Last week I had the good fortune to be invited to Rutgers University by my friend and colleague Cesar Rodriguez-Saona. Cesar and I go back a long ways to our days in California when we were graduate students. We met a Gordon Research Conference on plant-insect interactions in 1997 and have remained friends since. Cesar is now an associate professor of extension entomology working mostly on blueberries, and little bit on cranberries. He is stationed most of the time at the PE Marucci Research Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research. There they have a wonderful facility with several other faculty all working on various aspects of these crops. They have some very nice experimental “bogs” (marshes here in Wisconsin!) that they can manipulate at will – I wish we could do that here! Right now they are working a lot on Brown Marmorated Stink bug and Spotted wing Drosophila.
Getting to the research station from the Philly airport took me through a well trodden path that I had been on many times. From my days in Maryland and working on the NJ shore’s salt marshes in Tuckerton, we would drive the 4 hours from College Park in NJ, hang a right at the HW 70 exit in Marlton and barrel through the pine barrens before hitting the coast. Little did I know at the time that I was coming within a few miles of the research center! The drive in the area took me back to the old days (though we didn’t have time to go to the coast). Incidentally, we drove though the town of Hammondton (not the “usual” road I had taken) which has a strong Italian heritage. Lots of Italian restaurants down Main street and many of the berry growers in the area have names that harken back to the homeland.
I had a great time hanging out with Cesar and his lovely family (including Renzo and Marcelo – expert in NASCAR at the young age of 8!). The next day I went to the main campus in New Brunswick to give a talk in the Entomology department. It was lively affair and folks were asking questions throughout – nice interactive group. The students at the lunch afterwards were equally engaged. I very much enjoyed my visit with old friends and the campus. Perhaps little known is that my former post-doc mentor Bob Denno had been on the faculty at Rutgers for a couple of years in the 70’s before going down to Maryland. Thanks again Cesar – it was a brief visit, but very enjoyable!
Posted by Claudio Gratton