A contribution from Susan Underkoffler, forensic scientist and wildlife enthusiast, who is currently isolated at home in Pennsylvania, USA.

One thing this crisis is good for is getting people outside to notice things they may not normally… I took my dog for a walk today and passed a dozen or so people from my tiny neighborhood on a tiny street, all out walking to get some fresh air! 

I have been enjoying an unusually warm spring – the sounds of peepers (small frogs, Pseudacris crucifer) at night, watching the cardinals build a nest outside my bedroom window, hearing the robotic sounds of the redwing blackbirds that I love so much because they signal the coming summer.

I just love when everything becomes active, and since I am normally up before the sun, hearing the first chirping birds in the morning makes me so happy. I’ve noticed the white tailed deer are a bit confused with the empty roads – more than once on my daily runs a large herd will cross the road in front of me!

By Susan Underkoffler – our Pennsylvania, USA correspondent

Susan Underkoffler, MFS, holds an Associates of Fine Arts degree, two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Conservation Biology and Scientific Illustration from Arcadia University and a Master of Forensic Science degree from Drexel University College of Medicine.

She developed an animal forensic science track for Drexel University College of Medicine’s graduate forensics program. She spent many years as Forensics Manager for the Pennsylvania SPCA, where she developed the first Forensics Unit and handled all forensic responsibilities associated with humane law enforcement animal cruelty cases including crime scene documentation, evidence collection and processing, animal forensic exams, necropsies and courtroom preparation, along with assuming veterinary technician responsibilities and management of a court case animal fostering program. She developed and participates in community advocacy initiatives including the establishment of a Philadelphia Hoarding Task Force.

Susan consults regularly with state and local wildlife agencies and NGOs. She also previously worked as an analyst and researcher in the toxicology and criminalistics departments at NMS Laboratories and Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biotechnology and was an environmental scientist performing wetland delineations, Phase I site assessments, and wildlife monitoring in both Pennsylvania and Delaware. Susan has travelled nationally as a professional consultant and educator for animal cruelty investigations. She has conducted international research in several African countries, including primate behaviour and habitat conservation in Equatorial Guinea, Africa, and elephant tracking, censusing and behaviour monitoring in Namibia, Africa. She also studied elephant social behaviour at the Philadelphia Zoo. She has published scientific articles and biological and scientific illustrations in numerous publications.

Her research areas include elephant conservation, management, and community ecology, and carrion ecology and decomposition of large herbivores and carnivores.

Susan is active in many professional organizations including the Society for Conservation Biology, Animal Behavior Society, Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, Association of Women in Forensic Science, American Academy of Forensic Science, and the International Association for Identification, and she currently serves on the Board of the International Veterinary Forensic Sciences Association. She also serves on the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Animal Response Teams.

And… She is the proud pet parent of a rescued pit bull and four former shelter cats.