My journey to become a Wildlife Biologist

Upcoming Project area - Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest
Upcoming Project Area … Little Blackfoot River – Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest

My new role as Resource Assistant with the US Forest Service and Environment for the Americas is one that I have been excited to start for a long time, but I often reflect on the path I took to get here…. Over the many years of working for the Forest Service as a Wildlife Technician surveying the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, I gained a deep appreciation for the work that goes into public land management and conservation. My technician role allowed me to explore the forest, document the conditions on the ground, and survey for threatened and endangered species such as Grizzly Bears and Canada Lynx. We hiked countless miles off trail through some of the wildest terrain to collect data on wildlife and their habitat. Our work directly facilitated Resource Managers and their work, as they stepped through the decision-making process laid out by Congress in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In my new role as a Resource Assistant, I am going to be learning the necessary skills to navigate the NEPA process and construct concise and science-based reports to help drive management decisions. My first couple of weeks as an RA have been full of training and networking with other FS biologists and Resource departments, but I was able to mix in some outside-the-office fun as well. I attended the Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society annual conference in Butte, MT where professional Wildlife Biologists from state and federal agencies, as well as university students, gathered to present and discuss their current projects and research. One highlight of the conference was joining a few working group meetings for current projects where they discuss findings and plan future work. One of the groups I joined focused on Harlequin Duck research being conducted on Glacier National Park and National Forest streams, by University of Montana graduate students and FS employees. The research focused on survey detection success rates using methods such as ground-based visual searches, game cameras, and most recently environmental DNA (eDNA) collection. During my time as a wildlife technician, I had the pleasure of being one of the field surveyors for numerous years searching raging streams throughout Montana for Harlequin Ducks using the various survey methods. As an RA I am excited to join a spring Harlequin Duck survey trip in the Rocky Mountain Ranger District of our forest. This is just one of many field activities we have planned for the upcoming field season, which is comforting to me as I transition from field surveys to office work on my journey to becoming a professional Wildlife Biologist. I often look back and realize how lucky I am to have worked on public land that is so highly valued by our community, and I’m extremely excited to continue to do so.

Harlequin Duck Surveys – North Fork Teton River – Rocky Mountain Ranger District – Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest
Black Bear – Big Belt Mountains – Townsend Ranger District ….Helena Lewis and Clark National Forest
American Goshawk – Little Blackfoot River .
Cabin Gulch Project Area – Forest coming back after wildfire
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