STEM Fieldwork: Corey Marsh Ecological Research Center - MSU fisheries & wildlife students share their internship experiences

October 7, 2021

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Fisheries and wildlife students Finn O'Keefe and Kelly Baltusis interned at Corey Marsh Ecological Research Center over the summer.

Working with MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Associate Professor Jen Owen, they are helping with research on cavity nesting birds, specifically with tree swallows and Eastern bluebirds, and surveys of secretive marsh birds, including Virginia rails and soras. They also are learning how to band birds, take bird measurements and record scientific data for an ongoing study.

Owen said Corey Marsh is a unique place for students to learn hands-on data collection, field techniques and the scientific process.

"They get to do what we actually do as biologists," she said. "The students get to take personal ownership of this. Corey Marsh represents each of the students who work here."

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Video Transcript

Finn O’Keefe, MSU Fisheries and Wildlife Student:

“I entered into MSU as an English major because I wanted to do writing, which is still a passion of mine. And then I took this one class at MSU, it was Biology of Birds. And that really kind of amped it up. I hadn't had any ornithology or really any field experience before this, so I didn't have any of those skills right now, which this is teaching a lot of those base field research skills. Nest checking is a very common thing that you have to do if you're doing field research in ornithology, as is netting and banding, and doing surveys. So I think it will be very, very helpful for me moving forward.”

Kelly Baltusis, MSU Fisheries and Wildlife Student:

“I think it was a great opportunity for me, because before this I had never had any field work experience. I didn't have work experience in fisheries and wildlife, it was just 'I worked in a dance studio'. But this was great, I learned so much so fast. I still barely know anything compared to most people, but it was a really good experience and I'm going to do it again.”

Jen Owen, MSU Associate Professor:

“How would you ever know if this is what you want to do with your life if you don't get to actually do it? So in a class you might get to go out in the field to just get to see how something is done. Here, you get to do it, and you get to gain proficiency in it, and you get to understand why you're collecting data, or why you're doing these field techniques. And the students get to take personal ownership of this. They get to be a part of the design of the experiments, they collect data, they get to look at that data. Here we can do anything, and that's the nice thing about Corey Marsh. It's not just about birds, it's about fish, plants, it's all of it - it's the entire ecosystem and they get to learn skills associated with so many aspects. So it can attract students with many different interests.”

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