Mucking around the shores of the Rio Grande while surveying birds, Hannah Dresang got a taste for work in conservation this past summer, helping guide her in where her career might head
Work experience doesn’t have to start junior or senior year – Hannah Dresang, currently a sophomore wildlife biology major, just finished an internship with the Bureau of Reclamation. Still early in her college career, she said internships like these have been helping her define what she ultimately plans to do with her degree.
She spent the summer working along the Rio Grande River in New Mexico, surveying for two species of listed (endangered, threatened, etc.) – the yellow-billed cuckoos and southwestern willow flycatchers To find the birds, she traveled up and down the river making their calls with a caller and seeing if any birds responded. Data were collected on the responses, including how long it took them to call back. For cuckoos, which are shy by nature, this was important for locating them.
Why spend the summer crawling through the river banks of the Rio Grande – going through the mud and dirt and thick brush for hours to track birds? Dresang cited several reasons. “It was definitely a fun new adventure, something I had never done before. But it was also a lot of hard work,” she said. “I think the most exciting part was the amount of wildlife that we saw – whether it was the birds or animals.”
But there were more pragmatic reasons for the internship. “I wanted to expand my resume,” Dresang said. She also said this kind of work experience is helping her gain focus on what she might want to study more and get a perspective on her career.
“But finding the birds themselves in places they had never been discovered really felt like the job had meaning and I had a purpose down there.” Overall, she isn’t quite sure where she wants to go with her education and career, but experience like this is definitely helping her narrow down her goals.
For now, she knows she loves working outdoors in nature, but she wants to continue to explore where else she can go with her professional work while working towards her degree in Fish and Wildlife Conservation Biology.
She already has next summer’s adventure lined up. She’ll be going to Nairobi for the East African International Research Experience for Students – a fellowship where she’ll be one of 5 CSU students conducting self-created and self-implemented research projects revolving around social-ecological relationships in drylands. This will fit in well where she thinks she might want to look into.
“I like the idea of working with developing countries,” Dresang said about what she wants to try doing internationally. “I want to work closely with the community members, doing some kind of conservation work.”
Katy Roscoe spent her summer rehabilitating seals and sea lions, getting great experience towards future aspirations
The Northcoast Marine Mammal Center is based out of Crescent City, California. Started in 1984, they cover approximately 200 miles of coast line in northern California working to rescue and rehabilitate marine mammals. Mostly, they work with seals and sea lions, responding to several hundreds of reports per year on average of distressed animals.
And that's where interns such as Katy Roscoe come in. Her internship involved all manner of work, including more administrative oriented work, but mainly it was about being the animals. "The animal care part was absolutely by far and away my favorite thing" Roscoe said. She got to perform a wide range of animal care activities including drawing blood, feeding, treating wounds, and rescue and release.
Roscoe loved working with the seals out there, even if it wasn't her ultimate goal to be hands-on with animals. Volunteers have to be careful not to make much of a connection with the animals so they don't become accustomed to humans, but even with that she still had a favorite one.
She got to name the Seal Cerulean, after the crayon; that year they had bought a box of 120 crayons, and every time a new seal came in they would pick a crayon and name it after the color. "She came in with pretty severe wounds on her back, we think it was either from a shark attack or a propeller," Roscoe said. When Cerulean first came in, she said the wounds looked really bad, but by the time she left, she was free feeding with other animals, healthy, and had healed really nicely. "She was a success story, and she was my favorite for sure; she was really cute."
She said this summer was also an eye opening experience to how the animals get treated. She said one day they came across a dead seal on the beach with a gunshot wound to the head was a big moment. She said fisherman will sometimes shoot the animals because they can eat their fish.
On top of it being upsetting to see, it made her realize "rescuing those animals really is necessary because I kind of feel like we owe it to them based off our exploitation of them in the past."
Roscoe said there were a lot of sad moments like that, but overall had a great experience. Getting hands on time with marine mammals is a good way to prepare, including making valuable connections. She learned too about another marine mammal center with much larger facilities in southern California which aligns more with her ultimate goals: studying whale behaviors.
"My ultimate goal is research though, I want to be out in the field," Roscoe said. Social structures, migration patterns, feeding patterns, reproductive cycles - she wants to be able to turn whale research into a career. "I want to be out on a boat."