Hello, everyone! A little information about myself: my name is Kelsey Whitaker, and I am a recent graduate from the Wildlife Biology program at the University of Montana. I grew up in San Diego, and I think I have always known that I would work in conservation biology in one way or another. Besides desperately wanting to be a trash truck driver when I was three years old, I don’t remember ever wanting anything else.
I’m spending my summer as the head of the hummingbird climate change study at Capulin Volcano National Monument, a tiny unit of the National Park system in northeast New Mexico. The job description stated that I would be working at our hummingbird banding station and educating guests on the importance of birds as local pollinators – a perfect gig for someone who loves birds, research, and public outreach. What I didn’t expect was the amount of flexibility and side projects the job would offer! Right now I’m working to create two bird guides for the park: a complete one for rangers to use to become familiar with all our local species, and a smaller one for guests to flip through in the visitor’s center. I also work in the greenhouse where we grow native species, and in the coming weeks I’ll be helping plant a native pollinator garden. It really is a fantastic opportunity for personal growth and creativity, along with the hands-on bird banding and education experience I came here for.
I’ll continue to update as the weeks here progress. Until then, feel free to stop by the park if you’re in the area! Come on a Friday, and I’ll let you release a newly-banded hummingbird from the palm of your hand.