Rachel Kaplan spent the summer of 2019 conducting fieldwork in the North American Great Plains, banding and releasing hundreds of migratory breeding birds including this Dickcissel (Spiza americana) pictured with her here.
1. What was the most enjoyable aspect about this experience? I was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn about the challenges grassland songbirds are facing due to changes in climate patterns and different land management practices.
2. What challenges did you face? The main challenge which in turn was also a wonderful learning experience was determining how best to analyze data using the statistical analysis program RStudio. While I was familiar with this computer program, this job was my first opportunity to apply RStudio to real-world data and though challenging, I found this aspect of my position extremely rewarding.
3. What are the three most important things that you will take from this experience to use in the future? Learning the different techniques for determining the species, age, and sex of songbirds from an experienced ornithologist, Dr. Arcilla, was certainly one of the most important tools I gained as a seasonal biologist. Dr. Arcilla also helped me learn different approaches to analyzing data which I hope to use in the future. Lastly, I think the most beneficial aspect of this job was the sense of independence, confidence in my skills, and ability to be a leader that Dr. Arcilla instilled in me from day one.
4. What are your plans moving forward? In addition to applying to graduate school, I will continue to assist Dr. Arcilla with data analysis focusing on population trends of Bobolinks, a declining grassland songbird.