The first paragraph of a new chapter is neither here nor there. In the time between where I’ve been to where I’m going, there is much anticipation of what the future holds. I’d like to say that I’m used to changing things up every several months; the truth is, I know very little going into the next gig. Here I go again!

I left later than expected. As a result of my halfhearted planning, I rushed around the house looking for those odds and ends that I forgot. Eight o’clock was the time that I wanted to leave but it really didn’t matter. Most of the stuff that I would need for the next several months was already packed in my SUV and all I had to do was settle in when I got there. However, the technicalities and logistics weren’t what was on my mind; instead, it was the anticipation of something vaguely familiar. I pulled out of my driveway that morning, beginning a new chapter.

The drive to Martinsburg is about three hours and I anticipated a respite in State College. My mind wandered while traveling that familiar route. This evening, I will rest my head at an old farmhouse — a place that I have only seen in pictures. In time, the house will become a home. By sometime in May, I will be sad to leave. I thought of the three women who will be my housemates and coworkers. Right now, we only know each other through work related texts and emails. As the days pass, friendships will grow. We will share stories and laughter. Strangers now, one day, it will be difficult to part ways. Tomorrow, I will be starting a new job and meet the other two members of my crew. We will have orientation and training. In the coming weeks, I will be in a blind for the first time, anticipating the arrival of deer on our bait. The net will drop and we will exit our cloak as planned. Anxious and excited, we will run towards the captured animals. I will be tackling a live deer for the first time! This will run through my head many times and I still won’t know what to expect. It is all a vague picture in my mind.

That evening, I arrived at the farmhouse. It’s a nice place, nicer than my previous postings. My housemates, Helen, Anna, and Nicole, are very friendly and helped me move my stuff inside. I began settling in and we got to know each other over conversation. I discovered that Helen graduated from Penn State and this is her first wildlife job. We talked much of our undergrad experiences. Anna spent last summer in Yellowstone working with birds. We compared stories and I learned that she knows Evan, one of the guys from the dorm in Mammoth. Nicole has an interesting sense of humor and has a plethora of stories. I’m more inclined to enjoy her taste in movies and music. The four of us have next to no deer experience between us. This season should prove to be a unique learning experience for us all. From the first few hours, I knew that we would become friends.

The next morning brought the assemblage of our crew. We met up with Levi, our crew leader, and Jessie, the other member of our crew who is living outside of the study area. Levi and I shared some of the same undergrad experiences together and we graduated at the same time. I fondly remember him from a few of my classes and I recall seeing him in the state forests while I was sampling vegetation for the Deer-Forest Study. It was a pleasure to be reacquainted and we already talked about doing some fishing once the weather warms. Jessie comes from the Pacific northwest and has had a variety of interesting wildlife jobs. For instance, she volunteered with the wolf program in Yellowstone and spent some time in Alaska. Our crew was now together.

Over the last couple of weeks, I had the opportunity to take a step back an observe the team dynamic. We engaged in training, gear acquisition, and exploration of our study area. Thus far, we are working well together and bonds are forming. We seem to be the more lively bunch of all the crews. Despite the challenges that we face in our study area this season (more on that later), I anticipate an enjoyable and successful trapping season!

Why Deer?

I often said I’m not interested in working with deer. This winter however, I find myself working for the Pennsylvania Game Commission as a Deer Biologist Aid. It goes to show that you never know where you will end up. So, why did I take a job working with deer? Continue reading “Why Deer?”

Making Ends Meet

One of the more difficult aspects of a career in wildlife is the temporary nature of our work. Thus far, I found myself here and there in each job for several months at a time. The problem is the unemployment between jobs. Sure, I love to be home but the financial hardship is stressful. Although I attended a public school, I still graduated with a large amount of debt. I often describe it as a small mortgage. Of course, in addition to that financial woe, we have the normal bills that must be paid — house, car, utilities, and the like. So, what do I do to make ends meet? This time, I tried driving for Uber. Continue reading “Making Ends Meet”

Our Western Adventure

I left Yellowstone that day. That chapter concluded somewhere on the long drive between Gardiner and Bozeman. I escaped the snow by losing elevation. The road through Paradise Valley was only wet and the drive was not difficult. As I pushed towards my new destination, the moody sky would open and reveal snowy mountaintops. The view was spectacular. At that moment, I realized what I was leaving behind. Change may be bittersweet but I had great joy in my heart knowing that I would soon see Jill and begin our western adventure. Continue reading “Our Western Adventure”

Seasons Change

Snow was on the ground when I arrived in Yellowstone. Before I left, snow fell and winter began her embrace on the landscape. The summer concluded abruptly and although I was forewarned, my tenure at Yellowstone had done the same. Now I have the pleasure of looking back upon my time. I was here long enough to see the seasons change. Continue reading “Seasons Change”

Vampires and Daywalkers

For my last installment of this theme, I’m going to tell you more about the bat work that we are doing in Yellowstone. There is more than the acoustic project in the Maple Fire and Buffalo Fire burn areas. Day and night, there is bat work to be done — from summer acoustic stations to bat capture! Continue reading “Vampires and Daywalkers”

The Cute and Cuddly

With time running out, I’m pressed to tell you more about my work in Yellowstone. In this post, I’m going to talk about cute and cuddly small mammals — well, kind of. You see, they are those fuzzy little creatures that we love to adore. However, some of them may carry something deadly. The Wildlife Health Program monitors certain small mammal species for disease that can affect animal populations and people visiting the park. I’ll tell you more about the program’s efforts and my experience with this project. Continue reading “The Cute and Cuddly”

As Summer Ends

Less than a month remains of my summer in Yellowstone, about three weeks. I’ve been thinking about this summer quite often. Surely more so, I’ve been thinking ahead. I’m pondering what I will do next. Continue reading “As Summer Ends”

Bats and Fire

Bats and fire, what an interesting combination. I recall being excited when hearing of this project back in May. Our mission was to set up some acoustic stations in and around areas burned by wildfire with the intention of discovering how bats are using these altered landscapes. In this post, I’m going to stick with the current theme and tell you more about my work in Yellowstone and my involvement in this project. Continue reading “Bats and Fire”

Looking for Trouble

After publishing my last post, some of you inquired about what happened to the amphibians at that pond in Canyon. I was sad to report on the demise of this cohort; however, I was pleased to hear of the concern for these wonderful yet vulnerable animals. They often do not get the attention or the funding that they deserve. In this post, I’ll tell you about my amphibian work with the Wildlife Health Program and present my hypothesis on what caused the amphibian die-off. Continue reading “Looking for Trouble”