Wild Spartans: Raptor Conservation with Libby Mojica

January 12, 2021

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Wildlife Biologist Libby Mojica has made a career of researching, protecting, and conserving raptors like bald eagles. Watch the video to learn more about raptor conservation career opportunities.

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Take a look into life working with fisheries and wildlife! Follow along as we climb through bogs, peer into bear dens, mist net songbirds, snorkel for fish, or perhaps even tag deer. Meet researchers, learn about their field work, and the education and career path they've followed to get there.

In this episode, we take to the skies to talk to an ornithologist about the raptors that inspire us! Learn about researching, protecting, and conserving raptors that soar our skies. Meet EDM wildlife biologist, Libby Mojica, learn about her field work, and the education and career path she followed to get there as she discusses “Raptor Conservation and Management: Working with Birds of Prey in Cities and Wildlands.”

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Video Transcript

Alright, good evening everyone. We're so glad you're here joining us tonight. Thanks so much for joining us on Wild Spartans our monthly Wildlife Science Series. This program is created by Michigan 4H, Michigan State University Extension, MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. We have 86 families registered in participating from across Michigan, several other states and Canada too. We're glad to see you all here. I'd like to introduce the moderators for tonight's program. My name is Laura Quist. I work with the 4H programs out of Wexford County. We also have Ann Kreschmann she's from Houghton and Keweenaw counties representing the UP, Veronica Bulhuis is from Kalamazoo, Seth Martin from Macomb county. And all of us work with the 4H program statewide. Also on the call tonight is Dr. Alexa Warwick. She's a Wildlife Engagement Specialist with MSU Extension and MSU Fisheries and Wildlife wildlife department, and also the Department of Natural Resources and its new monthly series called Wild Spartans. We aim to explore careers in wildlife conservation. We'll meet scientists involved in fieldwork, will follow along. and climb with them into bogs, will peer into bear dens, mist net songbirds, snorkel fish and perhaps even tag some deer, will meet researchers and learn about their field work and the education and career paths they followed to get there tonight's program will last about 30 minutes. All participants will be muted and their cameras will be off. If you have a question, please do type it. Write into the chack and the 4H staff on the call will see it and we'll answer your question. But if you have a question for our speaker, We'd like you to type that into the Q & A feature. And at points along the talk, we'll pause and we'll ask those questions of the speaker. Tonight session is recorded, but only the presenter and the moderators will be appearing on the recording. After the program, be sure to visit our web page to access resources and activities shared by our presenter. The recordings of this program and other similar programs will be available on our website as soon as they're closed captioned. And you're welcome to share them with schools, family, friends, homeschool groups, whoever you'd like, who'd like to learn more about wildlife conservation opportunities. So tonight's presenter, it's been my pleasure to have known her for over 30 years. Tonight's guest is Libby Mojica. She's a wildlife biologist, an ornithologist who works for EDM International. For nearly 20 years, She's helped manage projects related to the conservation and protection of threatened and endangered species. This work includes protecting eagles from electrocution and collisions, studying bird migration and contaminant exposures. Her undergraduate degree is in biology from Trinity University, where she worked with professors to create her very own unique path of study. After graduation, she worked with as a biologist with a state of Florida for three years. And then headed on to graduate school at the University of Georgia to study eagle migration and home range. Since then, she has worked with the Center of Conservation Biology where she managed projects for a variety of birds of prey. And in addition to her role as a biologist with EDM, she served as President for the Raptor Research Foundation, which is the world's largest professional society for a raptor research and conservation. My pleasure to turn the program over to Libby Mojica. Libby, thanks so much for joining us tonight. Very excited to learn more about your work. All right, Great. Well, good evening, Michigan families. I am so happy to be here and I really appreciate the invitation to speak to everyone. And I'm really excited to be here talking about my favorite subject, which, which are raptors. And before I begin, I just want to let you know that this presentation contains photos of predators. And so what that means is they're doing what they do best, which is killing and eating other animals. So there are photos of dead raptors in a few of the slides, there's photos of other dead animals. There's nothing too gruesome, but I'm just letting you know in advance. So you're not surprised. Also you'll see a lot of those of humans handling raptors. These are scientists, educators and volunteers who are trained and permitted to carefully handle raptors. And so hopefully by the end of my talk, you'll be interested in being one of these people and we'll have more resources to help you obtain a career in raptor biology. So today I'll be talking about four main topics. So what is a raptor? Examples of global threats to raptors and some examples of local threats to raptors. And then how raptor researchers, like myself try to solve those threats. And then also how you can pursue a career with raptors. What are pathways to getting a job? And also, what are some example job openings that are on a job board? So let's start with the basics. What is a raptor? Often when I tell people what I do for my job, more often than not, I get this funny look in this confused responds like, aren't raptors, dinosaurs like, like a Velociraptor. And that's really great imagery. And yes, these are our fierce predators, but very far removed on the evolutionary tree from a dinosaur. So common traits for raptors are a hooked beak for tearing flesh, talons for catching prey and piercing their flesh. Incredible eyesight for seeing prey while flying or perched And what's probably the most obvious trait Is their a predilection for eating live and dead animals. Our 557 species of raptors on our planet. And that's a pretty amazing number of species. It really tells us how well they've adapted to different prey, habitats and climate conditions that are found all over the earth. This figure is from a recent paper that I helped author where we specified which species could actually be classified as a raptor. So in the last slide I said raptors had a hooked beak. So some could argue that the, Psittaciformes, or the parrot family, they could be considered raptors because they have that hooked beak, but they don't have the other raptor traits. Others would argue that the belted king fisher in the Coraciiformes family is a raptors since they catch live fish, but they also lack that talons and the hooked beak of a raptor. And sometimes another group that gets confused as raptors are the shrak family that are, I'm sorry, that are Shrike group which are within the Psittaciformes or the songbird family. They catch herps and insects, but they don't have the other traits that raptors do. So if we rule out these other families, what we're left with, our falcons, seriemas vultures, eagles, hawks and kites, and owls. And these are what are classified as raptors. Now, Raptors aren't typically flashy colors like our warbler or a parrot. As predators, they really benefit from camouflaging their bodies so they can surprise their prey. And one of the really cool physical features of most raptors as that the sexes are different sizes and it's called sexual dimorphism. So in both of these photos, I'll let you guess which is the male and which is the female. And I'll give you a hint that female raptors are typically 10 to 20% larger than the males. So on the Golden Eagle photo, the male is the one on the left. that's smaller. The female golden eagle as the one on the right. Notice she's taller, she has broader shoulders and chest. And then the American Kestrel photo, the male is the smaller of the two. He also happens to have different plumage. You can see some slate gray feathers on the wings. And they also have some different patterning on the chest and the tail feathers. There's also a really wide range of sizes between different raptor species. The smallest raptor as the elf owl, which only has a 10-inch wingspan. And in contrast, the largest raptor is the Andean Condor, which has a ten foot wingspan. Raptor diets can range from scavenging dead animals to hunting live birds, mammals, insects, reptiles and fish. Raptors are really experts at finding their prey. And while these are really cool photos, not all humans have the same appreciation for raptors that we do. I mean, what if you were a bee farmer and this honey buzzer was eating your hives? What if you saw vultures on your dead cow? And you thought that maybe they had killed the livestock, instead of just scavenging. Humans, just generally have an uneasy relationship with predators, no matter what those predators are eating. So now I'll also point out some of the raptors on these slides are eating scorpions, snakes, prairie dogs, which humans can consider a pest, pest species. So with the different lens, these predators can also help humans. And globally, raptor populations are threatened by humans who often don't understand the role that they play in the ecosystem. So they're threatened by poisoning, by shooting, electrocution, lead shot poisoning, habitat loss, and prey scarcity, climate change, vehicle collisions, turbine collisions they're harvested for food and they're also harvested for the illegal trade industry. Colleagues of mine published a paper, the conjugation status or the world raptor species. And while many raptor species are stable, if you look at the top of this graph, you can see the different groups, like falcons or, owls or hawks. And look at the, from left to right, you're looking at it over time. Those population levels from 1988 all the way to 2016. Those are fairly stable, some increasing, some slightly decreasing. But then if you look at the bottom of the graph, the Old World vultures are incredibly just, they're crashing the populations are, are really, really falling out, which is really scary. And that happened just over the past 30 years from poisoning. And actually Veronica, This would be a good time if there's any questions from the audience. Before I move into the next section? There are, there's a couple. So one is asking what they should do if they find an injured bird. Some people have said to leave it alone and some say to call a professional. But they want to know how to help a bird without causing harm to it. Yeah, that's a great question. And so there's there's usually some sort of wildlife rehabilitation or wildlife phone number that you can call and I would imagine that the Michigan folks that are on the call with 4H can probably track down where to get that information. But usually someone like the Fish and Wildlife agency has a phone call, but they'll have a list of raptor rehabilitation contacts. Often places have enough volunteers that they will drive to you to pick up whatever it is. But you should really figure out, is it injured? Is it or is it, is it a bird that maybe just fledged early, like a chick that fell out of the nest and is still being fed by its parents. Oftentimes, birds are just fine on their own. They don't need intervention. But it all depends. So you can always call and get advice that's always helpful. Take a photo, write down the location of whatever you're you've seeing and then contact a professional. And then the second question is, do all male birds have brighter colors than females? that's a great question. So, and a lot of songbirds, they often will have really bright colors to attract mates. But in raptors, typically there are not bright colors on raptors. But in other bird species often the males are very well decorated. And that's all the questions for now. Ok, great. So this next section of my talk is talking about global threats to birds. And these are just a couple examples. And then as part of these current threats, we're going to talk about what's happening to the birds and then also what. Raptor biologist like myself are doing to help solve these problems. So the Vulture population declines that I talked about on that last slide are a direct result of poison carcasses. So there's two different things going on here. There's an increased use of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs by livestock farmers that has resulted in millions of vultures dying after eating that contaminated meat. So the farmers aren't intentionally killing vultures, but the medicine that they're using to benefit the cows or whatever their livestock are, are toxic to the vultures that scavenge those cows once they die. So it took many different wildlife researchers and veterinarians to investigate what was going on to really narrow down exact medications. And then to switch these farmers over with education campaigns and policy reform. To, to change them to different medications to protect those vultures who are going to be eating the carcasses. So on the left side, this is actually a fairly recent report of white back vulture is being poisoned from eating an elephant carcass. And so communities may poison a carcass hoping to kill lions, or coyotes, and wolves, whatever the particular predator is that they're trying to take out. And then it also will take out any other scavengers, including vultures. And so this type of persecution is really difficult to combat. And it relies on wildlife biologists to host education and community programs to help understand people. that relationship of how to live with predators safely, how to protect their livestock and their livelihoods. So these photos show trainings that land managers and game wardens are receiving about vultures. Specifically about how to uncover and prevent future persecution incidents. And also to help just inform their communities about what role vultures play. So persecutions happen just as frequently in industrialized nations. So that these are two examples in the past two years of headlines where people killed raptors in the United Kingdom and in Maryland here in the United States. to protect their farms or their livelihood either through poisoning or shooting or trapping. I've worked on two different projects that have had this happen. One was a bald eagle that I studied in Florida, and I tracked it. And it landed in a farm in Georgia and landed on a poison carcass and died. And then I had another bald eagle that I tracked from Georgia that was later shot by a farmer in Pennsylvania. And many of my colleagues in the US have a very similar story with the birds. If they work, that's what it is happening, may not be getting as much press as some of the larger die offs and poisoning in other countries, but it's definitely happening here. So raptor biologists, game wardens, raptor education experts are combating this. negative view of raptors with community programs, with legislation and with policymakers at the state and federal level. So really we have to get the word out there. The Raptors are really cool. They play a really essential role in our ecosystem. And yeah, they're just really, really cool species. So another threat to raptors, especially in the United States, is poisoning from lead shot. This is an unintentional poisoning. When a hunter leaves behind a carcass, scavenging species like these bald eagles find the carcass and start feeding on it. And if the hunter uses lead shot, the bullet often fragments on impact and that carcasses full of tiny lead particles. The eagle ingests that lead, and then the metal impacts it's neurological system and other bodily functions. Unfortunately, leaving the eagle to die a slow death. It is, it's really sad to see. And the good news though is that this is a preventable problem. So many hunters and state wildlife agencies are encouraging the use of copper bullets instead of lead. Copper does not fragment the way that lead does. And so you're not leaving that behind in the deer or the elk carcass. And it makes that carcass safe to eat And raptor rehabilitation centers play a really important role in treating lead poisoned eagles, sometimes not just eagles, but other birds too. Sometimes those Eagles can be treated and that lead extracted from their system depends on how, what their lead load is in their blood. And electrocution is a huge conservation for raptors all over the world. Especially as humans move more and more into rural and wild landscapes, and install electricity. A large raptor, like an eagle, can touch two electrified parts on the pole by extending its wings. So in orange I am pointing out where there's to energized conductor wires on a power pole and smaller raptors might become electrocuted when two birds are perched side-by-side. And then they extend their wings and they touch the wires while touching each other. So sometimes we'll find both birds of a pair electrocuted together. And again, unfortunately, this is a problem that already has a solution. Electric companies can retrofit and cover up dangerous poles and make them safer for raptors to perch on. The challenge is that there are millions and millions of poles that are an electrocution risk here in our country, not to mention all the poles in other countries. And so wildlife biologists like me help electric companies determine which poles to prioritize for retrofitting to make them eagle safe. So this is the end of one section, Veronica, if you want to, if there's any other questions? yes, there is just one other question right now. Is there a deterrent that hunters and farmers could use if they want to leave a carcass behind. So raptors would know to leave it alone? that's a great question. I don't think so because even if the raptors didn't come in, someone else would come in. So, let's say a possum or a skunk or a coyote, and then when that animal dies, the lead is still in, inside, inside that creature. And so if the eagle or the other scavengers started eating that secondary poisoning, it just, the process keeps going. So it's really important if it possible to switch over to a different type of bullet. And there's a lot of information on the Internet about how to do that and how to do it safely for birds. Libby, is that had being taught to our younger hunters through hunting programs? I think it really depends on the state. But there's a lot of state agencies that are, are really on board with this and are integrating it into their hunter education programs. And in some states it is mandatory. I think parts of California and Arizona, I think, require it in certain areas because of the California Condor and how critical that species is in and the risks that they would be poisoned. But I think in most other places it's voluntary. Okay. And that's the last of the questions for now. Okay. Great. So now I'm going to move on to the part of my talk where I talk about what, what I actually do. And to give you some examples of things that I've done in my career. So peregrine falcons are really cool species. Most folks it recognize the name. They naturally nest on cliffs. And that's because they're protected from predators. Because the nest are really difficult to access high up in the air. It also really good fliers and like to dive on things so that's a good fit. The coastal areas of mid-Atlantic states, including Virginia and Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. peregrine falcons have adapted that there's no cliffs on the coast, on the East Coast in those areas, and so they nest on bridges instead. And so you'll see there's an orange arrow pointing to where there's a nest on the underside of this bridge. So the bridges are providing that same elevated nest site close to the avian prey that they're looking for. But the bridges, however, don't provide the young peregrines with the updrafts that they would normally get on a cliff. So when the wind hits that rock face, The wind will go up. And so when the birds extend their wings, the up draft will carry them up and they are much more likely to fledge successfully when they're learning to fly. The bridges seem to have, bridges seem to have more downdrafts. And so those push the peregrine chicks down into the river where they often are drown. And so the peregrines are often attracted to these bridges because there's a lot of prey. There's usually a lot of pigeons. that are living and nesting in the metal members under the bridge. So this photo on the right shows peregrine nest, where there's nestling, as you can see back in there. They're kind of white, fluffy, pretty young nestling. And they're actually sitting on piles of pigeon feces. that's the only available nesting substrate on the bridge. So normally on a cliff they might be on some rocks or some grass or something. And, and these poor birds these poor chicks are actually growing up on top of a pile of pigeon stuff. So, so here comes in, a wildlife biologist teaming up with team a bridge folks that are from various organizations depending on who owns the bridge. So it could be the county, could be the state or a city transportation department. We worked closely with them each spring to identify which nests are active. And then they help us get in with a special snooper truck that reaches up and underneath the bridge and we are able to pull out the chicks just before they're ready to fly and take them off the bridge. And then each state's peregrine falcon team then delivers these falcon chicks to the national parks in the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia, where there are cliffs that they can use to safely fledge and learn to fly. So the Park Service is the National Park Service. The biologists are feeding these chicks, quail in a hack box and hacking is the process of raising raptors in a way that doesn't let them imprint on humans, but does allow them to grow and hopefully learn to fly and fledge an imprint on the place that you're hacking them from. It's a great way to restore them to an area. So this is the video that I took inside the hack box where you can hear the alarm call of the chicks. And these chicks are within a few days of released into the wild. They're pretty fun. Here's another long-term projects that I'm working on, which is managing nesting Osprey around the country. So osprey really like nesting on power poles near rivers and lakes. And each spring when osprey migrate back from Central and South America, the electric companies are bombarded by By osprey that start nesting on power poles. And so this can become a problem because osprey don't build tidy nests. They often are using baling twine or other objects that dangle down into the electrified parts of the, of the wires which can start a fire. So I'm going to play a video. This is a nest fire that was caught on camera. And I don't think there was anything in the nest at the time. But you can imagine the danger of this happening if there were young nestling that were trapped. So it was a raptor, biologists. The tools in our toolbox, we're trying to figure out a solution to this problem. Thankfully, it's fairly easy with osprey. So I work with electric companies to design and build an alternate nest structure nearby. And so, for instance, on here we have them this orange arrow pointing to where from the original power pole to the alternate nest structure. And what I do is I, I helped design the structures, work with the electric company to get the right permissions from the government agencies to move that nest. since it's a protected species. And then to translocate the nest to this alternate nest platform. And so the solution is safer for both the osprey and also for the electric company. So it's usually a win-win. And then this project is one that ties in to what I did for my graduate work. So on the Atlantic migration fly away on the East Coast. Eagles migrate to and from the Chesapeake Bay. and that shows up in orange. So the bay is really rich in habitat and prey resources for bald eagles. And they expect to find fish and ducks and seabirds in the bay when they arrive. But what they don't expect are the new obstacles that humans are installing along their migration routes. Specifically turbines wind energy facilities. So these flight obstacles can sometimes result in injury or death for an eagle if they don't recognize the danger and end up colliding with that turbine blade. So it's part of a 10-year study of eagle migration. I fit 70 bald eagles with GPS transmitters to follow them as they're migrating back and forth. Some of these birds are coming down from Canada, from Quebec and Newfoundland and wintering over into the Chesapeake Bay. And so understanding where these birds are flying, it's really helpful to understand them, where are the potential problems with wind energy? So in this map, there are black squares indicating where the wind energy facilities are. The larger the square, the more turbines are in that location. So you can see there's, there's some places that overlap, some places that don't in this map. And then when you combine all the different eagles data together, you can make a movement model and look at where the, the main migration routes are. So there's one that's going right up the Appalachians and then there's also one that's along the coast. And so when you then overlap where the wind energy facilities are, you see that most of those are overlapping this mountain migration route. And so one of the things that I did as, as a raptor biologists when that's interested in getting information out for conservation is I share this data publicly. So the wind energy companies can use it when they're planning where to install new turbines. You're doing a lot of the location planning really to just increase awareness of where potential eco-conflicts could be with in the structure. That is the last one in this section, Veronica, if there's any questions? Just one. ok, do moving the wires (cough) excuse me. The wires underground help? this person used to live somewhere where they were talking about doing that after many bears and bald eagles died. Yeah, that's a great question. So typically, electric companies don't like to bury wires. One, it's, it's cost prohibitive. It's very expensive to put them underground and makes it more complicated if you're doing maintenance. that being said, I lived in Fort Collins, Colorado where the entire city has underground power. There's no above-ground power. So it can be done. But most of the time where you're having a lot of electrocution, it can be in more rural areas or places where there's challenges with putting things underground. The other component is like, what is the substrate as a rock is a marsh, may not be able to go underground so well it is a tool in some utilities toolbox on on how to mitigate this. It's much simpler and much less expensive to go ahead and just cover up the tops of the power pole to cover those energized components. And that way you can also use the, the funding resources to fix a lot more poles. Where if you've used all your funds to put your electricity underground, you may not have be able to fix as many poles. That was it. Okay, great. OH! I take that back. How many birds on average are killed every year due to wind turbines? hmm It's a great, a great question. There is, there's been a couple research studies that have talked about this in I cannot remember the numbers off the top my head. But it really depends. There's there's some estimates. Could be millions. I think there are a lot of challenges with getting accurate numbers of collision moralities. Based on how rare sometimes these events are happening. The predators that come in to eat the carcasses of the birds off the ground if you don't come in and survey quickly enough. So I'm sorry, I don't have those numbers right off the top of my head. And there's one more, Where is a more ideal nesting area for raptors like eagles compared to the electrical poles? Well, what they would normally nest on would be trees or or cliffs. Some raptors nest on the ground. When they're on power poles. It's usually because there's nothing else ideal around. So just providing them some alternate structure that mimics the power pole can help. But you wouldn't put up a poll unless you had a problem. I can osprey get poisoned from fish? Yes, definitely. Depending on what the fish has been eating and been exposed to, definitely, yeah. So they can be poisoned by DDT, which is still in the environment, by lead. There's been some studies recently in the Chesapeake Bay, all the pharmaceuticals that people consume and then flush out of their bodies and sewage goes into the rivers. And that then gets ingested into the fish and then into the osprey. So there's definitely concern. That's it for now. Okay, great. So now we move into the part of the presentation where I talk about how do you become a raptor biologist. So there's no straight and narrow path. You don't have to do it one way. I'll tell you how I did it. But I know lots of other people have done it in different ways. Your best bet is to get a high school degree at a bare minimum, and volunteer as much as you can. In many different places get different experiences. I started off volunteering at a zoo in the city that I lived in. My volunteered at a raptor rehabilitation center. Anyway, just a variety of different volunteer experiences gives you things to put on your resume. If you end up going to college and get an undergraduate degree, even better. Most seasonal jobs, technician jobs, even full-time jobs. that undergraduate degrees is probably going to be a bare minimum for what type of education you're going to need. Seasonal jobs and technician jobs are usually for breeding season or migration season. So it can be a couple of weeks, can be a couple of months. And those jobs really depend on the species which your working on. I've worked for the Forest Service, had a pretty cush, I don't know. It was probably like $12 an hour plus housing was a pretty good job for a few months. We've also had like $7 an hour job, no housing. So it really depends on who the employer is. I did end up going to get a master's degree and doing research during that master's project. And then I've done a whole bunch of different full-time jobs sense then I do not have my Phd, although I know lots of raptor researchers who do. And so I would highly encourage folks who are interested in pursuing a career, not just in raptor biology, that any type of wildlife biology. To volunteer, volunteer, volunteer, volunteer , it builds your network and your skill set, and also helps you hone in on exactly what you want to do So these are skills that I recommend for anyone that's entering the natural resources field. But these are especially helpful for wildlife biologists. So a must is the ability to observe the natural world around you. So be quiet, be patient, look and be curious about why something is the way it is, what's happening, how often is it happening? That'll really help you understand your study species, how it's interacting with its prey or its habitat. Skills like tree climbing, hiking, bird watching, fishing. Lots of skills can help you when you're entering into this job field. I recommend trying different skills and getting really proficient at one or more of them. I was not very good at tree climbing, but I'm great at lots of other things. So typically a team of wildlife biologists, some people will be really good at one thing and some will be really good at something else. And, and your teamwork approach will help you balance each other out. So other skills that are really helpful, writing skills, drawing skills, and sewing. I can't tell you how many times on projects build projects. I've had to sew things. And so, you know, there's lots of different skills that you can bring to this career. Public speaking skills and active listening skills are a must. Predators are generally controversial. So knowing how to talk to farmers, to landowners, to hunters, just general members of the public. It's really important. And so I'll highly recommend working on that conflict resolution, piece, and understanding other people's perspectives. And this may be unusual for one of these talks, but I really recommend learning Latin. If you have the option to add it into your coursework, it's really helpful and Natural Resource world, whether you're gonna steady botany or ichthyology, memology, it really is a really helpful tool. So hopefully this presentation has you wondering what are the career options working with raptors? So I just typed up this list of jobs based on the raptor professionals that I know. And so there's a really wide variety of different jobs in state and federal governments. Non-profit conservation organizations, private companies that are looking for people that have raptor expertise, and experience. So these are a couple of, couple of resources when you're looking for jobs or you're thinking about graduate school. Thinking about where to go with this career. I highly recommend looking at something like a wildlife job board. And I put this link down. This is for the Texas A&M wildlife job board and there's lots of other wildlife job boards out there. I think this one's probably one of the larger ones and it's a great resource. The other thing that I wanted to let folks know is that graduate school funding is really different in the wildlife field compared to say, English or math or something of these other topics, because most wildlife programs are funded, either partially or fully funded by the university or maybe a grant. And so you don't have to take out student loans. It's not something maybe many people know about, but it's definitely a benefit for going into the wildlife field. So I went thru the job board, that Texas A&M job board and I picked out a couple well, let's see, maybe five slides here of different jobs that are open right now, if you have the skill set, you could apply for this job. So I thought it would be helpful just to see what you could make, who's hiring, and what kinds of skills you would need to have this job. So at Boise State University, you can get a job, a a seasonal job during the golden eagle breeding season, rappelling into eagle nests. So you would need to know how to do rock climbing. You would be checking on parasites and diseases with the nestlings. You would be learning how to take blood samples and how to band. In some of the experience or qualifications you would need. is you'd have to learn how to identify birds, right? You'd have to already know how to identify birds, how to look for an nest. It'd be great if you knew how to repel. You have to have good communication skills, positive attitude that kind of skills. So I specifically looked for what types of raptor jobs there are in Michigan, since I knew this is mostly Michigan audience. So Michigan Audubon right now is hiring at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory for a temporary position. And this one is 350 to 380 a week. And I think this one remember this one included housing, but a lot of these jobs will include housing. which is great. So this job is a hawk migration counter. So when he knows how to identify raptors in-flight, someone who can talk to the public, who come up to this hawk site. They have to be able to record data and talk to the public about it. It's another one by the Mackinaw Straights Rapture watch. And so this is 1400 to 1700 per month. It includes housing. and you stay up all night, catching owls and banding them. You have to know how to identify different owl species, collect the data. You have to be willing to stay up all night, even when it's really cold. This one's a little bit different. So this is an internship that you pay them to take you. They give you housing. And then they teach you how to do raptor rehabilitation, how to draw blood on a raptor, how to read x-rays. And so this is just a different way to get into the field if you have the financial means. And you're essentially there for a few months, and you learn all about how to do raptor medicine. And then for those parents listening, you're like, okay, well, where's the job with the health insurance? Where's the livable wage here? So this is an example of one that is currently being advertised with a state agency. This is the Delaware division of Fish and Wildlife. And they're hiring a raptor, grassland and forest bird biologist. And so this person basically needs to have a lot of experience and this is where you really want to have that master's degree. You'd want to know how to collect data, how to analyze it, how to write it up so that it scientifically defensible. Understand laws and policies about how birds are managing conserved in that state, and then how to talk to stakeholders about those species. So that would be kind of, you know, after you've been in the field for a couple of years, you could apply for a job like this. So going back to how do you go from however old you are now, And I don't know if the audience, if you guys are in middle school, if you're in high school. But how do you build the skills that you need if you want to get into wildlife biology, especially into raptors. So programs like this and the 4-H program, is a really great start. Anything hands-on, that you can do. Learning how to do mist netting, learning how to do pit traps for herps. Doing a lot of fishing and hunting, basically anything hand on there are citizen science research programs. And I don't live in Michigan, so I can't tell you all the specific ones that are available. But search around, call the University wildlife department and ask Who can I volunteer with so I can get some more experience? Really focus on that volunteer option. Audubon chapters and Master Naturalists groups generally have some sort of ongoing monitoring projects. Maybe it's a nest box program where they're banding blue birds or barn owls. Those are really good opportunities to network and to get that hands on experience. I started off as a Zoo volunteer when I was a teenager and I looked up the Detroit do has a similar program to the one that I did. And so depending on where you live in a state, that might be an option. Wildlife rehabilitation centers always need volunteers. And that's something I did for a long time. And it's good handling skills. And you'll learn a lot about the birds. There's also Falconer's who often are looking for apprentices or you can ask just to join them to go out hunting to learn more about what they do. And basically just look for mentoring opportunities. Go to Hawk Watch site, ask questions. Find people that are doing things that you're interested in and ask if you can join them. And that's , I found, one of the best ways to get involved. And so that's the end of my presentation. If there's more questions, I'm glad to answer them. Right now, we just have lots of kids who like to go fishing, which is a really good thing. Other than that, if you guys still have questions, put them either in the chat or the Q&A. And we will get to those. Oh Bart, wants to know what your favorite raptor is. You Know, there's a lot of really cool ones. And now that I live out in the west, there's a lot more of them. But I think the bald eagle, just, its the one I started with, and now they're just a really, really fun species. When you say hunting, Do you mean with a gun or just looking for the raptor? Oh, good. Good question. General. If wildlife biology, it's always helpful to be out hunting and I'm talking about with the intent to shoot something. So whether that's turkey or deer, whatever it is you might be hunting because likely you're going to be opening up a carcass. You're going to be looking at skulls. You're going to be sitting out in the woods for days at a time, not catching anything, but instead looking at other wildlife that's around you. So it's really just it's that hunting process. If you want to go out and bird watch, I guess that could be a form of hunting, but just visually looking for birds and trying to find nests and other things. that's also excellent. What are the most common ways that people become wildlife biologists? That's a great question. I think probably the best entry point is when you attend a land grant university like Michigan State right? That they have a wildlife department. And you get into that program, you start taking the wildlife classes. You get opportunities to have student projects or trainings. And that really gets you going. Give it just a minute in case, anybody else has questions? What are the major differences between a wildlife biologist and wildlife managers or conservationists? Who would say wildlife biologists is probably a more general term that I use. And that when someone has that wildlife biology background and becomes a land manager, that that's more of their specialty. But they still have that background. Really someone who is, let's say a wildlife manager, you're going to have a lot of different skills. They're going to be manipulating habitat and doing restoration. But they also have to know the species component. So they'll have a lot of different tools. I'm going back and forth between the two, So I want to help, I want to volunteer and help raptors, but I wanted to be an exotic vet primarily working with reptiles. Do you think I should look into working with birds in high school or just stick with reptiles. Oh, hard call. You know, now I think probably the broader your experience base, the more you'll learn and that will help you with whatever path you want to go, whether you stick with just raptors. or if you expand out. And I would say, you know, think about even going bigger than, than exotic vet, think about if you want to be at Vet for the National Park Service and take care of bison herds. And, you know, there's, there's lots of opportunities if you're interested in being a veterinarian, that you can also be a wildlife biologist. And so if you're interested in, in herps, definitely, you know, really get into herps. But don't close yourself off from trying different things too. A question is-What opportunities do you see to combine Climate Change and Wildlife Biology? Yeah, that's actually, it's a really huge topic. I , I didn't go into it in this because it's such a large topic. But habitat is changing so quickly. And a lot of places, especially coastal areas and habitats like in the tundra or high alpine areas. And species are, are starting to see a lot of challenges. So in terms of volunteering or in terms of research projects and jobs, there, there's definitely a lot of focus on monitoring those species and knowing what with the normal population or the normal diet was like before climate change really ramps up. And so that those historic datasets are really important. But then also there's a lot of need now for people to, to be monitoring what's happening to those species now. Would you say it was best to go through a university for a better chance at or any education? I would say it depends on what your interest is. To be a raptor rehabilitator or you can or just a general technician? You can you can do that without going past high school. But to start making decisions, usually to start, I guess, supervising and sort of like that. Generally, you do need to move up and go through university. But again, it really depends on what your focus is, what you're interested in. And this is something that maybe you're doing on the side. You have another job and you're doing this in your free time because you love it. Or if this is something you're really trying to support your family on and you do need a higher paying job. So this person would like to know if there's any a wildlife biologist in rural areas in Utah. There would definitely be wildlife biologist in Utah. There's a lot of game management there. Hawk Watch International is based out of Utah, but they do a lot of work in the rural parts of of Utah. So I don't know specifically, but there is a Wildlife Society which is the professional society for wildlife biologists. And they definitely have a Utah chapter, so probably a good one to check out and join, and that would also be a great way to meet people and get involved. Do you see raptors moving into more populated areas due to habitat loss and change? I don't think they move in to into like cities. Let's say, for example, because they've lost their habitat elsewhere. It's more that we create attractive habitat for them in cities. So for instance, the more lakes or impalement that we build here in the West, we have a lot of osprey here where they wouldn't normally be osprey because we've built these water implements. Same thing. I used to live in Florida and there's lots of osprey that move into people's neighborhoods because they put a nice lake in their subdivision. So we're creating the habitat. We're also creating prey opportunity. So bird feeders, tons Coopers Hawks living in cities now because there's such a high population of songbirds and bird feeder birds that have really exploded that coopers hawks are moving in. What's your day, what has been your best day on the job and what's a typical day on your job look like? Let's see. I'll say, you know, some of my best days have been getting up like two or three in the morning, driving to my field site, maybe getting in the boat to access a nest and having everything go right. The weather works. The birds are where you expect them to be. Everyone's the right age for you to safely catch them and handled them. As you can tell, maybe some of those things don't always go right? And so when it's a beautiful day, you wake up and the sun is rising. And you're the only one out there. Now coming up to these bird nests, it's, it's really incredible. One of my favorite memories is sitting on a boat in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay and waiting for, I think we had set out some traps, these like floating fish traps that are you set kind of on the top of the water. And you set them out before it gets light because you don't want the Eagles to see you doing it. And so you sit in the boat kind of nearby but out of sight. And the communal roost of eagles is there and their calling and their cackling to each other. And they do that for about 30 minutes or so, even when it's dark, the sun's coming up, they're, cackling , cackling. And then you start to see them fly out. And it's so beautiful. And you're also hoping that you catch one because you've gotten up, you know, hours and hours before that. And it's really rewarding even when you don't catch the bird that you're trying to catch or you don't see the bird you're trying to see, you always see something else that's really cool. So yeah, I think that's the fun part is being outside. Seeing those sunsets, even if you're not seeing the birds is great. Coopers Hawks ate all But one of this persons chickens. Is that normal? So they have the alternate name of chicken hawk and that's for a reason. It's mostly the females that will go after chickens. And often I don't know what time of year this happens, but I have some friends that have been successful in just keeping their chickens contained, like within a, a fenced in the area that has a cover, specifically during the migration season. So in the fall, when the birds are moving through, you'll just have a lot of birds coming through looking for food. And so just isolating them in that particular maybe six week window. You give them an outdoor pen, but they're protected from hawks coming in really had reduced their predation rate. So Cooper's hawks are definitely going to work over chickens. And I think it's, it's part of owning livestock is figuring out how can you protect them? Can you give them bushes that they can hide under? And give you ways to protect the chickens. And how can individuals change their guards or land to help facilitate healthy raptors and raptor populations? Now that's a great question. So so I think just the typical wildlife habitat features that you want to have an any yard are water, shelter. So having bushes, having trees. And that for, and I'm thinking specifically for predators like raptors, you want to increase the prey base or give room for the prey base to survive. Whether that's insects that kestrel might come in and eat, or it could be squirrels that are red-tailed hawk might come in and eat or a great horned owl Providing all those different parts to having good wildlife habitat will benefit raptors. Do you ever do a survey on avian flu? I had, I have done that in the past. It's something that I haven't done in a long time, but I know it's a big issue this year. They're expecting a big infection rate. So yeah, it's it's definitely an ongoing issue. It kind of goes in cycles and I think this year they're expecting it to be a big year for, for birds. One of our attendees says, your life sounds so cool that this person hopes that they get to do something like you're describing when they grow up. Thank you. Well, I hope so too. I put my email address on, on this slide in case anyone is interested in, there's something specific you have a question about. I'm glad to answer questions. I am not hiring, so I'm sorry, I can't offer anyone jobs. But definitely glad to answer questions afterward. I think that's all of our questions today, Libby. Thank you. Thank you. so Libby, I want to be you when I grow up. You have an amazing career! and the wonderful and amazing things you do to have a positive impact on the wildlife that we all love. But thank you for what you do. Well, thank you. And thank you for inviting me to speak. I really appreciate it. Absolutely. Absolutely. It was a pleasure to have you here tonight. And don't forget everybody. There are 4-H clubs in every single county across the state. Clubs can help you explore wildlife and engage in conservation stewardship activities, right in your own neck of the woods. Don't forget Libby got her start through volunteering and you can do that too through 4-H or any other organization that's near you, contact your local Michigan State University extension office to learn more about your 4-H program and how to get involved. We'll see if February as we explore research with honey bees. Thanks so much for joining everybody. Have a great night. (crickets chirping, music)

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