Professor Barry Knisley
Professor Mike Fenster
The Cicindela puritana
(photo by Chris Wirth '13)
R-MC Professors Mike Fenster (geology) and Barry Knisley (biology)
were featured in a recent segment of “Outdoors Maryland,” which is produced by Maryland
Public Television (MPT).
The segment examined issues related to a federally-endangered species of tiger beetle,
Cicindela puritana, which inhabits the bluffs and beaches of the upper
Chesapeake Bay. Knisley, Fenster and Christine Ebert ’09 studied the habitat parameters
that control the distribution and abundance of the Puritan Tiger Beetle. The
segment, which aired on MPT on March 2 and 6, 2010, is
available on the R-MC web site.
“This issue is timely, given the battle between Maryland’s efforts to restore and
preserve fresh bluff habitat, and the homeowners that live on the eroding bluff
tops who want to armor the bluffs with vegetation and hard structures,” says Knisley.
“The unfortunate thing is that most of the homeowners who wanted a house with a
great view of the Chesapeake Bay did not consider the natural forces of shoreline
and cliff erosion. It is also likely that most were not warned by realtors or others
about the presence of a federally listed species that might affect their actions
to protect the shoreline. Even if they are able to protect their shoreline and destroy
beetle habitat, it will cost them a lot of money.”
For Fenster, the opportunity to determine the geologic habitat on which this endangered
species depends added a critical dimension to this study. “We now have a good handle
on why these beetles live where they do,” says Fenster. “Christine Ebert did yeoman’s
work on this project and was instrumental in its success. She ended this SURF (Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship) and
senior research work by presenting the results of this project to officials from
several federal and state agencies.”
Knisley, an entomologist who retired in 2008, joined the faculty at R-MC in 1979.
He earned his B.S. from Pennsylvania State University and his M.S. and Ph.D. from
Rutgers University. He was the Paul H. Wornom Professor of Biological Sciences from
2008 until retirement. Knisley is the leading authority on tiger beetle conservation.
Fenster, a geologist who joined the faculty at R-MC in 1999, earned his B.S. and
M.S. at the University of Mississippi and his Ph.D. at Boston University. He currently
serves as the director of the college’s environmental studies program.
For information on R-MC’s Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship program, visit
For information on R-MC’s Environmental Studies Department, visit
For information on R-MC’s Biology Department, visit