Staff

The DNALC's multi-disciplinary staff has experience in elementary, secondary, and collegiate instruction; biochemistry and molecular biological research; computer programming; design, photography, fine arts, and interior design; science journalism; public relations and development; and opinion research.

  • Administration
  • BioMedia
  • Education & Instruction

Jeffry Petracca

High School Educator

I have been interested in insects for as long as I can remember. At a young age, I would have my mom read out of the Audubon Field Guide for Insects of North America while I fell asleep!  This interest persisted throughout my childhood and pushed me onto the path for a career in science, and I dreamt of becoming an entomologist. I lived my dream and went on to graduate from Cornell University’s School of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2011 with a B.S. in Entomology, Plant Sciences, Neurobiology and Behavior, and Biological Statistics. Now, when I’m not teaching high school classes at the DNA Learning Center, I’m the Curator of Entomology at the Long Island Aquarium’s Butterfly Exhibit and Insect Zoo in Riverhead, NY where I get to work with exotic insects and spiders from around the world all day long!

During my undergraduate years, I discovered that I had a real interest in understanding how and why living things grow, behave, and change the way that they do. I became fascinated by how living things perceive the world around them, and how they use and respond to environmental cues through their physiology and biochemistry. In particular, I became interested how various animals perceive and use the Earth’s magnetic field for navigation. My research focused on how monarch butterflies use magnetic fields for navigation and how Drosophila fruit flies might process this information at the biochemical level. Eventually, I hope to revisit these topics one day and work on getting a Ph.D. in molecular biology or biochemistry.

While research is very important, I realized when I was very young that sharing what I learn is just as important and way more fun! When I was 12 years old, I began volunteering at Sweetbriar Nature Center’s butterfly exhibit in Smithtown, NY. It was here that I realized that not only am I captivated by the natural world, but I also enjoyed sharing that passion with others. I spent ten years at Sweetbriar teaching the public about butterflies, insects, and spiders. During that time, I also spent my school breaks and weekends volunteering for the American Museum of Natural History’s butterfly exhibit. Now, I share my passion with the guests at the Long Island Aquarium and have done so for more than seven years.

I got involved here at the DNA Learning Center in 2017 as a taxonomist, identifying insects, spiders and marine invertebrates for the Barcode Long Island Project. I remember my first experiences at the DNA Learning Center back in high school, and how much fun I had, but I never dreamt I’d be working here! As it turned out, an educator position had opened up, and I joined the team here at the DNA Learning Center as a High School Educator. I hope to continue to share my passion for science with every student that passes through our doors!

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