Master of Science in forestry student Melissa Griffith spent the summer in Wyoming as a seasonal wildlife biologist for Aster Canyon Consulting Inc., LLC., a private consulting company. Her position, which lasts from May 9 to August 26, is based in Pinedale, Wyoming, but her field work covers more than 30,000 acres.
What are your duties in this position?
For the most part I work by myself. I go out in the field alone everyday for 7 to 8 hours and then go back to the office to spend a few hours working on data entry and report writing. My duties included conducting presence/absence and nesting productivity surveys on a variety of raptor species, the western burrowing owl and mountain plovers. I also had to GPS and map prairie dog towns, survey for pygmy rabbits, monitor fences for sage grouse strikes and keep notes of any incidental wildlife I ran into while performing the surveys. At the completion of each round of species-specific surveys I wrote a short summary report of my findings to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the industry companies involved on the gas field. I also had to construct and provide maps of nest locations and wildlife sightings. Now that my field season is over, I’m in the process of writing the management/monitoring plan and overall report for the 30,500-acre gas field and 3-mile buffer around it that I monitored. This report will go to the BLM and be published online for public viewing, so anyone interested can see how the process and actions of drilling are possibly affecting the wildlife populations in the area.
How has this experience benefitted your career?
With my undergraduate field station being the summer after my junior year, I didn’t really get the opportunity to have an internship. With the project I’m doing for my master’s, it was a little easier for me to get away for a summer and be able to take on a job. I’ve been interested in working for a private consulting company, and having this job has definitely confirmed that I want to stay with a smaller, private company as opposed to working at the state or federal levels.
What was your favorite part of this experience?
My favorite thing about this job was just how much experience I’ve been able to get with so many different species and survey methods. It’s been great to get hands-on training with the different survey methods, and I’ve learned so much about the wildlife here. I’ve gotten to be really proficient with GIS and ArcMap too. The area I’ve lived and worked in for these four months has been incredible as well. I’m getting to see a whole new part of the country, and it’s completely different than Texas. Based on this job, I think I would like to try to get a permanent position in the area after I graduate next May.