Friday, January 27, 2017

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Regional Wildlife Biologist Intern Week 1

January 16-January 23

Hello all! I'm a junior in the Wildlife Biology program here at Unity with a minor in Environmental Interpretation and Education. I recently took on an internship position with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which is the state's agency for managing fish and wildlife resources. Though they are more famous for their game species management (moose, deer, bear, etc.), they also take part in endangered species conservation, have a research branch, and are home to the prestigious Maine Warden Service.

The position I have taken is an assistant regional wildlife biologist (RWB) at the IFW Sidney office. It is twice a week (sometimes adding on weekends), which is probably one of the most variable positions one can have as a biologist. Daily tasks can be anything from tagging furs to tagging deer to checking land easements. I'll also be taking on tasks of fisheries biologists, which primarily consists of lab work and cruising around on a snowmobile on Maine's lakes interviewing anglers about their catches. I'm three weeks in (I'm a little late to writing these posts...) and I can say that this internship is a blast!

Before we get too far from the word "snowmobiles", I should mention that this internship grants me the opportunity to operate state vehicles and wear a state uniform. Some may think it's not all that fascinating, but words can't describe how pumped I was to have the red MDIFW patches on my arm and be driving a truck with the IFW logos on the sides on my very first day. Picture proof of how excited I was:

Alright, so day one! Tuesday the 17th. I arrive at the Sidney office and get my uniforms and shown my office (OH YEAH! I get my own sweet office too!). My first task that my supervisor, Keel Kemper, gave to me and my co-intern is to build a huge map of our region (the Sidney office manages Region B; it's a very large and diverse region, covering rural land, coast, and cities from Bangor to Belfast, to Augusta, to Brunswick). Since this was our first task, my co-intern and I (I'll refer to him as Zach from now on, since, well his name is Zach and co-intern is kinda lame) took this incredibly seriously as we took apart an old Maine atlas and trimmed it up so that when we stapled it to the wall, it'd look as good as the map on the wall behind us that a previous intern had built for us. 

This map would be used to visualize where all of our Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) nesting boxes were located, and which ones were in need of us to check on. Unbeknownst to us there are thousands of them. We didn't mark them all. In fact, I think we marked four and Keel told us to just give up before it was too late, so we did.

With that done and us feeling like really accomplished little IFW interns, we got our next task from Keel; we had to take his truck (WOO!) down to my hometown area of Litchfield and Bowdoin to get the GPS coordinates of an old Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) call survey route. The survey route is part of an old US Fish and Wildlife Service study to monitor mourning doves, which to my understanding is no longer active; however, they were requesting the route coordinates, so off we went!

Keel also asked us to survey a pond that I'm actually pretty familiar with down in the area when we were finished. Caeasar Pond is a protected wildlife area managed by the state, and the fishing there is phenomenal. We were told to look for signs of vandalism or improper use, which there was none, but we got to check out a few Wood Duck boxes and run into our first civilian while in uniform (really interesting feeling! It's like being on "the other side"). We talked a few minutes about people we know in the department and how sea duck populations are doing and whatnot, but we soon wrapped up the task and headed back to complete our first day by tagging an insane number of furs brought into the office.

Trappers technically don't own their catch until they come get them tagged; until then, they're owned by the state. An old man from way up north brought us quite the number of Pine Marten (Martes americana), Fisher (Martes pennanti), Mink (Neovison vison), North American River Otter (Lantra canadensis), and Beaver (Castor canadensis). 

Oh, and I forgot to mention how we got to assist Keel inventory the science/evidence freezer. There were lots of fish for the "fishies" (fisheries biologists) to study later, and lots of dead raptors.
"Most of these either were dead from collisions or starvation," Keel told us.
I was very surprised to find out that birds of prey starve. He showed us how to determine if they starved, if they died of lead poisoning, or natural causes. We did this with anything from barred owls to an eagle. amongst the warden's pieces of deer that were evidence to some poaching case and the woodpeckers, fisher pups, and other birds of prey.

Day two was all about conservation easements. Easements are properties technically owned by civilians, but are in contract with the Department to be areas of conservation. We were tasked with driving down to Westport to survey two easements on the coast. Both were beautiful coastal properties. Essentially, we had to be on the lookout for contract violations and photograph key areas to update a database of our region's easements. It was super icy and windy out there, but we had a blast navigating these properties by any means we had, as we pulled a great intern move and forgot all of our documents at the office with vital pieces of information.

That's all for this first post; this is likely the longest of any I'll have. I'll have the next one up soon!

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