WYldlife Encounters (Lander, WY)

When I learned my placement would be in Wyoming, my first thought was “Wow! The birds are going to be so different”.  What I didn’t think about was that almost everything would be different. Coming from the tallgrass prairie in Iowa, where I completed my undergraduate degree, I was in for a big change. When I first arrived, I was a little overwhelmed by my inadequacies in identifying the plants and my unfamiliarity with the birds of the area. The overlap in wildlife between Iowa and Wyoming was greater, but being in a new ecosystem has really been stretching my knowledge. While I am a wildlife biology intern, I spend a lot of time identifying forbs, grasses, and trees. Going from Iowa, where I was capable of identifying most plants in my research site at the species level, to Wyoming, where I was only able to identify plant families opened up a whole new area of learning. Keying plants and making lists of genus and species characteristics, I am working my way to familiarity with new organisms.

The new wildlife has been easier to learn. It’s hard to forget such charismatic animals such as black bears, foxes, sage grouse, elk, and antelope.  In my short time here so far, I have been greeted with many familiar wildlife species. Hairy woodpeckers followed me and my field partner through the woods one day, my lawn is home to a small gang of rabbits, and today I saw a badger.  When I learned I would be starting a new project doing amphibian surveys, I got the chance to interact again with some other familiar friends – Tiger Salamanders, Leopard Frogs, and lots of macroinvertebrates. The amphibian survey consisted of walking through the marsh with an 8 foot net, digging through mud, and looking for evidence of amphibian reproduction.  Pictured above I introduce to you a slightly dead elk found in the woods, a tiger salamander larva, and myself, during an amphibian hunt. Hopefully, as the wildlife biology intern, there will be more wildlife encounters to come!

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