Where and who did you work for?
This summer, I spent time in Salem, Oregon’s enchanting Minto-Brown Park. Freshwater wetlands, thimbleberry patches, alder groves, and waterfowl ponds dominate this urban-proximate park. Marshland Minto-Brown resides in southwestern Salem, and it abuts the mighty Willamette River. I worked, researched, and learned under the tutelage of Ashley D’Antonio (OSU College of Forestry associate professor) and Gareth Hopkins (Western Oregon University assistant professor) throughout my experience. Gleaning insight from their years of experience in the field and academic settings, I researched recreationists’ impact on freshwater turtle species. To accomplish this task, I deployed observational methods, carefully monitoring human and wildlife interactions throughout a series of field sites, selectively chosen by the principal investigators, Ashley and Gareth.

Was there a particular project or focus?
I focused on classifying the types of recreationists and turtle species within five field sites, marking data sheets with information pertinent to the study design. A major goal of this study comprised whether recreationists (kayakers, bikers, trail-runners) have a substantial impact on (a) turtle species, (b) non-native vs native species composition, and (c) the general acceptability of habitat conditions. This co-facilitated project also involves the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (ODFW), due to their investment in healthy and suitable human-wildlife relationships throughout the state. The management recommendations from this field season will assist in current and future planning initiatives regarding freshwater turtle habitat and species health.

One facet of this field research that I took a special liking to included the usage of a portable decibel meter. I used this device to quantify the level of physical noise that pulsated through our field sites. Acoustics play a vital role in wildlife behavior, hence allowing many species to communicate and develop, but they also act as barriers for species such as turtles that might need quieter environments to concentrate on selecting suitable habitats.

What is one memory that sticks out?
About three weeks into the summer season, I came across a convocation of golden eagles soaring through a narrow channel of water. I came upon this rare sight just minutes after arriving at the third field site. While unrelated to the focus of this study, the golden eagle’s presence demonstrated the splendor of avian life that Minto-Brown offers. After this occurrence kicked off the season, I went on to observe osprey, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, and other birds of prey, of course in addition to turtles roving the surface waters of the park.

How will this job help you in your classes or future career?
I think about this question frequently, and I would eagerly say this experience taught me about field-based occupations. I also gleaned insight into the mental and physical endurance required to work/research as a field recreation and ecological scientist. This specific line of work requires adaptability, resilience, and patience, not to mention a knack for weather fluctuations! Going into this experience, I saw myself (down the road) working in a field ecology position, somehow connected to academia, and this summer certainly solidified my passion.

What happens now with this research?
Since the field season came to a close, the research team will embark on the subsequent data analysis stages, producing a series of metrics and values from the observational measurements. This stage will tie together loose ends from the sampling season, ultimately yielding baselines for management planning. After analyzing the data, we plan to write an academic paper, outlining human-wildlife conflicts throughout urban parks with threatened freshwater turtle populations. A management plan and paper will only conclude one part of this long-term partnership among the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Western Oregon University, and OSU’s College of Forestry, as the years and researchers ahead of us will continue to examine the critical linkages among human disturbances, turtle species, and community-based conservation science.

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