UMaine Graduate on Discovery Channel Reality Show

University of Maine graduate Michael Merchant is part of a new Discovery Channel reality show that takes place in South America.

Discovery Channel’s “Out of the Wild: Venezuela” features nine volunteers who are dropped off and abandoned in a remote area of southern Venezuela. Armed with only basic supplies, the group must traverse 70 miles back to civilization.

The series premieres Thursday, February 17 at 10 p.m. EST. It was filmed in fall 2010.

The 47-year-old Merchant, who is from Hampden, graduated from UMaine in 2007 a bachelor’s degree in biology.

According to his biography on the Discovery Channel website, Merchant is a wildlife technician who leads animal biologists on hikes and frequently backpacks and kayaks.

The biography states Merchant has a vast knowledge of insects, reptiles and plant life, specifically mushrooms, and spent his youth learning how to fish, hunt and trap in Maine.

The volunteers were flown into Venezuela and left on top of 9,200-foot Mt. Roraima, which was the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel “The Lost World.”

The nine volunteers are not competing for prizes. Each person can opt out of the trip whenever they choose.

Merchant suffers from acrophobia, according to a preview clip on the Discovery Channel website.

Merchant’s participation in the Discovery Channel show makes him one of three UMaine graduates who are current cast members of reality television shows. Ashley Underwood, who earned a UMaine nursing degree, is a contestant on the new season of “Survivor: Redemption Island,” which takes place in Nicaragua, while Ashley Hebert, now a University of Pennsylvania dental student, is part of “The Bachelor.”

The “Out of the Wild” series won in 2009 a Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for Reality Programming.