Farmscape Ecology Biologist
Dylan Cipkowski has always loved spending time outside, exploring his home turf in Columbia County, NY. Now as a biologist with the Farmscape Ecology Program, Dylan spends many days in the field, studying the natural world here and throughout the Hudson Valley.
Dylan attended Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School (HVS) for middle school before going to Chatham High School to complete his secondary education. When it came time for him to choose a career path, one of his main objectives was to find a vocation that aligned with his love of nature. To that end, he pursued a degree in environmental studies at the University of North Carolina Asheville where he studied mountain fish assemblages.
“Environmental studies is a difficult field to get into,” Dylan says. “After college I volunteered with the Forest Service for a while, but when I was home for the holidays, I saw that the Farmscape Ecology Program had an internship opening. I stopped by for a visit with Conrad and Claudia, and was really intrigued by their ecological research.”
Dylan applied for the internship, and was accepted for the 2015 field season. Through the internship, he deepened his knowledge of data management and insect identification, and assisted with the program’s Progress of the Seasons project that tracked the timing of seasonal changes throughout the year. A technician position opened up in the program, and Dylan readily took it. While a technician, he completed his Master’s in Environmental Studies in the Conservation Biology program at Antioch University.
Much of the Farmscape Ecology Program’s research looks at how agriculture and the surrounding habitats can work together in mutually beneficial ways. They also offer seasonal nature walks to the public to educate interested citizens on the plants, animals and habitats of Columbia County.
“Our work at Farmscape changes season to season,” Dylan says. “During the spring and summer, we do a lot of research at various farms, studying the interactions between insects and on-farm habitats. We collect a lot of data during the field season.”
Fall and winter sees Dylan and the entomology team processing all of that data. They work in their lab sorting and identifying insects collected over the warm season. This is also when their data is analyzed and summarized into reports and presentations that are shared with different audiences.
As a technician, Dylan spent a lot of hours surveying and identifying insects, digitizing data, and helping write some of the program’s reports. Now as a biologist, his role has expanded to include managing some research projects and outreach programs. He currently manages much of the land biography research Farmscape does for the Columbia Land Conservancy and private land owners. These land biographies describe a property’s historical land-use and its ecological influence. Additionally, Dylan will be co-leading the upcoming Columbia County Butterfly Course, a five-session workshop focused on butterfly ecology, phenology, and conservation. Dylan also leads an Ecology Club at HVS.
“I really enjoy working with the students who have joined,” he says. “We have been learning about birds, mammals, and plants and how they interact with hedgerows at Hawthorne Valley Farm.”
For more information about Farmscape Ecology Program’s research and outreach, click here.