Tag Archives: biologist

A Pisten Bully is much nicer than it sounds!

These machines could move mountains.

It’s hard to imagine that big, powerful machines like the Komatsu Excavator and Pisten Bully are used to preserve a delicate marsh ecosystem.  But elevation loss from rising seas and sinking land is a challenge facing many coastal marshes.

During large storms, marshes act like buffers, absorbing major surges of floodwater. Over time, sand and sediment can get washed away from these areas. A lack of sediment and healthy vegetation reduces the marsh’s ability to absorb water,  leading to floods in nearby towns. We strive for a healthy balance of water and sediment, the perfect conditions for healthy salt marsh vegetation.

That’s where the land movers come in! The large Pisten Bully spreads the sediment used to gradually increase the elevation of the marsh while the Komatsu Excavator distributes a fine layer to support growth of vegetation. Remu pontoons help distribute the weight of this mammoth machine and keep the soil from compacting. Lasers located on the buckets measure out the proper gradient, or slope, of the ground as they go.

Biologists aim to restore the marsh’s natural hydrology, or water movement, by building up sediment and creating  natural meandering channels. Channels draw off excess water, and specialized coir logs, made from coconut husks, trap and build up sediment in lower areas. With the growth of healthy vegetation this spring, this work will make these marshes stronger against storms. The mud and roots may look bland now, but in no time this marsh will be booming with high grasses and saltmarsh sparrows.

The race is on! Despite the excavator’s pontoons, heavy machines can damage the freshly sprouted grass. Staff must work quickly to establish roughly six inches of sediment before new marsh grasses spring up from mud. Biologists will be busy monitoring the hydrology and sediment movement throughout the marsh as vegetation grows.

Marsh restoration in the wake of Hurricane Sandy is a top priority for staff at the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Restoring the marsh provides people with the security of a resilient coast that can hold up against storms and provides vital habitat for countless unique wildlife and plant species.  It’s mighty work for these mighty machines.

Amanda holds a bat while mist-netting with the National Park Service. Photo courtesy of Amanda.

From the Southwest to West Virginia: Meet our new endangered species biologist!

Welcome to Amanda Selnick, a new member of the endangered species crew in our West Virginia Field Office! 

Amanda holds a bat while mist-netting with the National Park Service. Photo courtesy of Amanda.

Amanda holds a bat while mist-netting with the National Park Service. Photo courtesy of Amanda.

What is your professional background and experience with the Service?

I graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2012 with a degree in ecology, behavior, and evolution. I knew that I wanted to be a wildlife biologist, but I had to start somewhere. My first job after college was at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona, where I had a one year internship with the Student Conservation Association.

While there, I gained hands-on experience with the semi-captive breeding program for the endangered Sonoran pronghorn, conducted outflight counts for the endangered lesser long-nosed bats, and serviced wildlife camera traps and weather stations across the 860,000 acre refuge.

After that internship, I completed another internship and a biotech seasonal position with the Southeast Arizona Group of the National Park Service, where I continued to work on wildlife camera traps and exotic plant management. During this time, I started the distance masters of wildlife science program at Texas A&M University. After a brief wildlife biotech seasonal with the U.S. Forest Service in Nebraska, I’ve been working for a month as the new pathways trainee for the West Virginia Field Office.

A photo Amanda took at Cabeza Pieta National Wildlife Refuge, the site of her first job after college. Photo courtesy of Amanda.

A photo Amanda took at Cabeza Pieta National Wildlife Refuge, the site of her first job after college. Photo courtesy of Amanda.

What are your goals as a new member to the endangered species team in West Virginia? 

My primary goal is to engage in the endangered species consultation process, specifically with supporting the other biologists in my office. I hope to streamline our database management and consultation process (systems we call TAILS and IPaC) to allow our office as a whole to accomplish more work, more efficiently. In the process, I hope to gain advanced knowledge of endangered species management a whole, specifically through observing or contributing to species status assessments, a species listing, or a critical habitat designation. I’m also excited to get some on-the-ground experience working with our partners and local refuges.

Amanda takes notes while her coworker is setting up a wildlife camera at Leslie Canyon National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona. Photo courtesy of Amanda.

Amanda takes notes while her coworker is setting up a wildlife camera at Leslie Canyon National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona. Photo courtesy of Amanda.

Can you share a story about one of your greatest accomplishments at work so far? What you’ll bring from that experience to your new role? 

I had the pleasure of cooperating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the National Park Service side while working at Chiricahua National Monument.

The inventory and monitoring program was testing a new method of long-term monitoring for medium to large sized mammals using wildlife camera traps. Our park was fully staffed and had the right equipment, so we worked with Fish and Wildlife Service  to implement a pilot of their protocol at the park. This required a lot of preplanning and communication, since we were to deploy 45 cameras over 6 days across the 12,000 acre park. The deployment and retrieval of the cameras went smoothly, thanks to the combined efforts of staff from both agencies, interns, and international volunteers. I organized the photo-sorting effort, and the Park Service staff systematically sorted through 23,000 camera trap photos. We detected 22 species, including one species not yet documented in the park.

The U.S. Forest Service team at an outreach event; hint: Amanda is dressed in the Woodsy Owl costume. Photo courtesy of Amanda.

The U.S. Forest Service team at an outreach event; hint: Amanda is dressed in the Woodsy Owl costume. Photo courtesy of Amanda.

The following winter, we deployed cameras at two National Wildlife Refuges, utilizing our team’s expertise and experience to successfully implement the protocol again. I plan to use my experience with multiple federal agencies in establishing and maintaining partnerships, as well as my experience managing large amounts of data, in my new position with the West Virginia Field Office.

Amanda does the mop-up on a fire with the U.S. Forest Service. Photo courtesy of Amanda.

Amanda does the mop-up on a fire with the U.S. Forest Service. Photo courtesy of Amanda.

Meet our new NJ endangered species biologist!

Meet Alicia Protus, a new member of the endangered species team in our New Jersey Field Office! 

birds

What is your professional background and experience with the Service?

I am a recent graduate from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry with a B.S. in conservation biology. While there, I conducted a thesis with Dr. Jonathan Cohen on visitation patterns of piping plover predators at nest exclosures.

Following graduation, I was selected to participate in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Directorate Fellowship Program, one of the agency’s many recruitment programs seeking to involve young professionals with the Service. I spent three months with the Virginia Field Office assisting their endangered species biologists with incorporating information for five listed species into the IPaC (Information, Planning and Conservation) program. Toward the conclusion of my fellowship I realized I wasn’t ready for my work with listed species to end, though, honestly, I don’t believe I will ever be ready for such a time to come. I transitioned into a volunteer position with the biologists at the Long Island Field Office and Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge where I assisted with various projects and routine biological work for several months.

Now I’m excited to be a part of the New Jersey Field Office supporting the efforts of the endangered species program. I’ll be working on consultation and recovery actions for the bog turtle, Indiana bat, northern long eared bat, and several plant species.

lido-beach-sediment-sampling

What are your goals as a new member to the endangered species team in New Jersey? (can be what do you hope to work on, achieve, etc)

As a part of the endangered species team, I’m excited to assist with recovery actions for New Jersey’s listed species and plan future projects. I have had a small obsession with bats since my time in high school, so I am particularly thrilled to be able to support the work on the listed bats in New Jersey. I’m honored to be able to play a role in safeguarding public resources, especially in the coastal Northeast not far from where I grew up. I’m looking forward to working with all the wonderful folks in the endangered species program and beyond!

Can you share a story about one of your greatest accomplishments at work so far? What you’ll bring from that experience to your new role? 

One of my greatest accomplishments so far has been advancing the progress of the IPaC (Information, Planning and Conservation) program, a system that automates parts of the ESA-mandated project consultation process. I supported the addition of five new species into the program (three freshwater mussels and two plants), which reduces the overall consultation workload of Service biologists and allows for more time spent on direct conservation actions, like species recovery planning. My work to distill a biologist’s thought process into tangible chains of effects for the program was challenging, but through it I gained a unique perspective of the consultation process.

I hope to apply my experience to the Service’s ongoing efforts to streamline consultation work.
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