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.”