St. Catherine’s My Home

Sadly, our two weeks at White Oak are up, so we are moving on to our next location.  The Envirovet group landed on St. Catherine’s Island yesterday.  It is a barrier island off the coast of southern Georgia, and it is home to deer, frogs, many birds, alligators, and lemurs – a wildlife veterinarian-to-be’s mecca!  We got a quick introduction to the island yesterday and had a family-style dinner with the whole staff.  I love this kind of place: dozens of outdoorsy people running towards the kitchen at the sound of the dinner bell; lining up with plates in hand for burgers, hot dogs, salad, and sweet tea.  What is it about eating like this that makes it taste so good?!

Today we started with an orientation to bird sampling and surveillance.  We set up mist nets to catch small birds (cow birds, cardinals) and then we each got to practice our handling techniques.  Once we learned the basics we practiced removing the trapped birds from the mist nets – a tedious task!

After lunch we learned a critical skill to any field researcher – orienteering!  We learned how to read maps, how to use GPS to identify your location, and how to use a compass to find your way to your destination.  An hour later we were headed into the depth of the forest to find our way to a secret destination – Wamassee Pond (home to a female alligator and her new babies).  My team was Amelie, Kemi, Ademola, Maya and Tricia.  When we arrived at our drop-off we found our coordinates on the GPS.  The team found our location on the map and used a few sophisticated tools (protractor, ruler) to find our direction (47 degrees – northeast!)  We made our way through the dense forest, passing intricate spiderwebs and toads under our feet.  Luckily no snakes or other large wildlife!  Before long our destination was in sight – and we were the first group to finish!  Go team!

Orienteering champions!

When we returned home we ate lunch and headed out into the field again.  This time we set traps for alligators, turtles, and frogs.  We will check our traps tomorrow and hopefully get to practice our reptile and amphibian sampling techniques.  Also tomorrow is radiotelemetry of the resident lemurs on St. Catherine’s Island and health assessments of gopher tortoises.  Doesn’t that sound like fun!?

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