Under the Glow

The Right Place at the Right Time

Preparing soil samples for the Deer-Forest Study

I knew that helping Danielle with those soil samples from the Deer-Forest Study would pay off! Ok, so playing with “dirt” may not be the most prestigious thing to do after class, but in my defense, I was helping a friend and making a few bucks on the side. Honestly however, I schemed that if I hung around the lab long enough, this lowly undergrad would eventually connect with my professors and the grad students. The plan worked! Not only did I start building my professional network, I established great friendships and found exciting opportunities that would enhance my academic experience and eventually my career.

One day, I was talking to one of Danielle’s officemates about his research. His project was very interesting and I asked him if he needed help. He replied that he couldn’t pay; however, I was welcome to come out to his field site and lend a hand. That’s how I met my friend and colleague, David Muñoz.

Undergraduate Researcher

Lab bonding – me, Matt, Eric, Kim, and Abigail
Photo credit: Staci Amburgey

After volunteering with David’s field work, he asked if I was interested in collaborating on a side project. He identified a gap in the literature regarding the use of glow sticks to increase captures of adult, breeding amphibians in aquatic funnel traps. I was hooked immediately and suddenly, I was an undergraduate researcher. David and I would meet periodically to develop our experiment. I applied and received a grant to pay for my time spent on the research. In the springtime, at a nearby network of vernal pools, we tested our hypothesis. Through David’s patience and brilliant teaching ability, we analyzed our data and formed our conclusions. As my first publication, we are communicating our findings in the form of a manuscript, which is currently in the peer review process at Herpetological Review.

Under the Glow: Increasing Funnel Trap Capture Rates for Adult Vernal Pool Amphibians

Funnel trap baited with a glow stick – amphibians galore

Many amphibian species are troubled by disease and habitat degradation and loss. Thus, researchers require effective monitoring techniques to understand changes in these populations. Although survey options exist, many are costly to employ or variable in success. Limited funding often restricts these efforts and prompted us to look for a low cost alternative to traditional methods. Our study demonstrates how funnel traps can be used gather high quality data across a network of vernal pools and determines whether commercially available glow sticks impact the capture rates of breeding adult amphibians.

The Takeaway

Working up our captures – Becky, David, Staci, Eric, and Courtney

Undoubtedly, I found myself in the right place at the right time. Nevertheless, I discovered early on that identifying opportunity is essential in a wildlife career. In terms of gaining experience, finding employment, growing a network, and building friendships, I had to get myself out there, stand out from the crowd, and give myself permission to be me. Perhaps the greatest lesson that I learned in this chapter: seize the moment and the rest will follow!

Our focal species

My thanks to the BAMM Lab and volunteers:

Eric Teitsworth, Staci Amburgey, Julian Avery, Abigail Barenblitt, Margaret Brittingham, Becky Copeland, Courtney Davis, Carli Dinsmore, Matt Marshall, Dave Miler, Kim Serno, Jerod Skebo, and Matt Toenies

Special thanks to my friend, collaborator, and mentor:

David Muñoz