Written by: Tessaliz Quiles Delgado
Primary Source: Human+Nature, 5/31/2019.
In wildlife biology research comes bundled with high amounts of unpredictability courtesy of the field, including roaring mountain lions, forest fires, and even bear attacks! This does not however, hinder the desire to continue enjoying the opportunity to explore and discover what nature has given us.
I kicked off the fieldwork of my master’s research “Fine scale habitat use by flying squirrels and dusky-footed woodrats” in northern California. Woodrats and flying squirrels are important prey for California spotted owls, a threatened species. We are interested in fine scale habitat features like individual tree species and dead trees. Understanding the importance of habitat features will allow us to incorporate them into land and resource management decisions.
The goal of the project is to describe habitat use of Humboldt’s flying squirrels and dusky-footed wood rats in the Sierra Nevada. The objectives for this project: describe fine-scale forest vegetation structure and composition at sites where flying squirrels and dusky-footed woodrats are found and determine how these forest structures vary across an elevation gradient. This sounds very systematic and scientific, but reality, not so much.
At the beginning (early summer 2018), I was not able to capture any of my target animals. I spent those months changing the bait multiple times. By crossing the veterinary literature, I learned that a veterinarian recommended vanilla extract to calm pet flying squirrels during laboratory examinations. I proceeded to use this as a part of my bait, I started capturing flying squirrels and dusky-woodrats.
Over the course of my summer and fall I survived to multiple encounter of wild animals and the fury of nature. I was chased by a black bear, I was stung by wasps’ multiple times and evacuated during the Camp Fire which burned part of my study area. I can truly say that I survive my first fieldwork. This experience taught me to value moments and never give up and to stand firm to be an example for other women and young people in the field of science.