Tag Archives: intern

Many hands making an impact

A large project is underway to reintroduce a small species of tiger beetle to an area they have historically referred to as ‘home’.  When the puritan tiger beetles were listed as threatened in 1990, conservation efforts began to help protect current habitats locations and keep the beetle from becoming further extirpated.

Puritan tiger beetle
Photo Credit: Chris Wirth

The Puritan Tiger Beetle Recovery Project was initiated to help restore the beetle to its current and historic habitats along the Connecticut River.  The Project consists of students and interns from several northeast colleges, the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, and volunteers throughout Western Massachusetts.  The team utilizes the Richard Cronin Aquatic Resource Center in Sunderland, MA as the official site to conduct the necessary lab work for the project where they work together everyday to ensure the project runs smoothly.

Let’s Meet Some of these dedicated people…


Rodger Gwiazdowski, Principle Investigator and Team Leader

Caucasian young male with bug netRodger imagined a project like this when he got curious about tiger beetles as an undergraduate. When describing the projects focus, he says “To learn how we establish stable puritan tiger beetle populations throughout the Connecticut River, our project has two broad questions: 1) What ecological conditions make ‘good habitats’ good?, and 2) How can captive reared larvae be used to establish new populations?” In the wild, it takes the puritan tiger beetle about two years to reach their adult stage. The lab-reared larvae grow in a fraction of this time. This process ensures they’re reintroduced without the substantial loss that would naturally occur in the wild.

Chris Davis, Research and Field Technician

Since 1997, Chris has been conducting research on puritan tiger beetles by conducting larval surveys, habitat management, and translocation of larvae to augment the population in Massachusetts. Currently, Chris is conducting adult counts by visual survey and assessing a new location for reintroduction. “It’s the old adage, ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’,” Chris says. “Puritan tiger beetle presence here in the Pioneer Valley gives us an opportunity to contribute, educate, and learn about many issues related to endangered species, their management, and how we can work with others to put shared values into action.”

Robin Saudade, Population Surveyor

Robin is currently studying the puritan tiger beetle populations in Cromwell, CT and Northampton, MA in order to create a life table for them. Robin surveys the total number and the larval stages of each burrow in order to learn the survival rate of each instar (stages). By incorporating egg hatching percentages from Rodger’s lab data and adult populations from Chris Davis’ field surveys, Robin will be able to calculate an overall survival rate from egg to adult of puritan tiger beetle.

Kate Froburg, Assistant Laboratory Manager and American Conservation Experience Intern

Kate is one of two assistant laboratory managers. Her main focus is maintaining the beetles in the lab, and assisting with student projects. Kate is also working on a project of her own aside from the Puritan Tiger Beetle Recover Project. Kate’s project aims to understand how sediment (sand/silt/clay) type influences oviposition (egg laying) in the laboratory environment, and whether female puritan tiger beetles prefer a specific sediment type.

Neil Kapitulik, Community Volunteer and Population and Site Surveyor for the puritan tiger beetles

Neil assists with the collection of adult puritan tiger beetle for lab rearing, and spends most of his time in the field observing the beetles in their natural habitat. Neil is currently in the process of identifying a potential habitat in Vermont.

“Surveys and monitoring adults for many years now has given us a good understanding of population trends and will enable us to connect external environmental factors such as high water and cold weather,” Neil explains. “Through surveys we will know if we reach the recovery goals for puritan tiger beetles.”

Caleb Robitaille, Graduate Student from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Caleb is striving to succeed in the field as a wildlife biologist. He is currently working on a research paper where he explores what puritan tiger beetles are eating. “It is often assumed that they are generalists”, Caleb explains, “but I am looking to see if there is any particular prey that makes up a larger portion of their diet”. Caleb also explains that this information will be useful in reintroducing the Puritan Tiger Beetle to their habitat since the presence of potential prey at a new site could be an indicator of survival success.

Mary Apessos, Student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Establishes Dynamic Feeders for Insect Colonies

While adults and larvae are in the lab, Mary maintains colonies of various feeder insects to feed the captive puritan tiger beetle. “The goal is to keep their diet relatively diverse (2-3 different species of feeder insects), and to keep them well fed”, Mary explains. Growing larvae rely on large amounts of food in order to effectively develop into their next instar (stages), and they’re surprisingly aggressive eaters.

Ellie Dufraine, Student and American Conservation Experience Intern

Her project aims to map the density of first, second and third instar puritan tiger beetle larvae of a successful population on the Connecticut River. By breaking the habitat up into measured square meter sections, the larval burrows can be identified by instar “age” based on size and as a particular species based on the angle of the burrow in the earth. This information can be used to visually determine where larvae inhabit the beach from vegetation to water-line, and the characteristics of preferred habitat for puritan tiger beetle larvae can then be concluded for future reintroduction efforts.

Laura Pickering, Intern and Manages the Clay Processing and the Sprayer System

The sprayer system was built to aid in finding the puritan tiger beetle eggs. Using a hose and an air tattoo gun, Laura uses a faucet in the lab to give the sprayer a continuous water stream. Laura also constructed the bin and platform for the strainer to strain out the sediment and find the eggs. This system saves hours every day, when looking for eggs, and is a much safer search than digging.

The clay processing is essential for the puritan tiger beetle to lay their eggs. In the lab, sand is put into deep petri dishes for the puritan tiger beetle to lay their eggs in. To help with this, clay which has been specially quarried from the Connecticut River by the puritan tiger beetle team, is mixed, dried, kneaded, sanitized, and kneaded again to be places around the petri dishes so that the puritan tiger beetle can climb up into the sand-filled petri dishes to lay their eggs. Without these special ramps, puritan tiger beetle are less likely to lay their eggs.

Sara Wisner, Assistant Laboratory Manager and American Conservation Experience Intern

Sara is our other assistant laboratory manager for the puritan tiger beetle Lab. Sara would like to bring live tiger beetles to a wider audience. For this, she is designing, and creating a unique portable terrarium that will act as a type of “ant farm” display. In this way the larvae will develop their vertical tunnels against a glass window, which can then be used to educate the public to the life cycle of the puritan tiger beetle. However, due to the puritan tiger beetle’s endangered status, Sara will be using the bronze tiger beetle (Cicindela repanda) because they are a common species, with a similar life cycle.

Hal Weeks, Volunteer Coordinator

Caucasian male in red hat looking leftHal joined the Puritan Tiger Beetle Recovery Project this year to coordinate the community of volunteers helping with the project. In addition, Hal offers scientific advice, and a career’s worth of research, and applied conservation experience to benefit the project results.

Kevin Hannon, Information Technology & wireless hardware

For his day job, Kevin is Director of Information Systems for the town of Belchertown, MA, where he helps keep the town digitally connected. In his spare time, Kevin volunteers to digitally connect the recovery team with the puritan tiger beetle Lab. In the lab, the puritan tiger beetle adults and larvae live in a carefully controlled environmental room. For this room, Kevin has built custom computers and written code for them to create an internet-capable computing system which controls, monitors, and records data on all aspects of the beetle’s environment. With Kevin’s system, the lab team is instantly alerted by text and email if the building looses power, internet, or the environmental conditions change.


Above are just a few of the people who are dedicating their time to conserve the puritan tiger beetle. Working in the field of conservation takes collaboration from everyone including many more folks working in Federal, State, NGO, Academic, and other vital volunteer roles for the team. Everyone involved in any conservation project has a different project or task that will not only aid the group as a whole, but also creates greater benefits for the group, by pooling their resources. The overall outcome is rewarding!

To volunteer with the puritan tiger beetle Team, visit:  http://ptblabvolunteers.blogspot.com/

The Puritan Tiger Beetle Recovery Project provides collaborative opportunities for those interested in working in the field of conservation. In particular, for students looking for a career in conservation, it provides a venue to conduct scientific experiments and studies of their own, while also interacting with professional biologists in the field. All the combined work and effort will not only aid in the reintroduction of the puritan tiger beetle, it’s something students can use toward a future career path.

Stay tuned for the next blog post that will talk about the reintroduction and the projects progress….

Our wild summer

Few experiences can rival spending a summer working on a national wildlife refuge. In partnership with the Hispanic Access Foundation, the Connecting Latinos to Natural Resource Conservation program has provided this experience through a highly competitive application process.  Last summer, 11 college students participated in 12-week internships to help connect them to work in conservation. The interns were introduced to careers in natural resources at seven wildlife refuges and participated in training that included real-world public education, interpretation, communications, conservation, and wildlife rehabilitation.

Meet the interns!

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2018 HAF Intern Ingrid Chavez, 23 holds a fish she reeled in.

Ingrid Chavez, 23 – San Francisco, CA

Refuge: Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge

Interests: Hiking, traveling, Bay Area sports, animals, Latin American news

Dream Job: Working in conservation

“…We take for granted all that our natural environment does for us. We need to protect our natural resources for future generations, especially for communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental injustices… The HAF internship has taught me to be flexible and open to new experiences. I have worked on a variety of projects from environmental education to water chestnut picking to working with endangered Puritan tiger beetles.”

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2018 HAF Intern Daniel Correa, 24.

Daniel Correa, 24 – Old Bridge, NJ/ Medellin, Colombia

Refuge: Lenape National Wildlife Refuge Complex –  Great Swamp, Wallkill River, Cherry Valley, Shawangunk Grassland National Wildlife Refuges

Interests: Hiking, traveling and exploring new places domestically and abroad, learning about international news and developments

Dream Job: Work as a state or federal official that focuses on environmental restoration and mapping

“…I believe that protecting natural resources is connected with the well-being of communities. We can ensuring that communities throughout our country have good living conditions, and are be able to enjoy the outdoors by protecting our natural resources and promoting good sustainable ideas… The HAF Internship has taught me about the importance of becoming part of the community in which you would like to support and connect. Putting time and effort into that community carries a lot of importance and outreach is key to connecting with that community.”

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HAF Intern Oscar Hernandez, 18

Oscar Hernandez, 18 – Lakeville, MN

Refuge: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Interests: Wildlife and family

Dream Job: Urban outreach specialist

“…Being in nature is a great place to just be in and explore. Nature is beautiful and I want other people to enjoy it for a long time. The HAF internship taught me to reinforce my belief that the work that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is important and that conservation is a widespread issue; it impacts the quality of everyone living on this Earth.”

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2018 HAF Intern Cindy Garcia, 22 from The Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Cindy Garcia, 22 – New Haven, CT

Refuge: Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Interests: Environmental humanities, especially political geography and indigenous ecological knowledge

Dream Job: Professor of non-western environmental history

“…It’s about fostering profound experiences with nature on a societal level. I believe that they make a difference in our environmental ethics and stewardship, which is critical in this day in age. As an environmental educator, I do my best to have kids explore their local environment through a variety of sensory activities. This approach can help minimize the fear of dirt, the disgust of insects, and the rejection of unappealing objects. While it’s hard to quantify how much my work positively influences these children, personally it’s the amount of effort that matters… The HAF internship has taught me the importance of building relationships in order to accomplish a common goal. I believe relationships are meant to foster creativity and intersect ideas that would facilitate that process of accomplishing it. For instance, Providence Playcorps staff and I shared an interest in using play as a means to activate Providence’s neighborhoods. They relied on me teach groups of children about nature, while I relied on them to send me to different local parks. While the process of meeting and coordinating was not easy, at the end of the day the people who benefit most are the children.”

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HAF intern Jorge Abraham Lopez Trejo

Jorge Abraham Lopez Trejo, 26 – Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico

Refuge: Patuxent Research Refuge

Interests: Environmental education, environmental justice, Latino empowerment, urban planning. sustainable development. I love plants and history too.

Dream Job: Working with communities to develop green sustainable spaces that fulfills the community needs.

“I want to make sure that future generations have a planet to enjoy, clean air to breathe, fresh water to drink, wildlife to be amazed, and nature to be inspired. Environmental conservation with education are our biggest allies in this battle for our planet… The HAF internship has taught me to never give up! Perseverance and flexibility were major key players during my internship. Speak your truth, tell your story, connect with people and listen. It only takes one action, little or big to inspire a change; be the change, be the answer, be the solution.”

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HAF intern Gabriel Jimenez

Gabriel Jimenez, 31 – Saginaw, MI

Refuge: Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

Interests: Community service, mentoring youth, fishing, hunting, any outdoor related activity

Dream Job: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer

“It is bigger than who I am. What I do now though, matters. I do this for my children’s children and do it for their best interest. We must all decide what is best for the environment and continue to keep protecting our natural resources… The HAF internship has taught me additional knowledge of the many different career paths within the FWS and networked with many FWS professionals. I believe it’s one of my biggest things I value most from this internship.”

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2018 HAF Intern Kelly Vera, 22, holding a goose.

Kelly Vera, 22 – Toms River, NJ

Refuge: Lenape National Wildlife Refuge Complex –  Great Swamp, Wallkill River, Cherry Valley, Shawangunk Grassland National Wildlife Refuges

Interests: Reading, writing, hiking, and thrifting

Dream Job: A writer for National Geographic

“If there is one thing I love to quote it’s “If you think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath while you count your money.” The earth and it’s endless giving of supplies is what gives us life everyday… No matter how tired I am or how overwhelmed I may feel from the work, I never quit because this is my passion. It is much greater than myself and the work could never keep me from conservation and environmental work.”

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HAF intern Gabrielle Perez.

Gabrielle Perez, 19 – New York, NY

Refuge: John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

Interests: Environmental policy, conservation, environmental education, women’s empowerment

Dream Job: Being the head of the EPA!

“…I know that without a healthy natural environment, every single living thing is at risk of having having seriously damaging health issues. Our well-being depends on the well-being of the planet more than many people realize and I just want to help people become more aware of not only their connection to, but there dependence on nature!.. The HAF internship taught me that it is important to help people love and appreciate nature before hitting them with the hard and scary facts about what’s going on with the planet.”

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HAF intern Stephanie Melara.

Stephanie Melara, 22 – Elizabeth, NJ

Refuge: Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge

Interests: Animation, marine biology, wood working

Dream Job: Researcher studying deep sea hydrothermal vents

“…it is simply a responsibility. As an adult it is my responsibility to care of the place I call home and to make sure I am leaving a suitable, beautiful environment for all the other adults who will come after me… The HAF internship taught me that everything you get out of a job, a hobby or a passion is highly dependent on what you put in. This means that anyone and everyone can make a difference, if they are willing to put in the effort.”

No terning back!

I’ve caught it.

Safety first! Credit: Jackie

Credit:Jackie Claver

I’ve caught what some people call the “bird bug” – AKA the overwhelming joy that follows after working with cool avian critters.

I took in the full expanse of the beach, with lapping waves and a calm endless stretch of sea. It was about 8 in the morning.  I waded up to my knees carrying my provisions above my head. As I climbed aboard the boat, I buckled my life vest and grabbed the metal pole beside the steering wheel. Kate Iaquinto, Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge’s wildlife biologist, took the helm and we started across the open water. The ocean smelled amazing. It was clear skies and sunny, and the rush of the speed and ocean breeze made it very comfortable. The little furry brown heads of seals popped up from time to time, curious about our passing.

After about 10 minutes, we dropped anchor and we waded our way through the water past trails of horseshoe crabs and onto shore.  As I looked ahead, birds were everywhere.  As I wasn’t too confident in my bird identification abilities yet, I asked myself were all of these birds terns?

I followed behind Kate until we came to the camp site set up with tents. In a stretch of sand about 7 miles long, I was informed there were 11,723 pairs of common terns on the island! After not being in the tern colony for more than 2 minutes, poop flew down from the sky onto Kate’s face barely missing her mouth. It was inevitable really, and it could only mean good luck, right?IMG_8603

I was informed to grab a yellow hard hat with marker flags to protect the terns and my head, and off I went with Kate and four Student Conservation Association interns.

Four speckled white and black eggs in the sand. I was surprised at the tern interns’ intense enthusiasm about these eggs. We had passed dozens of nests already. I shortly learned, these were very different. The four interns told me this was a skimmer’s nest. I had never heard of a skimmer bird. Apparently, there had not been a skimmer’s nest observed on the island for quite a long time. What a success!

 

As we went out into the field, we surveyed the nesting plots where nesting adult terns and their chicks resided.  And boy are the little ones expert hiders. They can find the smallest pieces of vegetation, and under its protective cover they blend in perfectly with the sand.

I read off their band numbers ensuring they were present and healthy, while admiringly looking at the squirmy bodies of fluff. This process of surveying helps Kate and the tern interns identify success of terns nesting on the island. As we moved from plot to plot, laughing gulls called out in hysterical ‘has’ and I couldn’t help but also laugh myself.

Common terns fledge, developing feathers for flight, between 22-28 days old. Their eggs come in a variety of colors: green, creme, turquoise, and brown, with speckled dark spots. They generally have a clutch size of about 1-4 eggs. Roseate terns, a federally endangered species, often reside within common tern colonies. Although common terns are not endangered, they are a species of concern in Massachusetts.

Throughout the course of the day, I had banded four birds with the help of Kate. As I sat on the beach taking pictures, the sun cast a fine glow of colors across the horizon and a pair of oystercatchers moved along the shoreline nearby.

Overall, it was amazing going out into the field at Monomoy and I am grateful to have experienced this unique adventure during my inTERNship.