Pennsylvania Game Commission

To manage Pennsylvania’s wild birds, wild mammals, and their habitats for current and future generations

To be the leader among wildlife agencies, and champion of all wildlife resources and Pennsylvania’s hunting and trapping heritage

How does an undergrad get such a cool job?

Little brown bat
Little brown bat

Since day one as an undergrad studying Wildlife & Fisheries Science at Penn State, I learned about the importance of networking. When I found out that the Wildlife Society was holding its annual meeting in Pittsburgh, I knew that I had to attend. One evening at the conference, I was mingling among grad students, professors, and other professionals at a bar across from the convention center. That is where I recall meeting PGC wildlife biologist and friend Rich. When inquiring where he worked, he asked, “Have you ever heard of a town called Dallas and I don’t mean Dallas, TX”? Surprised, I said, “Dallas is right up the road from me”! Whenever I was home from school, I would try to meet up with Rich and tag along out in the field. This is how I met many of the people that would be a part of my team. In fact, by volunteering at a bear check station, I met another wildlife biologist, my friend Lindsey, and she later recommended me for the job.

Wildlife Biologist Aide

Taking measurements on a little brown bat
Taking measurements on a little brown bat

I was employed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission as a wildlife biologist aide working under the non-game and endangered species division. The majority of my employment centered around bat research and the Pennsylvania Mammal Atlas. Sometimes we would have the opportunity to engage in research on other species of interest or assist at one of the bear check stations. Our team was based out of the State College area but our work demanded travel throughout the state. Unfortunately, due to financial hardship within the agency, none of us bio-aides with the non-game and endangered species division were rehired for the following term.


Tri-colored bat
Little brown bat in hibernacula

The most exciting times I had with the PGC was when we worked with bats. During the summer months, we would be traveling here and there and everywhere surveying bats. We did exit counts, trying to determine how many bats were inhabiting a structure like a bat box or an old barn. Many nights were spent netting where we worked directly with them, taking measurements and attaching wing tags, data loggers, or transmitters. I gained experience with telemetry and acoustic sensing. I also had the opportunity to explore caves and mines that bats were using for their hiberculum.

Pennsylvania Mammal Atlas

pa-mammal-atlasThe Pennsylvania Mammal Atlas endeavors to understand the distribution of the commonwealth’s mammal species. img_1589_editedOur team collected data by deploying trapping arrays throughout the state. The arrays included trail cameras, live traps, and snap traps. In addition to the agency’s efforts, the atlas relies on citizen science for the bulk of the data. Citizens record their mammal sightings on the website:

The Takeaway

img_1965_editedGetting out there, meeting people, and asking to tag along has opened more doors for me than any other career strategy. Working for the Pennsylvania Game Commission was a phenomenal experience especially for someone just starting their career. I worked with bats for the first time. I assisted with the launch of the PA Mammal Atlas. And I learned more about the challenges of wildlife management in Pennsylvania. Together with my crew, we did meaningful work and had a great time doing it.