In my own words: Jazmyn Bernard details her summer avian experience
In summer 2018, I was given the opportunity to serve as an avian research intern at Joint Base San Antonio–Camp Bullis in San Antonio, Texas. My role was to assist Dr. Ashley M. Long, assistant professor in the School of Renewable Natural Resource, with her research on golden-cheeked warblers. Long developed her research in collaboration with staff at Texas A&M University and Camp Bullis.
The objectives of her project are to establish a long-term banding program on the base and to examine density, habitat use and reproductive success of the warbler in relation to various vegetation characteristics.
A typical day working at Camp Bullis included mapping the locations of multiple warbler territories. I would go to five or six different territories that were assigned to me. I had to use GPS points recorded during the last sighting of the bird to assist with relocating the target individual.
Taking the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) class offered at LSU was a big help for knowing how to use a GPS to make new points. Taking this course allowed me to be more familiar with the ArcGIS software used to organize our data.
To find a bird, I had to listen for the warbler’s song or call. Due to my experiences in RNR 3018 Louisiana Wildlife, I was able to tell the difference in the many calls that I was hearing at the same time.
Once I found my target bird, I would create new points on the GPS for the next time we needed to find the warbler.
The hardest part about mapping for me was identifying the color combination for the bands located on the bird’s legs. The four-color bands were placed on the birds to help us identify each bird over the course of the season.
By the end of the internship, I became experienced in how to use mist nests and how to follow the procedures to band birds.
We also got the opportunity to search for and band the black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla; vireo hereafter). I found vireos harder to work with because they are a lot more mobile and warblers typically stay still during band resights.
Overall, my internship taught me how to manage my time, how to work independently, and what it is like to be a field biologist.
I had to find and observe five to six adult males birds (some having fledglings or adult females with them), walk from territory to territory, all while finishing in five to six hours.
At first this was extremely hard for me because I had never experienced hiking through thick wooded areas before. As time went by I got better at walking through the area, and I learned the best way to manage my time for each territory.
I gained experience in what it is like to work in the field including dealing with interferences like bad weather, heat, bugs, and loud sounds from artillery fire or cicadas, which can drown out the sound of the bird’s call.
I will use what I’ve learned during this internship for future employment opportunities.