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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Grad Returns to Head Fishery and Wildlife Department

LAS CRUCES -- Donald Caccamise, former department chairman at Rutgers University, is the new head of New Mexico State University's fishery and wildlife sciences department.

After a 27-year absence, Caccamise returns to NMSU, where he earned his doctorate in 1971 with a dissertation on nighthawks. "I always planned to come back," Caccamise said. He and his wife, a native of Espanola, have returned to New Mexico every year since he left.

An avian ecologist, Caccamise worked his way through the ranks of the entomology department at Rutgers, rising to chairman and director of the graduate program.

His last major project prior to becoming an administrator was studying the problems of birds at eastern airports for the Federal Aviation Administration. He was asked to find a way to control populations of laughing gulls at Atlantic City, N.J., where they forced closure of the airport.

"They can bring a plane down and short of that cause millions of dollars in damage," Caccamise said. He recommended changing habitat management of the airport area to reduce Japanese beetle populations that attracted the birds.

Working with agriculture was a major part of his department's duties in New Jersey, where 80 major crops were grown to provide local people with produce. In New Mexico, Caccamise sees management of natural resources as vital to the future of the state's tourist industry.

Caccamise's first interest in biology was marine science, which he studied as an undergraduate at the University of Miami in Florida. He came to NMSU for his master's degree to broaden his knowledge of desert ecology, which kept his interest.

"I'm really happy to be here," he said.