Whisper - Volume 7 - June 2019

Volume 7Dear Friends,

We are delighted to announce that we have a new website and we are keen to share our many highlights since our last issue.

Congratulations to all our graduating seniors - hopefully we'll see you at commencement June 16th.

Please take a moment to scroll through our quarterly newsletter highlighting the Department of Wildlife, Fish & Conservation Biology.
Keep in touch by following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, send us an email, or drop by one of our department seminars. You are always welcome.

Nann Fangue and Pernille Sporon Bøving

Tracking Change In Greenland and Adapting To Change in Central America.

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Dr Ethan Mora Dr. Ethan Mora recently passed after a long battle with cancer on May 22, 2019.  Born October 12, 1977 in southern California. Ethan went on to attend the University of California, Santa Cruz and later graduate school at the University of California, Davis.  While working on his Ph.D in the department of Wildlife, Fish, and  Conservation Biology as a member of the Biotelemetry Lab, Ethan was diagnosed.  Both of these facts are a testament to Ethans’s vigor for life and science as he continued his work throughout his long treatment.  Despite the ups and downs, Ethan made monumental improvements in our understanding of Green Sturgeon biology and population dynamics.  A species that little was known about prior to begining his work.  As a scientist, Ethan excelled.  As a person, he could not have been better.  Ethan brought to every project, meeting, and discussion, a mature and measured approach to finding solutions.  He was known for his infectious positivity, great humor, and an ability to make anyone he spoke with feel as if they had something to add to the conversation.  A true gentlemen, and a man of science whom we will miss dearly but not forget. Our condolences go out to Ethan’s wife, family, and friends. Counting Fish - the movie trailer by Ethan.

Alexandra McInturf, Ph.D. student

Congratulations to Alexandra McInturf, Ph.D. student in Animal Behavior and Conservation for being awarded the 2019-20 ARCS Anniversary Scholar Award.
"The ARCS Foundation provides scholarships to outstanding academic students in science, medicine, and engineering, thereby contributing to the worldwide advancement of science and technology.

Congratulations to Aviv Karasov-Olson for being awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher award. She was nominated for her teaching assistant in the WFCB Mammalogy course.

Congratulations to Lynette Williams for being awarded the Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology Outstanding Senior Award.  
Lynnette has been an Undergraduate Research Assistant with the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology for four years and is a leader in the WFCB major and museum, mentoring students in the lab, field and classroom, all while maintaining a high performance in her classes.

Horodas Family Foundation for Conservation Research. 

Congratulations to our very first recipients of the new WFCB graduate student fellowship. We are grateful for the Horodas Family Foundation for Conservation Research - which funds WFCB graduate student research projects focused on the conservation of biodiversity or ecosystem services.
Three awards were granted. Congratulations to
Daniel Rocha, Ph.D student in the Sollmann lab working on Predicting Human-carnivore conflict risk in the southern Brazilian Amazon: a first step towards coexistence.  
Ken Zillig, Ph.D student in the Fangue lab working on Investigating the effect of increasing temperature on predation of juvenile salmonids.
Leila Harris Ph.D student in the Kelt lab working on Pesticides and predators: contamination of bats in agricultural ecosystem.

Forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press.


The taxonomy of recent mammals has lately undergone tremendous revision, but it has been almost four decades since the last update to Timothy E. Lawlor’s acclaimed identification guide the Handbook to the Orders and Families of Living Mammals. Integrating the latest advances in research, Douglas A. Kelt and James L. Patton provide this long-overdue update in their new, wholly original work, A Manual of the Mammalia. Read more.

Passing It Forward - Grad students runs session on Biological Consulting as a career path Q and A for Undergraduates.

Aviva Rossi and Leila Harris are both PhD students, and both worked outside of academia for 10+ years prior returning for graduate school. Over the course of our careers we worked for a combination of private, non-profit, and government organizations. Those experiences inform both our research perspective, and our ability to provide guidance to those students who are interested in non-academic careers. We both work as Teaching Assistants, and the students we teach will often ask us about our experience in our previous work. A majority of undergraduate students do not plan to go into academia, and the faculty often don't have experience working outside of academia, therefore faculty will also occasionally direct students to us who have questions about these career paths. We have both benefited from mentors throughout our career, and we are happy to pass that mentorship forward and provide advice for students. Aviva has also worked as a mentor with the UC Davis Career Discovery Group for 5 years, so she provides additional information about career theory and UC Davis career resources. Career queries do tend to increase in frequency as graduation nears, so we held a combined Q&A session towards the end of Spring term. This session was focused on teaching students about consulting as a career path.

Lynette WilliamsA Students Perspective - Spotlight on a WFCB Major

Lynette Williams, Class of 2019

Describe your job/internship with or via the WFCB department and who are you working with? What has been your “take away” from being part of the project?
I have worked at the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology (MWFB) since arriving at Davis as a freshman in 2015. I have been figuratively “under the wing” (pun intended), of Andy and Irene Engilis, the curator and collections manager of the MWFB respectively. I work mostly in specimen preparation with an emphasis on avian study skin preps. This involves documenting morphological measurements, life history traits, and location for voucher bird specimens that we receive from a variety of sources at the museum. I then skin the bird, clean the skin as needed, take genetic data, and ultimately stuff it with either cotton or fine wood shavings. The trick is stuffing it in such a way that accurately shows off the morphological features that are key in identifying it to species.

The museum also has provided me with a huge multitude of field opportunities. The MWFB has been conducting a complete avian survey of the Sacramento Valley for the past couple of years and I have been very active in that. I have learned mist-netting, transect and point sampling, small mammal trapping, recorder set-up, and field preparation. One of the most pronounced lessons that I have learned through the museum is that museum collections are an invaluable resource to training the next generation of field biologists. Museum collections provide an irreplaceable resource for documenting life on earth at any given point in time, and will continue to aid researchers in all disciplines for years to come. I feel extremely fortunate that I have received such a wholistic and comprehensive training in a field that will continue to document and shed new light on life as we know it.

Please tell us one of your “aha” and your “wow” moments as a WFCB student.
My biggest wow moment was probably in the Fall of my freshman year when I got my first museum specimen assignment. I was given the formidable task of cleaning a polar bear skeleton from an animal that had died at the San Francisco Zoo a few months prior. For a student straight out of high school who had never thought they would have an opportunity to clean the bones of one of the largest predators on the continent, the experience was thrilling to say the least. It was compounded by the fact that the San Francisco Zoo was the zoo I grew up going to with my family. The fact that I was now in a real museum prep lab cleaning the skeleton of an animal I had probably seen a dozen times in life without ever thinking I’d be in such a position was really incredible.

I’d like to share one more “wow” moment which was in WFC 111 (which I would encourage everyone to take!) when John Eadie introduced us to the Hoatzin, which is easily one of the coolest animals on the planet. 

If you had a line of advice for current WFCB students, what would it be?
I would say that a lot of people come into the major very starry eyed (myself included), and have a difficult time adjusting to the reality that in the field animals will die and sometimes are sacrificed for scientific purposes. My advice would be to try and understand that sacrifices are a part of the field and try to see the greater goods and purposes that an animal can serve once it has been sacrificed. Instead of seeing a museum specimen and thinking ‘this is so sad’ try to think ‘this one animal has made it so that I can learn about the species as a whole to try to conserve it better!’.

What would be your dream job after you graduate?

I know that I would like to work in a museum or somewhere with a small collection so that I can continue prepping and use the skills that I have mastered as an undergrad. I also know that I want to be outside as much as I can and key in on and conserve vital habitats for avian species. I can see myself being happy doing a multitude of things, but I know for certain that I want to continue contributing to museum collecting and work in habitat conservation – perhaps centered around wetlands!

Amy CollinsTaking It To The Next Level - Spotlight on a WFCB Graduate Student

Amy Collins. Ph.D Student in Ecology Graduate Program
Vice President of Society for Conservation Biology
MS. Imperial College, London UK
BS. Leeds, UK.

Describe your project with the WFCB department and who are you working with? 

I am working in collaboration with WFCB’s Dirk Van Vuren, Fraser Shilling at the UC Davis road ecology center, Winston Vickers at UC Davis, and Travis Longcore at UCLA to examine the impacts of noise and light pollution on mammal use of wildlife crossing structures. The project has involved collecting data on wildlife movement and behaviour across the entire state of California, from Mount Shasta, to south of LA, for the past three years. Working on such an applied project means that I get to work with a lot of great collaborators, including the National Park Service, Orange County Parks, Irvine Ranch Conservancy, CalTrans and more. I also get to work with a great team of undergraduates – many of whom are also in WFCB. I literally couldn’t do this project without them. The project goal is to inform transportation agencies and the broader scientific community of best practices for mitigating negative impacts of roads on wildlife – particularly when constructing or retrofitting wildlife crossing structures.

How did you get involved in the project? What has been your “take away” from being part of the project?

I originally joined this project as a Graduate Student Researcher, and enjoyed working on the project so much, I decided to make it part of my dissertation! 

My big take away would be to give yourself more time than you had planned for. Contingency is a wonderful thing. And as someone who is European - poison oak is the most terrifying thing.
Please tell us one of your “aha” and your “wow” moments as a graduate student. 

Capturing my first image (the above photo) of a mountain lion was definitely a “wow” moment for me. To this day, one of the most exciting things about this project is collecting the cameras and looking through the photos and videos of animals that have been captured. To have a fly-on-the-wall perspective and watch how animals behave in the wild is a real job perk.

Another “wow” moment was seeing the undergraduate students I work with present at the Undergraduate Research Conference. Their research findings were so cool, and seeing their hard work pay off was awesome. 

If you had advice for current WFCB undergraduate students/prospective graduate students, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to knock on people’s doors! Talk to people about research, see if you can get experience in someone’s lab. Take up opportunities when you can, and don’t be afraid to think big. 

Expect the unexpected in your career. If you had told me 5 years ago I would be studying mammal movement in California I would have laughed and said “no way”.
Finally, don’t be afraid to take a break between undergrad and further studies. You’ll gain a lot of life experience in that time.

Oh, and do yoga.

What would be your dream job after you receive your graduate degree?

My dream job would entail working with a variety of local and international stakeholders on applied conservation issues. I would love to have a job that takes me to places across the world and offers variety.

Melissa CrewsWhere Are They Now? - Spotlight on a WFCB Alumni

Melissa Crews 

Bachelor's of Science in Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology. Class of 2018

What is your current job?

My official title is Kodiak Avian Monitoring Volunteer. I am assisting the US Fish and Wildlife Service with monitoring shore birds and other wildlife in the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge as well as working with Oregon State University’s graduate student Jill Tengeres on her research on Arctic and Aleutian Tern colonies on the Kodiak peninsula. Although my title says volunteer, I do get housing, food, and travel costs covered which is a great opportunity for new wildlife biologists like myself that need to get more practical experience in the field.  

Could you describe one of your typical work days?

The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge is only accessible by plane or boat so in order to survey the shore bird populations we will working off the USFWS research boat conducting surveys along the shoreline of the east side of the island. The surveys will be conducted on a small skiff and will entail identifying and counting all wildlife that we see to get population estimates and trends of coastal breeding birds. After the survey is complete for the day we will return to the research vessel were we will be sleeping during our three week deployments. The survey will be conducted twice during the summer, once in June, and a second time in August where we will later be looking to estimate productivity by identifying hatch years of various shore birds. 

During my time stationed in the town of Kodiak, I will be working in the field searching for Tern nests, setting up camera traps, and taking data on the surrounding vegetation. I will be helping to analyze the photographs taken by our camera traps in hopes of understanding the cause of the decline in fledgling success of Arctic and Aleutian Terns.  

In addition, I am excited to also get the opportunity to assist in one of our side projects mist-netting landbirds as a part of the North American Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) Program.

What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis?

Primarily this job requires me to identify the local avifauna by both sound and sight. In addition, I am required to be comfortable working off a boat with little personal space in a marine environment. Being flexible, having a positive attitude, and a passion for wildlife everyday is a must. 

Before my job began I was also required to attend a three week training where I was certified by the USFWS in bear awareness, CPR and First aid, Float Plane Safety Training, and Watercraft Safety Training. During our training we were also educated on the native tribes on Kodiak and how the local people live off the land, which I really appreciated learning about.    

What parts of your job do you find most challenging?

Working in a coastal climate that is both cold and wet can be challenging at times. However, when dressed appropriately and having your focus on the task at hand, working in tough environments can be very rewarding and can really make you appreciate going home to a warm bed and a hot shower. 

What do you find most enjoyable about your job?

I am very passionate about bird ecology and feel at home when spending time on the ocean and for the past few years I’ve been fantasizing about working in the Alaskan wilderness. I cannot believe I was offered this incredible opportunity that combines all of those things. The first time we took the boat out to practice identifying birds I was so full of happiness and in my gut I knew I was were I’m meant to be. I chose wildlife conservation so that I could spend my life in nature doing something that matters to me and drives me to become a better person. There is nothing that has felt more satisfying in my life then accomplishing my dreams and feeling that assurance that I have made the right choices for myself both professionally and spiritually.   

What advice do you have for current WFCB students?

For those taking the Bird lab I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing the bird calls and what habitat species are found. This knowledge I frequently mention in my cover letters and have been asked about in interviews. Another thing that can really boost your chance of getting a job is having good references, so make sure to build strong connections through volunteering and internships while at UC Davis. 
When the time comes to start applying for wildlife jobs stay confident in yourself and your abilities. It may take you 30 or so applications, but with enough hard work and dedication you will get your dream job as well. I believe in you and the WFCB faculty believe in you too. Come join me in the field!   

Student Conservation Corner - A BlogStudent Conservation Corner - A Blog

Alaskan Coastal Wolves: Living Life on the Edge in More Ways Than One
By Austin Kozlowski

Where UC Davis students in WFCB tell stories about wildlife and conservation science. Read the story here

The Putah Creek Nestbox Highway - A BlogThe Putah Creek Nestbox Highway - A Blog

Nest Cameras and More Chicks
By mwfsongbirdnestbox

Three weeks ago, we saw two feathers: the first signs of tree swallows investigating the real estate by North Davis Ponds. Read the story here

California Water BlogCalifornia Water Blog

A Water Portfolio Planning. Report Card For California
by Jay Lund

Kern Water Bank conjunctive use with waterbird benefits

Governor Newsom recently called for a state portfolio of actions to manage water under rapidly changing climate and other conditions. This post reviews the state of water portfolio planning in California today. Read the story here

vol6-seminars.jpgDepartment Seminars - All are Welcome

What: WFCB seminar series where graduate students, research staff, post docs, alumni and faculty showcase their latest work. The seminar features 15 minute presentations by 3 people, each followed by a 5 minute Q&A. It's a great way to learn about all the research within WFCB.
When: Wednesdays 9/25, 10/16, 11/6 and 12/4, @ 4:10 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

Where: 1138 Foster Room in Meyer Hall on UCD Campus


Your gifts provide the extra support that enables our students and faculty to reach their fullest potential. Your gifts support experiential learning opportunities, allow scientists to be especially innovative in their research, and keep undergraduate and graduate training financially accessible.

Please contact Pam Pacelli, Sr. Director of Development pmpacelli@ucdavis.edu 530.867.3679 or department chair Nann Fangue nafangue@ucdavis.edu for more information or to discuss impactful gift opportunities. Giving is also easy online.

advisors.jpgConnect With Our 2018/19 Advising Team

Eric Post (Master Adviser)
Danielle Huddlestun (Staff Adviser)
Thalia Badger (Peer Adviser)
Jessica Chalfin (Peer Adviser)

Contact them here: wfcbadvising@ucdavis.edu