As I mentioned a bit ago, I got a summer internship at the Arizona Game and Fish Department. I was lucky enough to be one of the 50 hires for this paid, full time position. My internship will be split between the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Safari Club International headquarters. My job descriptions (respectfully) are as follows:
“Intern will assist in tracking Gould’s turkeys in Southeastern AZ (Huachuca and Chiricahua Mountains) via on the ground telemetry and fixed-wing telemetry flights. The intern will also gather data on nest sites, mortalities, and map roost trees. Will collect turkey observations. Intern may be required to camp out for several days at a time to gather data. Bi-weekly reports will be written to inform AGFD and NWTF of progress. May also analyze and/or input data in the office. Work schedule is flexible; weekend work will likely occur. Intern may work with non-profit organizations and other volunteers while collecting data. Other duties may be assigned pertaining to turkey research or other game management at the supervisor’s discretion.”
“This intern will be a split position with Safari Club International (SCI) in Tucson, AZ. The intern will work about 40 hrs/month for SCI assisting with the implementation of International Wildlife Museum and Conservation Education Center programs and exhibits. Incumbent will learn and deliver conservation education programs to the public. This will include assisting in delivery of the Summer Conservation Science Adventures Youth Program and give guided tours on such topics as habitat, predator-prey relationships and other wildlife conservation concepts. AGFD duties will include similar outreach events as well as different program work including Terrestrial Wildlife, Fisheries, and Habitat. Job duties may include but are not limited to assisting on wildlife surveys, conducting turkey telemetry and gathering nesting data, collecting creel data, measuring vegetation, answering nuisance wildlife calls, assisting on habitat improvement projects, hauling water to wildlife water catchments, performing basic maintenance on catchments such as trimming brush and skimming algae. The intern may also be tasked with analyzing turkey and/or bighorn sheep habitat at the discretion of the supervisor. Other duties may be assigned as needed. This intern may work in the heat for long hours and may camp while conducting surveys or collecting data. A physical is not required and housing can be provided if necessary. This internship may be extended an additional three months into the fall pending candidate performance.”
First, all the interns were expected to attend a week-long orientation at headquarters in “Phoenix.” I use quotes because it was actually about 40 minutes from central Phoenix, making my commute nearly an hour. Despite the long commute and hot days, orientation week went well:
Day 1: This was the general orientation for all interns where we were briefed on basic survival training, radio etiquette, department regulations and more. It was basically just “death by PowerPoint” all day. On the bright side, I got to meet the other intern that I will be working with, Alex, and he seems nice!
Day 2: We had a brief lesson on ATV operation, repair and loading.
Day 3: We had a brief lesson border safety, which was especially important for Alex and I as we will be working closest to the border of all the interns.
Day 4: We had a half-day lesson on ATV riding, which was really fun! I was dreading it at first because we had to be covered head to toe in safety gear, but we were blessed with mild weather that day.
Day 5: We had a brief lesson on how to pull trailers in trucks.
Day 6: The last day was 4×4 driving, where we learned how to navigate obstacles, change a truck tire, brake, swerve and more.
After my trip to the United Kingdom, I started properly! Here is how my first week went:
Monday: First, I went to the International Wildlife Museum where we did an afternoon of outreaches. Our outreaches are targeted for kids and this particular outing, we wanted to get the kids excited about coming to the museum on a field trip with their Boy’s and Girl’s Club. We presented some artifacts as well as live animals including cockroaches, turtles and a snake. For the first day, I just took everything in and held the snake (a Desert King Snake) to take around for the kids to touch. We visited three Boy’s and Girl’s Club locations and the kids were all relatively well-behaved! After that, I went to the Game and Fish Office (minutes from the museum) to get oriented with the office.
Tuesday: I went to the Game and Fish office, where I spent most of the day organizing files. However, we did set a hawk chick free back to its mother’s territory.
Wednesday: In the morning, I did another outing with the museum. This one was to a child’s day care and we just used the reptiles in this instance. Again, I just listened to the talk that was given and went around with the live animals for the kids to touch. At the Game and Fish office, I sorted more files and animal tags, took phone calls (most of which were about nuisance animals) and reviewed what I will be doing for the rest of the week.
Thursday: First thing in the morning, I fixed some bird traps. Then, I had to sort out tags that got lost in the mail by hand-delivering new tags to the recipient and consulting with the post office about what to do. After sorting maps for a little while, I was recruited to help fill a water catchment. Catchments are areas that catch water after rainfall or natural drainage, this particular one was man-made. However, it was dried up and there are no other sources of water nearby, so the animals count on us to fill it. From the office, we (myself and a game ranger Brian to show me the ropes) went to fill the water tank, then headed to the site which was about an hour and a half away. Once we got there, we filled the catchment and did some light maintenance. After we were done, Brain drove us around the area, Madera Canyon, to see some animals. We spotted twelve turkeys and six white-tailed deer, it was awesome! That was quite a long and physically demanding day.
Friday: In the morning, I finished fixing the bird traps, started cleaning out the freezers of small, outdated animal bodies we no longer need and continued to organize the maps.
Saturday: This weekend, there was a Kid’s Fest downtown where the department had a booth. At the booth, we had a mountain lion bust and kinetic sand the kids could make all kinds of animal tracks in with molds we provided. It was a good time and the kids were well behaved!
Sunday: I worked Kid’s Fest again, but this time I flew solo for a few hours.
Monday: This was my first day in the field. While my boss’s other intern, Alex, and another guy called Nate are almost always out in the field, so they thought it would be useful to have me out with them. Alex and I drove to Sonoita, which is about an hour away from the office, in my work truck where we met up with Nate. Then, Alex and I drove even further to Patagonia and into the mountains while Nate finished some brood surveys. After driving about 30 minute into the mountains, we reached our survey site. We surveyed vegetation near turkey nests and were joined by Nate after the first set of surveys, which made it go a lot faster. Regardless, it was still a long day, meeting at the office at 4:30AM and not returning until 7:30PM. Even better, we got rained on, hailed on and faced temperatures of over 100 degrees while hiking through ditches and valleys. Needless to say, I was exhausted but it was a good experience. I look forward to the next field day!