other lawn games, including giant Jenga and hula hoops, as well as checkers and chess pieces for the tables in front of Reed.

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Read/study outside. Big test or paper coming up? Find a spot to work outdoors. There are tables outside most buildings and in the Wilson Picnic Grove, or you can just hang a hammock or spread out a blanket under your favorite tree. Behrend has plenty to choose from.

Erie sign

Hitch a ride to the bayfront. If you have a car, hop on the Bayfront Connector and take a walk along Erie’s bayfront. Park at the Blasco Library or near Dobbin’s Landing and take the bayfront trail along the waterfront. Cross the Bayfront Highway at the light at Liberty Park and take the ramp/walkway to Second Street to walk along the bluffs and take a photo at the new Erie sign. (About a 3-mile/1-hour walk). Just follow the bluffs/trail back down to State Street to return to your car. Don’t forget, you can take a city bus, too. See the RUB Desk for bus schedules.

views

Watch the sun set from the parking lot. The top of the Burke Parking Deck is the best place on campus to catch a gorgeous Erie sunset (or sunrise, but we know few students are early risers). It offers a wide, birds-eye view of the entire bayfront and, on a clear day, you can even see Presque Isle.

Building on her MBA

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

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Bob and Jacqueline Masek DiPlacido ’18 M.B.A.

While a lot of professionals pursue an advanced degree as the next step in their career trajectory, they sometimes spark personal projects as well.

By day, Jacqueline Masek DiPlacido ’18 M.B.A., works at Parker LORD as a program manager/production planner for the company’s aerospace new products team. But, on evenings and weekends, she puts her Penn State Behrend Master of Business Administration degree to work helping to build DA Woodworking, a small business she owns with her husband, Bob.

“The business began with my husband’s love of woodworking,” DiPlacido said. “We started out making small pieces, signs and simple furniture, but it’s now expanded into high-end quality pieces, including custom-made hutches, cabinets and built-ins, china cabinets, fireplaces, dog crates, and even family room sets.”

DiPlacido, who earned a degree in Supply Chain Management at Penn State’s University Park campus, said what started as a hobby for her husband, who works as a mechanical engineer, has grown into a serious business. DA Woodworking currently has pieces on sale at Traditions Unlimited, an Erie home décor store.

DiPlacido helps design the pieces and market the business, something she learned a lot about in her MBA classes.

“We have worked hard to advertise the business without an advertising budget, using social media and leveraging word-of-mouth as we complete pieces for customers in the area,” she said. “We were planning to host a Gallery Night for the Erie arts community in the spring of 2020, but COVID-19 forced that event to be canceled.”

DiPlacido said she and her husband also hit on another winning formula – giveaways, which are even more popular when paired with a charity.

“I am an avid dog lover and volunteer for the Erie Humane Society,” she said. “I knew how many of their fundraisers were canceled last year, and Bob and I wanted to help. So, we combined our love for woodworking with our love for animals and built a custom coffee table that we donated to the humane society to raffle off.”

DiPlacido has plans to help Behrend’s alumni organization as well, once events can be resumed.  “We always enjoy giving back, and every time our pieces are showcased at an event, it gets our name out there.”

The new year brings yet another new challenge for the DiPlacidos. “We are expecting our first baby this year, so we’re in the middle of some great projects around the house!”

Check out DA Woodworking on facebook.com/DA.Woodworking and on Instagram.com/da.woodworking.

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