Declan McCabe Professor of Biology

Declan McCabe


Ph.D. Ecology; University of Vermont
M.S.,  Ecology and Evolution; University of Pittsburgh
B.S., Biology; St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia

Areas of Expertise:

My primary area of expertise is in the ecology of freshwater communities. My research with student collaborators is on the interactions among aquatic species, factors that affect biodiversity, and different ways to measure diversity.  Currently I am working on the restoration of natural function in forests and wetlands on Saint Michael’s College property.  My students are also using trail cameras to document coyote, bobcat, and other mammalian visitors to the Saint Michael’s College natural areas.

Courses I Teach:

  • Community Ecology
  • Evolution
  • General Biology


Selected Publications:

Catherine M T Vu, Devan W Piniewski, Osrica A P Mclean, and Declan J. McCabe. 2018. Use of Point-and-Shoot Photography to Compare Regional Differences in Canis latrans (Coyote) Skull Size. Northeastern Naturalist. 25 (2) 319-332

Declan J. McCabe and Evelyn J. Knight. 2016. Null models for everyone: A two-step approach to teaching null model analysis of biological community structure. Bioscene 42 (2) 14-25

Declan J. McCabe and Catherine M.T. Vu. 2014. Digital Coyote: Examining geographical variation using a virtual museum collection. Tested Studies for Laboratory Teaching: Proceedings of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education 35 369-375

Declan J. McCabe. 2014. Competitive phylogenetics: A laboratory exercise. American Biology Teacher 76 (2) 127–131.

Declan J. McCabe, Erin M. Hayes-Pontius, Alexandra Canepa, Kaitlyn S. Berry, and Bridget C. Levine. 2012. Measuring standardized effect size improves interpretation of biomonitoring studies and facilitates meta-analysis. Freshwater Science 31 (3) 800-812

Letovsky, Erin, Ian E. Myers, Alexandra Canepa, Declan J. McCabe. 2012. Differences between kick sampling techniques and short-term Hester-Dendy sampling for stream macroinvertebrates. Bios 82 (2) 47-55.

McCabe, D. J. 2011. Sampling Biological Communities. Nature Education Knowledge 2(11):13. Link

McCabe, D. J. 2011. Wikis as Collaborative Writing Tools in Science Education. in Education for a Digital World 2.0, Sandy Hirtz and Kevin Kelly (Eds), 2011


I am currently a Science Adviser for Vermont EPSCoR and I play two primary roles: I am a researcher in the Research on Adaptation to Climate Change project and I facilitate outreach to high schools in the Streams Project.  In 2011 the overall project was recently funded by NSF in the amount of $20 million.


Life Off Campus:

I grew up in Athlone, Ireland. I enjoy hiking with my son’s Boy Scout troop. My daughter’s Odyssey of the Mind team has made it to the world championships for two years running. I once was on the same plane with Gabriel Byrne; bumped into Trey Anastasio at Pizza Putt; I have seen Queen live in concert. My favorite course is Community Ecology, and particularly the laboratory portion that includes a series of hands-on research projects.

Recent News

Declan McCabe of the Saint Michael’s biology faculty writes a regular nature column for Northern Woodlands Magazine, syndicated in several newspapers in Vermont and elsewhere in New England, called “The Outside Story.”  His August 22 column had the title “Invasion of the Spotted Lanternfly.” Later he wrote of isopods, galls and much more. Also this fall he went fishing with students in the Gilbrook Reservoir through a Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department program called “Let’s Go Fishing.” Also, 16 students in this semester’s Aquatic Biology class traveled to Mystic, Connecticut, last weekend and Declan led and accompanied the group.
(posted February 2023)

Declan McCabe of the biology faculty was a featured speaker at Main Street Landing in Burlington in late April when he gave a talk on “Wildlife in Greater Burlington” — part of a series of programs sponsored by the Conservation Legacy Fund of the City of Burlington. Also, Declan gave a presentation titled “Turning Stones: Exploring Life in Fresh Water,” for Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes in St. Albans recently. “They recorded the entire thing with a TV camera and it may show up on those local access news channels at some point,” Declan said. He also was invited to be a guest June 13 on host Ric Cengeri’s Vermont Viewpoint morning radio show, broadcast weekdays by Waterbury radio station WDEV. Declan discussed one of his areas of expertise, aquatic macroinvertebrates, based on a recent column that was part of his regular series, The Outside Story, which he writes for Northern Woodlands magazine and several regional newspapers. Declan reports that he also is coming closer to release of his book Turning Stones: Exploring Life in Freshwater (The McDonald $ Woodward Publishing Company/Newark, Ohio) once it clears a few more editorial hurdles. The cover image is Declan’s photographer daughter, Lauren McCabe. The book is a collection of 50 essays that the cover describes as “an exploration of the fascinating cast of characters in lakes, streams, rivers and ponds. Also this summer during a visit home to Ireland that Declan made, the Westmeath Independent from Athlone carried a nice feature profile of Declan that had several mentions of Saint Michael’s College.
(posted July 2022)

Declan McCabe of the biology faculty continues to write of moths and caterpillars, water bugs, opossums and more in his regular nature columns appearing in various newspapers and journals in New England. In recent months, Declan also has helped oversee a tree-planting event or two in the College Natural Area and elsewhere on campus. A national trade journal called Private University Products and News prominently featured his extensive work in the Natural Area. He also has new podcast on insects. He also wrote about climate change for Connecticut Woodlands magazine in its fall edition.
(posted February 2022)

Ruth Fabian-Fine of the biology faculty along with biology colleague Declan McCabe started assigning podcasts in their Biological Communications courses in 2020. A couple of Ruth’s students, Cecelia Schmelzle ’23 and Cailey Comiskey ’23,  really ran with it, and in their second “season” (which is to say, semester), they launched weekly interviews with a range of STEM (an acronym standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) majors and others with interests in STEM. Declan says the podcast is on Spotify for subscriptions. Both students earn internship credit for the podcast in their senior year and hope to recruit successors to keep it going.
(posted February 2022)

Trevien Stanger of the Environmental Science and Studies faculty helped organize a tree-planting event in September with biology colleague Declan McCabe and the campus environmental group Green UP, down in the College’s Natural Area. They took advantage of an Arbor Day Foundation tree-giveaway program surplus in Colchester and Winooski that provided the trees. Then in October, he and McCabe did another planting project on the newly created wetlands dug by Natural Resources Conservation Service Vermont, an event Trevien billed as “Restoration Generation” This was a youth-focused Ridge-to-River field trip in the name of restoring the ecological and cultural vitality of the Winooski River. For that activity on October 7, he led a student group from Marshfield before ending the day with a planting in the Natural Area. Also, Trevien has a beautiful new book out in collaboration with photographer Mike Sipe, titled Our Basin of Relations: The Art & Science of Living with Water.  It includes contributions from other Saint Michael’s people: Doug Facey (emeritus) and Declan McCabe of the biology faculty and Patrick Standen of philosophy. In November, Trevien spoke to more than 60 students for local Essex High School’s STEM Speaker Series, presenting on watersheds, river restoration, and cultivating an environmental ethic through the wedding of science and art. In December, he arranged for a giant watershed map of the Lake Champlain Basin to come to campus courtesy of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, enabling Saint Michael’s students in the Environmental Studies and Science Departments to interact with it and learn in a fun and unusual way. The Giant Lake Champlain Map Project is a partnership between Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Lake Champlain Basin Program, and Castleton University.”
(posted February 2022)

Peter Harrigan of the fine arts/theater faculty during the fall semester directed the Mainstage play, the Irish-themed Dancing at Lughnasa,” overcoming many obstacles posed by the pandemic to make the show available to limited but enthusiastic audiences. Peter also joined a panel of faculty to discuss the Irish context of the play, including Biology Professor Declan McCabe, Religious Studies Professor James Byrne and President Lorraine Sterritt, all of whom grew up in Ireland. John Devlin of the fine arts/theater faculty, the set designer, also joined the discussion.

Declan McCabe teaches biology at Saint Michael’s College and writes a regular nature column called The Outside Story, assigned and edited by Northern Woodlands magazine and sponsored by the Wellborn Ecology Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. The column also has appeared for some years in several newspapers. Often he writes about research work with Saint Michael’s students, including several on a wide array of topics that he knows a lot about in recent months: plants, insects, small creatures, waterways and more! Also, in March, Declan was featured on WCAX, the Burlington-area CBS local news affiliate, during the morning newscast’s informative story by WCAX reporter Kevin Gaiss about the College Natural Area across Route 15 from campus. He told about a federal conservation easement to advance the site’s role as a natural laboratory for students. On April 9, central Vermont’s WDEV radio host Ric Cengeri invited Declan to come on his morning talk show and talk about beavers, a recent topic for the “The Outside Story” column.
(posted July 2021)

Declan McCabe of the biology faculty in recent months has continued to write his periodic nature columns titled “The Outside Story” for Northern Woodlands Magazine and for several Vermont newspapers. Declan’s forthcoming book, Turning Stones: Life in Freshwater includes an essay about kingfishers and mussels where he thinks through a nature mystery like a logical biologist to reach a potentially satisfactory conclusion (also appearing as an Outside Story column. Also, this summer Declan started a new column for Northern Woodlands Magazine called “The Invertebrate Bestiary,” which comes out four times per year. He was invited to repeat his  trail camera talk on Zoom for North Branch Nature Center in May, retitled “Making the most of your Trail Camera”; and wrote a couple of pieces for The Other Paper in South Burlington about raccoons, and about trail cameras.” Finally, Declan got a nice mention on the website VT Kids in an item by Heather Fitzgerald.
(posted February 2021)

Declan McCabe, professor of biology, has repeatedly captured wonderful wildlife photos with his trail cameras throughout the campus’s Natural Area in recent years, and a large crowd on the evening of February 24 learned technical and strategic tips from the professor on selecting, using and optimally deploying these outdoor cameras. Representatives of the event’s sponsoring group, Protect Our Wildlife Vermont, invited people of all backgrounds to engage in the program, both in pre-lecture publicity and during the talk. Declan reprised his talk for the March Saint Michael’s trustees meeting and it was well-received again. Elsewhere, Saint Michael’s students were front and center in the latest “Outside Story” column written by Declan. His work with student researchers on insect communities is funded by Vermont EPSCoR’s Grant NSF EPS Award #1556770 from the National Science Foundation. “The Outside Story” is assigned and edited by Northern Woodlands magazine and sponsored by the Wellborn Ecology Fund of New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. The column also appears in several Vermont newspapers. Declan also recently was invited to write a different ongoing series for Northern Woodlands. The first one already came out this spring, to be followed by seven more pieces over the coming two years. The series is called ‘The Invertebrate Bestiary’; “My guidelines are simply to write about interesting invertebrate … I love the freedom of this broad topic. Next one is submitted for the summer edition,” Declan shares. His first column was about water dragons.
(posted June 2020)

Declan McCabe of the Saint Michael’s biology faculty worked this summer with a Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) group of eight students from Burlington high schools plus their crew leaders, building steps on a steep part of the trail through the College’s Natural Area across Route 15. Since last report on faculty careers, Declan has continued to work with student researchers on insect communities in the Champlain Basin, funded by a Vermont EPSCoR’s Grant from the National Science Foundation. He continues to periodically write about those Saint Michael’s based experiences in his natural science column called The Outside Story, assigned and edited by Northern Woodlands magazine and sponsored by the Wellborn Ecology Fund of New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, and appearing in several Vermont newspapers and other regional news sources. Recent column topics since our last faculty news update have included mosquitoes, caddisflies and “snow fleas” aka springtails.
(posted February 2020)

Declan McCabe, professor of biology, has continued periodically writing his nature column “The Outside Story” — assigned and edited by Northern Woodlands Magazine and sponsored by the Wellborn Ecology Fund of New Hampshire Charitable Foundation (and reprinted in several Vermont newspapers including at the link below from the Bennington Banner). One recent column told of his excursions out walking on the ice of Lake Champlain. It also describes a little of the science and chemistry behind the water molecules that freeze to form that ice, with valuable fact-checking and suggestions from his colleague Christina Chant, a faculty biophysical chemist at Saint Michael’s, as he notes in the column’s footnote. Also, each spring the University of Vermont Biology Department honors outstanding undergraduate students, graduate teaching assistants, and accomplished alumni for their achievements in the study of Biology. And Declan was among the honorees this year as an accomplished UVM biology alumnus (he earned his doctorate in the UVM biology graduate program). His students are continuing to accumulate mammalian community data based on camera traps in the 142 hectare Saint Michael’s College Natural Area. Research in this newly established natural area will most likely be Declan’s focus for the next several years.
(posted June 2019)

Declan McCabe, professor of biology, in October visited Denmark and Sweden while participating in the International Educators Workshop as part of Saint Michael’s College’s ongoing participation in DIS study abroad programs. DIS is a non-profit study abroad foundation established in Denmark in 1959, with locations in Copenhagen and Stockholm, and the College has sent more than 90 students to Copenhagen and Stockholm since 2001. Declan also throughout the Fall Semester 2018 continued to write his periodic nature column for Northern Woodlands magazine, which runs in several regional newspapers.
(posted January 2019)

Declan McCabe, associate professor and chair of biology, continues to write a regular nature column appearing periodically in Northern Woodlands Magazine and several Vermont newspapers. He also made a presentation at the annual conference of the Society for Freshwater Science in Detroit in spring 2018.
(posted June 2018)

Declan McCabe, professor of biology/department chair, this summer authored and had published several newspaper articles – engaging pieces about science in nature written to be easily understand by the general reading public —  including his most recent in early August titled “Keeping it Clean Downstream,” for Northern Woodlands magazine and reprinted in The Burlington Free Press.
(posted September 2015)

Declan McCabe, associate professor of biology, recently was co-author of two papers along with students from the EpSCOR project (a partnership with the National Science Foundation to strengthen research and education in science). Declan has worked with EpSCOR for several summers directing a stream-research project involving students from St. Mike’s, the University of Vermont, Puerto Rico and elsewhere. The two recent papers appeared in the Biological Society journal Beta Beta Beta. The first was a research article, “Differences between kick sampling techniques and short-term Hester-Dendy sampling for stream macro invertebrates,” with three student co-authors including Erin Letovsky, daughter of St. Mike’s business Professor Robert Letovsky (Erin worked for the Biology Department for a time after her master’s); and then “Measuring standardized effect size improves interpretation of biomonitoring studies and facilitates meta-analysis,” with four student researchers. Declan also wrote a humorous but informative article, “The Case of the Giant Centipede and Flat Stanley,” in VES, the newsletter of the Vermont Entomological Society, telling of an encounter with some scary bugs — “pure fun rather than scholarship,” he says.

Declan McCabe, professor of biology, has had another paper published on a science education website called Scitable: Declan explains: “This one uses data gathered by the students in General Biology as well as research data collected by Vermont EPSCoR students working at Saint Michael’s College. The paper uses a combination of previously published data and novel data to illustrate the principles of sampling as applied to biological communities.” Scitable is a free science library and personal learning tool by Nature Publishing Group, the world’s leading publisher of science. The formal citation is: McCabe, D. J. (2011) Sampling Biological Communities. Nature Education Knowledge 2(11):13