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Boredom: The Predator of Wilderness – Jamie Madsen

The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, but He is no longer the only one to do so” – Leopold 1949

As a Warnell student, I have been asked to read Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac
several times. Each time I’ve read it, I’ve gained a new perspective on nature, and what it
means to be in the natural resources field. In the quote above, he is referring to man’s ingenuity and the inventions of the shovel and the axe. The shovel to plant a tree- the giver- and the axe to fell it- the taker. The caveat is that you must own land in order to obtain these “divine functions.”


For those that haven’t read A Sand County Almanac, here’s the highlights. The first part of the book is Leopold’s nature journal. He focuses heavily on the relationships that exist not only within an ecosystem, but how even ecosystems have relationships with each other. He calls this the “land organism”. He writes beautifully and explains in lush detail the landscape around him- simply writing what he observes. In later parts of the book, Leopold talks about his travel experiences in the wilderness and humanity’s interaction with nature. He explains how wilderness is becoming endangered due to development. He fears that one day it will be extinct, and that future generations will do nothing to preserve the foundations of this country.

Leopold’s writing is nothing less than thought provoking. And that’s really saying something coming from me, as I am not someone who reads often, and I’ve certainly never read the same book three times. But A Sand County Almanac has stimulated my own mind so much that I actually decided to write my own book! For the last three to four months, I have reinvented my thoughts in writing The Sunflower.

JM1The Sunflower is an analogy for how I want to live my life, and also for the spiritual connection between humans and nature. I guess you could say I’m a transcendentalist.
But I am also a creature of control. My book is greatly inspired by Aldo Leopold and the idea of the diminishing wilderness in America today.

However, last weekend I was able to experience some of the remaining wilderness that Georgia has to offer. I would be remiss to divulge the location of my solidarity in nature. But I will say there is nothing like sitting up against an oak tree, miles from civilization, taking in the sounds of nature, and talking to the trees!

Waking up with the sun and the birds to the sound of dew on my tarp shelter made me wish I could stay forever. But I wondered if we went back to this way of living- as a society- would we still end up making wilderness go extinct?JM3

I think boredom is the biggest predator of wilderness. The human mind doesn’t like to sit still, and when it does, it quickly tries to find some way to be more productive. Boredom sparks ingenuity. After just 3 days in the wilderness, my mind was tired of doing nothing. I started to think of ways to make my shelter more effective, or more efficient for set up. I tried to think of what I could make by means of tools in order to carry more water from the stream back to camp. I started inventing things that this world has already invented. But there’s always something “better”. I think the only weapon against the predator of boredom is learning to sit still and simply enjoy the beauty of the prey: the wilderness. But then lies the question: is boredom a natural predator that needs regular population management, or more of an invasive species we want to eliminate completely?


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Unforeseen Opportunities – Calvin Ellis

Since I have been at Warnell I have had many, many opportunities. Some of these I expected, as I was told about them by previous undergrads, and some I never would’ve imagined. By far the most unexpected to me, would be the current internship I hold, University of Georgia’s R3 Coordinator.IMG_5812

The R3 Coordinator is a position offered through the Georgia Wildlife Federation and my duty is to recruit new outdoorsmen and women and introduce them to hunting. Growing up as an outdoorsman and hunting for as long as I can remember, an opportunity like this was something truly out of my dreams. We offer multiple learn-to-hunt programs throughout the year. Each program consists of a biology class about the species, a firearms training, the hunt itself, and then a dinner to allow the participants a chance to learn how to cook the game.

In just this first semester as the coordinator, I have already hosted two programs, a dove hunt and a squirrel hunt. Just these two programs have given me opportunities to impact multiple people. In fact, other ambassadors have participated in the program.

On the first program, the dove hunt, I had the chance to take out 13 hunters, including Kentrell Richardson, a fellow ambassador. Throughout the program he was constantly coming to me and expressing his excitement. After the hunt, he came up and was asking what items he would need to purchase to be able to do this on his own, or with his father. Moments like that, watching him have a new hobby to bond with his family, is exactly why I signed up for this job.IMG_4964

Miranda Hopper was another student I had the chance to take out on the dove hunt. She sat with me during the hunt and we had a chance to talk about her background. Coming into the hunt, she had never shot a shotgun and ended up getting a dove! She was ecstatic, and so was I.  Throughout the hunt she kept talking about how much fun she was having, and how now she would be able to hunt with her brother. Another one! I was able to provide another person with family bonding opportunities. Providing someone a chance to make memories that last a lifetime is truly an irreplaceable feeling.

IMG_5618On my second program, the squirrel hunt, Erika Noriega was one of my participants. Again, a person who had never shot a gun was participating in my program. She came up nervous as all get out during the shotgun training. After walking her through the basics of operating the firearm, I set up some targets for her. 3 shots and 3 busted targets later, she was giggling like a fool. I couldn’t believe the happiness she was radiating. Even after an unsuccessful squirrel hunt a few days later, she still was as happy as could be. This made the unsuccessful hunt a successful one in my opinion!

Coming to Warnell, I would’ve never guessed I would be doing this for a job. I truly couldn’t be more thankful for this opportunity.

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Pura Vida, Costa Rica – Peyton Niebanck

This past summer I decided to go not on 1 but 2 study abroad trips. My first was to PB1Australia and New Zealand as part of UGA’s Discover Abroad program for the Maymester and the other was to Costa Rica in June. Having the opportunity to travel and visit new countries with different lifestyles is something I deeply value. Being able to personally connect with a variety of people any place you go is a key skill to have out in the working industry (networking), being able to effectively communicate, share ideas, and making friends. Within the natural resources field working with animals, it’s not just about the animals; it’s also about the people you meet and collaborate with. During my time in all three countries I visited, I met so many passionate individuals who wanted the best for their conservation efforts. Either working with Kiwis from New Zealand, sea turtles in Australia, or monkeys in Costa Rica, all had to make a joint effort in raising awareness for the species by drawing more audiences’ attention in as to why people should care and working with a handful of other animal activists to reinforce the ecological importance that animal provides.

I deeply loved and left some pieces of me back in Australia and New Zealand for when I visit next time. But on to my next adventure, Pura Vida! Once finally getting back to the US, I just had 6 days in between before I was off again. At least Costa Rica was only a 3hr flight (compared to my 15hr flight Down Under), that’s easy-peasy. Our first stop was Santa Ana, just on the outskirts of San Jose, where our first week we volunteered and did some basic veterinary practices on the rescued animals of the Refugio Animal de Costa Rica. Having the chance to interact with every animal taxonomic group was in incredible PB4experience. We anesthetized, gave physical examinations, drew blood, and monitored respiratory rate and temperature of a sloth, parrot, parakeet, margay, turtles, snakes, kinkajou, crocodile, iguana, spectacled owl, capuchin monkey, and more just to name a few. Every day, we walked up a giant hill from our hotel to the Refugio while we were in Santa Ana, getting that morning cardio in and stayed at the refuge until about 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon. After Santa Ana, we went to Quepos on the Pacific side of the country where we took a tour of the Manuel Antonio National Park presenting on different animal species and their ecological role and going on night hikes to spot as many native wildlife as we could. Being in the tropics and seeing so much biodiversity, at the end of the trip we also had a plant practical, conduct a research project, and a final for all the veterinary practices we did as well as discussing Costa Rica’s conservation and ecotourism issues.

Next, after Quepos we went to Tirimbina Ecological Reserve where it’s primary use is for research, education, and conservation and preservation of the rainforest. Here we split into smaller groups for our own research projects. My research project I worked with 2 other amazing colleagues of mine where we tried to find the relationship between leech load and parasitemia of fresh-water turtles. This project was undoubtedly, the most labor intensive, a-day-in-the-life of a research, kind of research I have ever done. I had to get used to sweating through my clothes every day, walking, trampling, and macheting through thickets of vegetation, wading in the mud and murky waters, applying both layers of bug spray and sunscreen, watching where I put my hand (so many leaf cutter ants and bullet ants). Additionally, not to mention my team and I (Turtle Team) had to hand-make all our turtle traps using only chicken wire and zip-ties. We then set them out in the middle of the rainforest, going back out 2-3x per day to check all the traps, and bringing the turtles back to our research room to perform a physical evaluation, get all the leeches off and count from every turtle caught, draw blood from, perform blood tests, and then had to release them from the same location we caught them from. It was such a cool, life-impacting project, as a senior in my final year, I am trying to see what I can do with all the data we have to potentially publish it.PB3

Finally after Tirimbina, our last stop was Monteverde where the UGA Costa Rica campus once was (now replaced, sadness). Here we finished our projects, went to coffee plantations learning about the sustainability of coffee, more hikes through the rainforest and going to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest where we spent the weekend in a hostel and hiked down and back up a huge mud and gravel road. Along the way, interacting with the locals and having them share their culture with us is something I’ll always treasure. Their “Pura Vida” state-of-mind is truly an expression they use not just on their tourist souvenirs, but also a standard phrase when communicating. I learned that Pura Vida (remember to roll your “r’s” to get the authenticity) has 3 meanings: 1) used as a greeting, 2) is just a general expression to say, and 3) a peaceful, or pure, life.

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The Savannah River Ecology Lab – Kayla Claiborne

How does trapping in the woods with the blistering South Carolina sun sound to you? Need more convincing? How about working with coyotes, raccoons, and boars to name a few? Well, if you’re in Warnell, this might seem like a promising prospect. This past summer, I took a Maymester course (Field and Molecular Techniques) taught by Dr. Jim Beasley and Dr. Dharmarajan.   It’s amazing if you’re looking for a good introduction to working with wildlife. Before transferring to UGA last spring, I only had domestic equine related experience and was worried about how I would be able to transition to a wildlife major. Luckily, this class was an easy and perfect segue.

To give you an idea of how the month of may was spent, here’s a brief overview: Every morning, I woke up from a dead sleep to the sounds of various birds and herps chirping, clicking, and every other onomatopoeia you could think of. I’d get ready and drive, often munching on a Poptart for breakfast, to the Savannah Ecology River site where I’d spend the entire day (usually half inside and half outside) learning both relevant molecular processes as well as field techniques such as chemical immobilization and handling.sow

If you’re like me, you bring extra snacks in your bag to replenish all the energy you exerted while setting up traps. But what kind of traps will you spend your time setting? In my case, we made a lot of box traps to catch raccoons, possums, squirrels and even a rat. We learned the proper way to set up foot traps for coyotes and spent a day or two setting and checking those as well.

Some people thoroughly enjoyed the lab portion a little more than they did the fieldwork. I, however; was the opposite. While I admit it was extremely intriguing to dissect a mosquito and synthesize it’s DNA, I much rather preferred helping to anesthetize piglets and a sow before collecting tissue and blood samples.dipnetting

There are so many wonderful things about this class that I know you wouldn’t regret taking it. For someone who had no previous wildlife experience, it was an absolutely engaging way to start the beginning of my Warnellian journey. And even if you have wildlife experience, you might not get the chance to work with such a diverse group of people and animals all while learning more about the world around you. I was able to watch the red-cockaded woodpecker banding process, as well as hold a chick. I got to anesthetize a piglet, view a pregnant possum and see inside her pouch, go dip netting with cottonmouths, process a coyote and various other animals, and see the infamous Stumpy and radioactive alligator. I also learned how to shoot dart guns, set up scent stations, and use telemetry devices. These are things I’d never imagined being able to do so soon in my academic career. It’s such an amazing way to make friends and connections that’ll last a lifetime.

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Warnell Dawgs Take on Reno – Jack Buban

IMG_6769From September 29th to October 3rd the Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society was fortunate enough to send multiple members to the National Wildlife Society Conference in Reno, Nevada. This was made possible by a generous donation from Dean Greene to aid in the expenses that come with traveling cross country. For students this was an awesome opportunity to see some of the ground breaking research being done around the country as well as network for possible future careers or graduate schools.

The first night after arriving we attended a networking and the scope of the conference was revealed to us. There were an estimated 5,000 people at the conference and mingling was made easy by the sheer number of people. The main theme of the conference was inclusion, as speakers touched on topics such as cooperation between Native American tribes and federal agencies in regards to fresh water stream management in Utah and Montana. Fish and wildlife don’t stop at arbitrary borders so this cooperation between agencies is crucial to management. A highlight of the national conference every year is the Quiz Bowl competition. Warnell has a long history of success under Dr. Castleberry and this year was no different. The team of Alexandria Hiott, Kevin Hutcheson, Joseph Brown and Ryan Darsey worked through a nation’s worth of teams to claim 2nd place in the country.

IMG_6770On Tuesday night students were given the opportunity to speak with professionals in their field of study, whether it be focused on federal work, state work or academia. This provided an incredible chance for students to see what it takes to get where they want to be and make the connections that can help. The following night a Warnell Alumni Reception was held where faculty and students from years past could reunite and catch up on new work and old stories.

The Wildlife Society was fortunate enough to have been able to send members
to the national conference this year. It helped students see what their future could hold
and this wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Dean Dale Greene. The
Wildlife Society and its members know that the experience gained in Reno will be
brought back to Athens to help not only individuals but our entire student chapter.


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In the Shadow of Scientists – Chloe-Marie Westhafer

Humor me for a moment. I’m going to give you a word and I want you to take note of the first person or thing that comes to mind.


Surely, I am not the only one who first thinks of Albert Einstein, or Marie Curie, or my personal favorite Jane Goodall. We all recognize famous individuals such as these who have molded the popular perception of ‘scientist’, but what is the cut-and-dry definition of the word? A quick google search would tell you a scientist is “a person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences.” Well, that makes plenty of sense, but then how do we define “studying” or “expert knowledge”?  At the end of the day, I know for a fact that I, a twenty-year-old college student who dreaded every moment of freshman chemistry, am not a scientist.

Or at least that’s how I felt for the beginning half of my college career. This past summer, before beginning my Junior year in the Wildlife Sciences program at Warnell, I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime that completely changed my views of research, science and even myself. At the beginning of August, I spent 17 days in beautiful South Africa for a Wildlife and Veterinary course offered through Texas Tech. The goal of the trip was to complete an engineering experiment focused on human-elephant conflict and an elephant olfaction experiment.

We began working on the engineering project, by finding and measuring hoof tracks and step sizes for multiple species of African bovine, giraffes and elephants. Having already taken Field Measurements and Wildlife Techniques—shoutout to Dr. Bettinger and Dr. Chamberlain for being amazing professors—measuring, recording, and analyzing this data came naturally to me. It wasn’t until we started planning and constructing prototypes that I realized we were creating something that could not only protect villages from elephants but could also help other species populations by keeping elephants out of watering holes, which they tend to turn into useless mud pits. Though the triangular pyramids we that constructed and arranged were not successful at stopping our ellies, we were able to come up with more ideas that could potentially lead to a successful prototype, which the engineers who led the project are still working on.

Our other major experiment looked at elephants’ incredible sense of smell. Reality set in for me when I asked Dr. Nathaniel Hall of Texas Tech what the prior literature had suggested and what we should expect from our data, to which his response was that there was no literature on the subject our goal was to change that. Dr. Hall had created a device that would measure the amount of air elephants pull into their trunks with and without inserting fruit smells. This experiment went so well that we not only got beautiful data, we also completed our trials early enough to design and execute two additional experiments that tested elephant behavior. The purpose of these experiments was to determine if elephants would recognize and respond to a human pointing, and to determine if elephants recognized and responded to a human facing them rather than facing away from them. All three of these studies are in the process of being written up and peer-reviewed so that they may be published in the near future. Chloe PicThrough these experiments I learned so much, not just about elephant olfaction, behavior and wildlife conflicts, but also about what research truly is. I gained an incredible amount of confidence in myself and in the meaningfulness of the knowledge with which Warnell has equipped me, and now consider myself to be what I never thought I could become, a scientist.

Being a scientist, I now know, does not depend on your past accomplishments. Will this experience get my name on Galileo? No. But the project still rewarded my time and efforts and allowed me to contribute to the scientific community. In the future, I plan on returning to South Africa to conduct many more human-wildlife conflict studies and would love to combine my education in wildlife science and landscape architecture to create a way for humans and wildlife to live harmoniously and sustainably in natural environments. And hopefully some of that work will get published. Not just so I will have my name on Galileo (even though that will be extremely exciting if we’re being honest), or even so that I might be in seventh-grade biology textbooks like Einstein (because my hair is definitely not fabulous enough for that), but instead so that I can make a difference in wildlife biology and change the world.  When it comes down to it, the most important part of being a scientist is not the recognition you earn but the difference you make.

Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.” -Jane Goodall

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Unexpected Discoveries – Lauren Van Rysselberge

I’m a firm believer that the best things come when you least expect it, especially after I experienced it first-hand this summer. A month before their planned departure I decided to take a very last-minute month-long study abroad to Costa Rica. Usually, you go through a lengthy application process that involves interview along with several info-sessions, but not for me. I jumped at the opportunity when an email came through my inbox asking if there was anyone interested going on a study abroad in a few months. Once I contacted Dr. Hernandez, my amazing professor that led us through the entire month (I swear she never gets tired), everything started happening so quickly. I needed my passport updated, had to buy plane tickets, appropriate gear for being in 11 different life zones, and so much more! What I had planned to be a chill summer turned into a whirlwind of planning and excitement!

Prior to this trip, I had been saying that my dream career would be to travel all over the world gathering data of different regions and doing lots of different research, but I thought that it was just a dream and that it would be so rare to ever be able to experience something close to that. After this whole experience, I whole-heartedly believe that this study abroad was a way of waking me up and reminding me that if this is what I really love to do, I should go for it. Before even getting on the plane, I knew I was making the right decision and that this experience would be more beneficial to me than anything I could ever have done that summer.Lauren Pic

I was very right and after coming back and decompressing from the trip, I discovered an entirely different interest I never would have thought I would love. I realized how much I thrive when being out of my comfort zone and to soak up being able to experience something for the first time again in different countries. I was reminded how much I love I have, not only for Warnell, but for UGA entirely. From this trip I have learned to jump at every opportunity that comes your way, and for that Costa Rica will forever have a huge place in my heart.