I am stationed in the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre Gunnison National Forest, or GMUG, at the Gunnison Ranger District. I work in wildlife and have had the opportunity to attend meetings about an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed species -- the Gunnison Sage-Grouse, Interdisciplinary Team Meetings for the District, and various public meetings. It is through this diverse array of meetings that I have learned the value of wildlife biologist interacting with the public and other disciplines, like recreation, to provide wildlife a voice in our world.
I think the best part though is sometimes those important meetings are in the field! Just last week, I was provided the chance to hike my first 14er, Redcloud Peak! We went up there for a meeting to discuss and see North America’s rarest butterfly, the Uncompahgre Fritillary butterfly. It was a beautiful hike where we crossed a snow patch that was 500 to 700 feet long and saw pikas, yellow belly marmots, the Uncompahgre Fritillary butterfly and so many other wildlife species.
When I am not attending meetings or hiking mountains to see rare butterflies, I am usually in the field driving and hiking to Goshawk or Osprey nest sites. We monitor nest here on the Gunnison to see if any are active and determine their fledgling success. We have one Osprey nest this year that is active, and we have been monitoring the nest once a week to see the chick’s growth and see when it will fledge, which should be soon! I usually take our Youth Conservation Corp to see the nest and observe the Ospreys from a hidden covered spot where we can see them. It’s amazing to see both parents come and nurture and feed their offspring without us distracting them!
I also get to attend amazing workshops! I am in one right now for low-tech process based riparian restoration. I am learning so much about riparian habitats, water ways and how beavers or woody vegetation can manipulate a system. We don’t sit in the classroom the whole time though. We get to go out and get our feet wet by walking through a creek and seeing how beavers and fell trees have manipulated the landscape. Then we’ll be provided the chance to build our own structures (post assisted log structures (PALS) or beaver dam analogues (BDAs)) based on what we see and what is needed in that system. All of this makes for a fun and interactive workshop where we learn in the classroom and apply it in the field.
Before my internship, I never imagined I would do half of this. My perception of a wildlife biologist was very different, and I never imagined that I would sit in on discussions about trail building projects or forest plan revisions. I have begun to appreciate what our biologist do even more than I had before, and I cannot wait until I can officially call myself a biologist, help wildlife and provide them the voice they don’t have.