Featured ‘Day in the life of’: Hannah, Field Biologist studying golden-winged warblers.

Hi everyone! My name is Hannah and I work in the US state park system as a field biologist studying golden-winged warblers (GWWAs), which are one of the fastest-declining songbird species in the Americas. GWWAs easily hybridize with a sister species, which is thought to be contributing to their decline. The region I work in is very unique because the habitat we have available seems to segregates the two species, and so we have relatively stable populations of both.

**Hannah’s Instagram is: _hannahem_ **

We are trying to better understand this segregation, and improve and create additional habitat in the area. Last year, the team put colorful bands on the legs of several birds (of both species, and also two hybrids) so that we can track individuals. Many of these birds were also fitted with geolocator backpacks (see here for more information) to track their migration to South America for the winter and their spring return to the US.

I chose to quit my PhD program nearly two years ago to pursue applied conservation work, which was absolutely the right decision for me! I can see myself going back to graduate school someday but for now I’m quite happy where I am.

PS This day was during the bird-focused part of our field season (May and June, breeding season here). After that’s over we start working more ‘normal’ hours as we transition to habitat restoration work.


4:02 am – I woke up 15 minutes ago, and now I’m getting ready to review some bird songs (practice makes perfect!) and plan what I’ll do after work, with a nice big thermos of tea. It’s felt too warm to drink hot tea the last few days (75° F before sunrise), so I’m really savoring this!  My coworker will be here in about an hour to pick me up (we carpool to the office now that she lives in the same town as me).


5:39 am – Boss, coworker and I started driving to a field site but after talking it over we decided we didn’t have high enough hopes for recovery of a bird there to justify the time, and decided to turn around and head to a different site.


6:35 am – Our second site of the day, we were hoping to find a GWWA at this site that had been banded last year. We didn’t find that bird, but we did find an unbanded GWWA so we will probably come back in the future to band him too.


9:08 am – Sadly we didn’t find any of the birds we were looking for today. We just got back to the office and are talking over plans for tomorrow and next week.


9:51 am – I’ve got lots of data to enter from the last week! After this, there are a few new papers I want to read to find out what other researchers have been learning about these birds (and if any of it might apply to our population).


11:14 am –  One last thing before heading home! My coworker is helping out with an invasive insect monitoring project, and once a month the traps need to be emptied (so that the insects captured can be identified) and refreshed with new pheromones (natural chemicals to attract the insect of interest).


1:31 pm – I got home a little while ago, had some lunch, and tied up some loose ends with an organization I volunteer with during the school year (Letters to a Pre-Scientist). Now it’s time to take the puppy for a walk! He’s just starting to get more adventurous and realizing how fun walks can be.


4:55 pm – I made last-minute plans with a friend to get tacos at a really good (and cheap!) place near my house. We sat and talked for way too long but it was so fun (and delicious)!


7:32 pm – Time for bed! I really need to get back into the habit of reading before bed instead of watching Netflix, but not tonight 🙂

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