Champlain Valley Carnivore Project, Burlington, VT
- By Rubenstein School
Every single week I did three things: field work, data entry, and blogging. The most exciting was definitely the field work. Each Tuesday, I loaded up the Rubenstein truck with around six chicken carcasses, smelly lure, excitement and much more to get the job done. Then I would put the keys in the ignition and drive about an hour to my designated destination. After a bit of hiking, at each site, I would turn off the infared motion sensing camera, insert the new data card, nail and tie fresh chicken to the tree, hastily open the bottle of lure and place some on the tree and then clean up any mess I made. Then it was off to the next destination where I repeated the same things. Each data card held photos of animals passing through from the past three weeks.
Data collection was definitely a less exciting job. Every week for about three hours, I sat in Bailey Howe library running through many pictures from camera one through eight. For every photo with a creature, I logged the species, the number of animals, the date, time, temperature, moonphase and any interesting information. Some cameras had about 400 pictures per check; some checks only had 30 pictures. It was always exciting when I saw a new species or if there was a funny picture. The last aspect was the blog. I tried to blog about my experiences every week, but I also did a large blog entry at the end summing up my experience.
I definitely learned a lot from this experience. I learned a lot of technical skills like how to use a GPS, the correct way to operate a infrared camera and excel techniques. Yet, I also learned a lot of awesome information about Vermont wildlife, Vermont and about state parks. There are so many different species of mammals and birds in Vermont and it was definitely a huge learning experience to be able to sneak a peak into their lives. I also drove a lot, which meant I drove through a lot of small Vermont towns. On the way back, I would sometimes stop in a town to grab something to eat. For example, I had the best homemade chocolate at a little gas station in Addision. I also went to a large variety of state parks and wildlife refugees. The state manages some beautiful lands with a plethora of beauty. Dead Creek was definitely my favorite. One night, while heading to the camera, the snow geese had stopped off on their migration. It was absolutely stunning, and I am so happy this internship allowed me to have that experience.
Doing an internship on top of schoolwork was hard. It was difficult to manage my time and my work. I would definitely recommend for others to say on top of their work, for the internship and for other classes. I knew that when I made the commitment it would take up a lot of my time and energy, but I really wanted to get involved. It is important to know what you are getting yourself into and to be prepared.
This internship was very odd in the fact that I did not interact with humans except during out bimonthly meetings. Also, I did all of the work by myself. When originally brainstorming on multiculturalism in my internship, I thought, “How is this even possible, I didn’t talk or interact with people.” But then I realized that I drove all over the Champlain Valley and saw various towns, parks, living styles and more. I started to skim the surface of recognizing the some of different cultures in Vermont.
One of the most prolific cultures in Vermont is that of farming. Farming is a huge part of Vermont’s history and even though farms in the state are decreasing, it is still an incredibly respected culture in Vermont. It is easy to group farms together into one category, but driving around the Champlain Valley, I saw so many different types. Horse farms, dairy farms, produce farms, abandoned farms and more are scattered across the landscape. It was a little ironic that I saw so many farms, because I feel that agriculture sometimes can get in conflict with wildlife and wildlife management.
Another Vermont culture that I witnessed and had to be aware of was hunting culture. Most of my fieldwork occurred during the hunting season. I had to be aware; I worked in red or orange every time I went out. Hunting is not something I grew up with or was ever exposed to. Until I came to Vermont, I had a very negative look at hunting and the culture. Coming to Vermont definitely opened my eyes and allowed me to have a less blinded view of hunting. It is definitely a culture of its own in Vermont and it is important to try to understand it. Along with being aware of possible hunters around me, I also drove by many hunters who had set up camp in some of the wildlife refuges or state parks. Even though I have been in Vermont for three years now, it still shocks me when I see someone walking around with a rifle. This culture is an interesting one and I would love to learn more about it. Gaining a little exposure to hunters and the culture is important especially if I got into wildlife management in the future.
Another visible difference I noticed while driving was the difference in towns. Certain ones were clearly better off than others. The feeling from driving through Middlebury was completely different than Monkton or through Addison. It was a clearly more affluent community than many of the other towns I drove through. It is interesting to see this type of change because it can happen so drastically. I loved driving through the different towns. Every one had a different feel. Growing up in a city, I never got a comforting and calming feeling from my surroundings. I love the hustle and bustle of the cars and the people, but it is not at all relaxing. Vermont towns have the ability to ground you and unwind . Also, the people I have encountered are welcoming and kind.
I have spent all my summers in Vermont, but in one area. This internship allowed me to explore so other regions of the state. Even though Vermont is not seemingly very diverse, there are actually a large variety of cultures in the state. My explorations, through driving and hiking, helped me realize this fact.