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Student joins team of ABEC whale researchers

Alex Ferrente ’15 has been interested in marine mammals for as long as she can remember. As a child, she went to marine biology camp. She celebrated every birthday at the local aquarium. So, it was no surprise that Ferrente found the Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation (ABEC) Program at Canisius to be a perfect fit for her.

“Canisius gives you perspectives that you’re not going to get at any other school. Not only are you studying the science of animals but you are pushed to develop your own opinion in terms of ethics and how we treat non-human animals. I think this stems from the college’s Jesuit roots and is what sets Canisius apart.”

Ferrente also notes that research opportunities are abundant. It was Professor of Animal Behavior Michael Noonan’s research with beluga whales at Marineland that attracted her attention.

“During freshman orientation, I introduced myself to Dr. Noonan and told him that I wanted to be on his research team. He said, ‘Great, I’ll see you at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning!’”

The next day Ferrente was at Marineland Canada observing belugas and collecting data. She conducted research with Noonan every morning before classes throughout her four years at Canisius. “It was an unbelievable opportunity for me to be part of a research team as an undergraduate.”

“I conducted research with beluga whales at Marineland Canada every morning throughout my undergraduate years. It was amazing!”

From her first days on campus, Ferrente found that Canisius was a small school that offered big opportunities.

Fast forward four years and Ferrente has traveled to Belize to study birds, Vancouver to study Orcas and Hawaii to study the ecosystems of the islands. As a member of the Canisius Ambassadors for Conservation (CAC), Ferrente completed intensive field studies and brought that knowledge back to Western New York to promote conservation.

“We served as public educators at zoological institutions and gave conservation presentations at local schools.”

Her research background coupled with her work as a public educator with the CAC, landed Ferrente a summer position as an assistant trainer at Marineland. “It was amazing! I had the opportunity to talk about conservation in front of more than 4,000 people before every marine mammal show!”

During her years at Canisius, Ferrente’s career goal jelled.

“I’ve learned that education is the way to make the world a better place.”

Today as a marine science instructor at Expedition Kiwi in South Carolina, Ferrente puts what she learned in and out of the classroom to work. She says it’s a dream come true.

“It’s great to work with children and so important to educate them about conservation and ecology at a young age.”

Says Ferrente, “If you have a passion for animals, Canisius is the place to be!”