A Day in the Life of a Wildlife Ecologist

When people ask what I do for a living and I say “I follow birds around the forest”, I often get strange looks. In reality, that is only a small part of what I do. Research in Ecology and Conservation often involves fieldwork (the running around the forest part) and/or lab work, data analysis, and writing of results. In my case, my main research goal is to investigate how a threatened forest songbird species (the Canada Warbler) selects habitat in areas affected by forestry activity. I hope to provide information on what habitat features need to be protected, and recommend best management practices to forestry companies to aid in the recovery of this species at risk.

Here is what a typical day of fieldwork looks like for a Canada Warbler researcher:

 

3 AM: We are up with the birds and taking our breakfast by the light of a headlamp.

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

4 AM: We quad, hike and bushwhack through dusty, muddy, log-strewn trails, cutlines, and thick forest to reach our study sites.

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

5 AM: We enjoy misty sunrises by the lake while trying to pick out the melodious song of the Canada Warbler among tens of other songbird species.

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Torin Heavyside

Photo by Torin Heavyside

7 AM: We use recordings of territorial male Canada Warbler songs to lure other males into a net. We gather information such as the bird’s age, weight, and wing length. To distinguish between individual males, we attach specific combinations of tiny colour-bands to their legs.

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Kiirsti Owen

Photo by Kiirsti Owen

10 AM: Armed only with our binoculars and GPS units, we follow each marked bird throughout the summer, taking GPS locations, and observing them find food, find mates, and raise their young. These tracking bouts, combined with habitat surveys, help us to determine home range sizes and gain insights into the habitat types they use.

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Evening: We enjoy the simple comforts of camp-cooked meals, guitar music, and naps in the great outdoors!

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Christine Kuntzemann

Photo by Christine Kuntzemann

All in all, wildlife ecology fieldwork makes for an unconventional, but unbeatable career! Stay tuned for the results of this study….

Post by Anjolene Hunt