August 11, 2017 at 12:57 pm

Working on the Wayne: The Ending of a Chapter

From left to right: Lynda Andrews (Wildlife Biologist at Wayne National Forest), Viorel Popescu (Conservation Ecologist at Ohio University), Kyle Brooks (myself), and Devon Cottrill (Wildlife Intern)

From left to right: Lynda Andrews (Wildlife Biologist at Wayne National Forest), Viorel Popescu (Conservation Ecologist at Ohio University), Kyle Brooks (myself), and Devon Cottrill (Wildlife Intern)

Working on the Wayne this summer has been an experience that is hard to put into words. The first thing that comes to mind to try and describe this experience is AMAZING! With all of my experiences within academia and the research I had the pleasure of being apart of, there was no field guide to help prepare me for what I would see and experience this summer.

First off, I have to say that I couldn’t of asked for a better field partner. The knowledge that Kyle Brooks has about birds, insects and amphibians is just mind-blowing. I have always had a passion for the outdoors, but I didn’t understand how little I truly knew until I started this internship.

All of the research, academic and personal, have always entailed mammals of some kind, especially anything to do with carnivores. Kyle’s passion lies in every other aspect of the animal kingdom. With his knowledge of birds, amphibians and insects and the methods to find them, and my knowledge of mammals and various methods of tracking them, we were definitely a force to be reckoned with.

We started this internship bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to work and do what we can to impress both our adviser who nominated us for this internship, Dr. Popescu,  and everyone at the Wayne National Forest. With lots of sweat some blood, a couple tears and a handful of colorful words, we succeeded.

It all started on a hot June afternoon. We had been hiking all day, probably 4 or 5 miles and we had about 30ish minutes before our 8 hour days when we decided to take a short drive to Utah Ridge Pond to photograph some Dragonflies and Butterflies for our blogs. Kyle had been working to try and ID a dragonfly and was having no luck, so he decided to consult the Ohio State Listed Species (Threatened and Endangered) and BAM!!!

Blue Corporal (Ladona deplanata)

There he was, the beautiful Blue Corporal (Ladona deplanata); a state listed, endangered dragonfly. Not only did we stumble upon a new population of these dragonflies (which we happened to find another small population at the Big Bailey Marshland), this was a first for the Athens County District at the Wayne National Forest.

The Blue Corporal is probably a once in a life time find but when Kyle noticed a female Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) lurking around a stand of pine tree’s, and then he heard the call of a nearby beer, I could tell by his face we were going to be revisiting this site. We would have every reason to revisit this pine stand considering we had just placed a hair snare in a tree nearby.

Just a few days later, we made our way back to the pine stand to try and document/photograph a breeding attempt by this pair of Brown Creepers. Low and behold, there they were, making a nest in a large piece of exfoliating bark. Not only was this a first record of a breeding attempt in the Athens District of the Wayne National Forest, this was the first recorded for attempted breeding in South East Ohio. Needless to say, Lynda (Wildlife Biologist for the Wayne National Forest) was thrilled with this revelation.

Brown Creeper nesting in exfoliating pine bark. Photo taken by Kyle Brooks

Shortly after finding the Blue Corporal and Brown Creepers, we had the unfortunate run in with a deceased Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus). These fox are a species of concern for the state of Ohio due to their rapidly declining populations.

Throughout this internship, we placed trail cameras throughout the forest in hopes of acquiring a better understanding of the mammalian population in the area, specifically carnivores. Earlier this week, we pulled the cameras out of the forest and BOOM!!! A gorgeous Gray Fox rubbing his/her body all over our baited tree.

Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) rubbing against a tree baited with skunk lure

With all of these amazing discoveries, we were privileged with the opportunity to reintroduce the state listed, endangered American Burying Beetles (Nicrophorus americanus) at The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio. I have never personally handled an endangered species before and it was just breathtaking; a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.

Breeding Pair of American Burying Beetles

Breeding Pair of American Burying Beetles

This entire experience working with the US Forest Service has been life changing and I couldn’t be more thankful. Without this internship, I would of not had the opportunity to network and interact with various people within the Forest Service. I also believe without this internship and all the experiences that came with it, I wouldn’t have the desire to pursue the law enforcement side of wildlife conservation.

I will be forever thankful for the experiences and opportunities that were presented to me this summer, and feel it has helped me develop as I start my journey into the professional realm.

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