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Bird conservation in the next generation: An interview with IBCP contributing biologist Joel Popp


Joel Popp prepares to weigh a bird as part of fieldwork in Nebraska

IBCP benefits from contributions from early-career biologists such as Joel Popp, who conducted fieldwork with us in the North American Great Plains, during our last field season on Nebraska’s Platte River, using mist netting to sample birds as part of the continent-wide Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program. Joel joined us in 2019 immediately after graduating from North Dakota State University. He answers some questions about his fieldwork in Nebraska in this brief interview:

1. What was the most enjoyable aspect about the experience?

Joel: My favorite part was working with the people there. Everyone was enthusiastic about birds and nature in general. We biologists are all a little bit weird too. I appreciated that because it wasn't strange to pull over on the side of the road just to look at animals or other things that looked cool!

2. What challenges did you face?

Joel: My biggest challenge was definitely being so far away from home for so long. I am from Minnesota so I was a good 10 hour drive from my family. I had never been gone so long even when I was in college. It turned out that being away wasn't so bad, but I know my mother was happy to see me come home!

3. What are the three most important things that you will take from this experience to use in the future?

Joel: The bird banding experience I gained is invaluable. I've learned more about banding, learned a new grip for handling birds, and worked with the Pyle bird identification guide and the MAPS program. These are all very useful experiences to start my career. I also learned more about connecting people with the natural world and the science we do that comes with it. There were many opportunities to attend and talk at nature events, including at the Veteran's Club in Grand Island, pollinator week at the Crane Trust, and Crane Trust Academy with Hastings College. These experiences also helped me learn more about where I eventually want to end up as a scientist.

After finishing the field season in Nebraska, Joel went on to work for Texas A&M University as a field technician in Hebbronville, Texas, working on a monitoring project to collect data on small mammal and bird populations on East Foundation ranches. He continues to work with IBCP scientists on publications using data collected between 2002 and 2019 to understand grassland breeding bird population responses to climate and habitat change, which will be released later this year.

Joel Popp at a bird banding station by the Platte River at sunrise

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