by Christopher Shea, Dartmouth Week

Mark Mello demonstrates how to separate moths among a pile of dead insects in 2017. Photo by: Douglas McCulloch. Click to enlarge

After nearly 35 years of serving at the Lloyd Center, longtime Research Director Mark Mello has retired.

First hired as research coordinator in 1986, Mello’s start at the center actually began three years prior. Mello said it all began after his mother showed him a news clipping that there was a new environmental organization in Dartmouth.

“I was intrigued, having spent much of my youth biking through Dartmouth, collecting insects and anything else I could find that crawled, flew or swam,” he said, noting that at the time, he was an associate scientist at The Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown.

During that time, Mello said, he was collecting moths as something of a hobby only for a fellow Lepidopterist to tell him that he found rare moths such as the pitch pine and scrub oak.

Curious to know if these moths existed in any other habitats, he called Alan Hankin at the Lloyd Center to run a light trap of the moths there.

“Alan was so impressed that I documented over 500 species during the next three seasons, that I was hired on a three-year grant he was awarded to initiate a research program at the Lloyd Center,” Mello said. “It seems, however, that I never left.”

Mello’s responsibilities ranged far beyond research.

After he was hired, Mello was immediately tasked with retrieving a John Boat and the Beetle Cat that were frozen at their moorings in an ice-filled Slocum River.

According to Mello, the Beetle Cat was mostly submerged and filled with water and ice. Almost immediately, he said, he and fellow research assistant Rob Marshal tossed out the ice then started bailing with buckets.

“We bailed and bailed and bailed, yet the water level wasn’t going down,” he said. “I looked up and saw Mary Beth Bishop, our senior instructor, laughing her head off and pointing towards the back of the boat — water was rushing in through the gunnels as fast as we were bailing.”

Following Hankin’s departure in 1990, Mello was appointed as the center’s acting director and would spend the following years researching and protecting insect habitats.

In 1999, he transitioned to the research director’s position and began taking moth inventories and laying out the trails in the Lloyd Woods.

Now retired, Mello said that he will devote his time “exclusively to moth work,” along with pursuing grants or contracts for continued survey work through the Lloyd Center.

“I depart with fond memories of the past, and excitement for its future,” Mello said.