This was my first position after I graduated from Elon in May 2012. I worked under the supervision of Marilyn Kitchell, Wildlife Biologist, and the range of activities I got to participate in were expansive. In some respects I got to continue my telemetry turtle work from Elon. At Wallkill though, I worked with Colisn Osborn (Biological Technician) to conduct population surveys and radio telemetry for bog turtles and wood turtles. Marilyn’s expertise was understanding bat biology, so I learned how to use mist-nets to capture bats (to place radio transmitters on them) and conduct acoustic monitoring for declining species. Because of my familiarity with GIS, I created a step-by-step guide to import GPS points taken from locating animals and use them to create and map home-range estimates.
This position was also my first foray into birds surveys. Working with New Jersey state agency employees, along with Ken Witkowski (Biological Technician at Wallkill), I learned how to trap, band, and age mourning doves and Canada Geese. Ken also taught me how to conduct point count surveys for upland birds, call-back surveys for secretive marsh birds, and scope-spotting for migrating shorebird surveys.
Habitat management was a big portion of the work we did at Wallkill. To create and maintain habitat for the various wildlife on the refuge, we removed a variety or terrestrial and aquatic invasive species. Even now when I go back to visit, my trip wouldn’t be complete without removing water chestnut or mile-a-minute. It was insightful to see the types of decisions Marilyn and the team had to make in order to manage the diverse habitats at Wallkill.
Lastly, I helped conduct four outreach events for children in the area. This culminated in an outreach event that I made and led called “Snakes of your backyard.” Over 100 people attended, and participants got to handle live snakes, learn about the benefits of having snakes on their property, and see simple actions they could take to improve snake habitat. This was my first major experience doing science/environmental outreach, and it taught me a lot on how to structure events to keep both children and adults engaged.