Tuesday, April 12, 2016

New Website!

This blog has moved. For more information, please visit biologistimogene.com

Monday, January 11, 2016

I got a job... and need to update

Well hello hello! It has been embarrassingly long since I last wrote on this blog. I've broken my seven-year stretch! This blog started in 2009 as a way to document a wildlife internship and quickly evolved into a storytelling platform for all wildlife-related positions I've held. I slowed down a bit during graduate school, but now that I'm done with my master's degree I've run out of excuses! I'm at the end of my lunch break so will have to leave you with a link, but I did in fact get a job and I do in fact love it! Until I can write a chapters-long update, here ya go:

Savannah River Ecology Laboratory

Hanging out with a marbled salamander 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Q&A with Southwest Jaguars

Hello friends!

I've been busy doing lab work and taking a summer class, so I've been a little MIA. As I prepare to update this blog with some recent adventures, please stroll on over to Southwest Jaguars to read the Q&A on my bobcat research and ideas about wildlife conservation!

Imogene Davis Q&A with Southwest Jaguars

Monday, May 19, 2014

Coolest Emails

A few months back I received an email from someone who had stumbled upon this blog and wanted to know my thoughts on one of the past job positions that I wrote about. I was pleased to see that my documentation of wildlife research was being put to good use and being seen by fellow wildlife professionals.

This morning I received an email from another individual regarding a recent job offer in wildlife research. This person wanted to let me know how informative and interesting the content on this page is and that it helped him during the interview. This person is now bound for an awesome adventure in wildlife research, wahoo!

My posting has declined over the course of graduate school (12 hour lab days just aren't as exciting to write about, unfortunately. Thankfully it's meaningful research), but I'm elated that so many people have encountered this site and found it useful. So, if you are a wildlife professional, pay it forward and make sure the world knows what you're up to! Even if you fall out of a tree, write about it. People like to know these things. You never know when someone will find your musings helpful!

A lovely coachwhip (Masticofis flagellum) I caught down in central Texas last week. Isn't he gorgeous? More pics soon from my trip down to Independence Creek Preserve.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Wildlife Education for Boy Scouts

I had a lovely day today working with members of the West Texas A&M University chapter of The Wildlife Society at a Boy Scouts event focusing on wildlife education. Myself and several other students traveled to a local Boy Scouts campground for a family camping event to talk about several species of wildlife, how to identify them, and why they are important. We had booths on reptiles and amphibians, birds, and mammals, and we were able to share information with the help of recorded bird calls, skins and skulls of several carnivore, ungulate, birds, and amphibians, turtle shells, and two live ambassador snakes. We also talked about track identification skills and how to have respectful wildlife encounters.

The scouts had so much fun! It was encouraging to see what the young boys already knew about wildlife, whether from family experience or direct interaction with wildlife. With almost 100 students visiting our booths throughout the afternoon, it was refreshing and comical to count the times a group of boys yelled "ooooooh!" at one of the booths. Popular items at this event included the two-foot long skull of a Nile crocodile, several of the skins, the bird calls, and the six foot eastern indigo snake. The scouts were respectful, asked interesting questions, and really enjoyed learning about the wildlife in their backyard and in Texas. My favorite bit of the day was showing scouts how to identify animal tracks, particularly the simple ways to distinguish between bobcats, coyotes, gray foxes, and domestic dogs.

Here are a few photo moments from the day:

One of our ambassador snakes was a five year old eastern indigo snake, a threatened species that ranges throughout the eastern United States and prefers woodland habitat with burrows and debris piles. Indigos can get up to 8 feet long (this guy is just over 6 feet) and have extremely powerful jaws. Indigo snakes are nonvenomous and this ambassador was very calm with so many Scouts wanting to learn about him. He is the biggest snake I have worked with!

Indigo snakes are all black, with very large scales, though sometimes they express a bit of red coloring under the chin. This guy took a break with wildlife student Korey. Isn't he gorgeous?

Steve is an officer of our chapter of The Wildlife Society and is very knowledgeable about birds. Here is is discussing skull morphology and how it affects diet in bird species. Look how interested these Scouts are!

Scouts were fascinated with the size of the Nile crocodile skull and the tiny size of its brain case. Traci, a fellow wildlife student, and I also talked to them about several turtle species using specimen shells. You can see the shell of a Texas tortoise in the photo as well as the skin of a prairie rattlesnake.

Jessica is one of our snake experts and graciously brought her indigo and king snake to the event. Here she is teaching scouts and adults about the eastern indigo, snake morphology, and how to properly handle snakes.

Mule deer skull. Just chilling.

I loved talking about the different wildlife species on this table. The Scouts really enjoyed being able to "handle" all the different species and view them up close. Caroline is a graduate student in wildlife biology at West Texas A&M and is studying pronghorns. She loves talking about coat adaptations and helping kids identify wildlife species with skins and skulls. Jere is an Eagle Scout who enjoys scout events and education and provided lots of laughs throughout the day.

Michelle is an undergrad who has worked with me in the field trapping mesocarnivores on several occasions. Here she is talking to Scouts about the California King Snake she is holding. 

These are just a few photo examples of a really fun day. The comical moment of the day, however, came during my discussion with an 8 year old on bears. He wanted to know what to do if he ever saw one. We talked about backing away and not running, being alert in bear country, and what to do when face to face with an animal. I went over the safety basics and how human responses should be different based on whether the animal is alone, with cubs, or guarding a meal, but it became increasingly difficult to not burst out laughing when we got to the differences between the American black bear and the grizzly bear. For starters, this kid looked like the perfect combination of Macaulay Culkin in "Home Alone" and Ralphie from "A Christmas Story." I say this because it is important to visualize this young man's response when I explained that the grizzly bear's taxonomic name is Ursos arctos horribilis and is so named for his horrible attitude. I explained that while black bears usually run away when you yell at and get "big" with them due to fear, a grizzly bear will usually become angry at such a confrontation and humans are often attacked, sometimes killed, from the physical mauling of such an impressive animal. I described these differences with hand gestures and what I assumed were non-scary smiles, but by the time I was finished, the young Scout was standing rigidly in front of me with ever-growing eyes the size of saucers, his mouth  hanging open, with literally no words or response. When I asked him if that answered his question, his eyes got even larger, his draw dropped lower, and the silence went on... and then he suddenly took off as fast as he could in the opposite direction. 

I obviously should be a teller of scary stories around campfires. Or a backcountry safety trainer in griz country. 

Aside from the child I may or may not have instilled a healthy fear of bears in, it was a really wonderful day and I am so happy we were able to spend time with young ambassadors and supporters of wildlife. We plan to develop more educational content in the future for the Boy Scouts in our area, as the future of wildlife management and conservation depends on the education of young enthusiasts.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Newspaper Feature!

Hello all! It's been a super busy week. I've been working long hours in the genetics lab preparing for my talk on landscape-mediated genetic structure of bobcats in the Texas Panhandle. It's midnight and I just got home from the lab. I had a brief break waiting for my samples to run, so when it came time to go back to campus I snuck up there in my pajamas and enormous, fluffy pink slippers (my mother gave them to me as a joke for Christmas but DEAR GOD they are so comfortable. I'm not ashamed). I was feeling pretty good about the 200 some reactions I'd run today that I slid down the hall Risky Business style... luckily no one saw me.

Today has been a good day even though 18 of those 200 reactions didn't analyze correctly (Celine Dion's song "My Heart Will Go On" came on the radio as I read the 18 failed reactions and I had a good laugh as a result. Sometimes science doesn't work). I received the link to tomorrow's newspaper feature on my thesis research. A local hunting organization volunteered to interview me on my research at West Texas A&M to solicit participation from local hunters. I rely a lot on hunter willingness to donate tissue samples from harvested animals, and together we can learn new things about wildlife populations and hopefully  contribute a piece of the puzzle for effective management and conservation.

To read the fantastic article, click here: Important Work

A big thanks to Fat Boy Outdoors for being willing to interview me on my research!

Anesthetized gray fox in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Citizen contribution enables me to understand how the landscape structures gene flow in gray foxes, coyotes, and bobcats. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Busy Busy Busy... and a Bobcat Kitten

Unfortunately, my journey in graduate school has involved a steady decline in the content of this site. I intend to pick up the pace a bit, as I've had a lot of fun the last few months and not shared it. As January is already 2/3 of the way through, my research is over halfway complete and I anticipate completing my master's at the end of 2014!

The last few weeks I have been working long hours in the genetics laboratory to prepare for a talk on bobcat genetic structure. I'm very excited to complete the analysis on this portion of my thesis! To recap, I am examining the genetic structure of carnivores in the Texas Panhandle to determine if the landscape mediates gene flow. I am examining bobcats, coyotes, and gray foxes, but as I have a lot of data, I am only discussing bobcats for this talk. I will hold off on offering my expectations for this data, as I am still in the lab. In the next two weeks, however, I expect t know a little more about ho the landscape structures these populations.

What's the justification or observations for this research? I am studying wide-spread, generalist species- this means that, although these carnivore species exist in lower densities than, say, and ungulate or songbird species, their ability to adapt across habitats combined with their high movements generally means that the population will exhibit a panmictic genetic structure. This simply means that everyone travels far distances and as a result a lot of animals are related despite these distances. However, certain anthropogenic and landscape factors can drive gene flow (movements), and with data to support this, I'm investigating if the geographic features unique to the Texas Panhandle, which is the southern extent of the Great Plains, mediate the movements of these carnivore species. So there ya go! Science!

Life as a graduate student isn't always glamorous, but it is rewarding. Case in point this summer when I and a fellow grad student got a call about a BOBCAT KITTEN. A concerned landowner called the sheriff's station when his dog found a little bobcat kitten wandering around in a field, so I loaded up my supplies at 11:30 at night to go tend to this little guy. We arrived downtown to a very unhappy five-week old bobcat kitten. It's a good thing we were called, because animal control was going to take the cat and most likely the animal would have ended up in captivity (if it survived). Lena is another grad student at West Texas A&M studying bobcat habitat selection and movement of a specific bobcat population, so she was, as always, a dream to share this opportunity with. When we realized that this kitten was in good health, we knew that the landowner had merely discovered an impatient kitten waiting for mom to come home. Oftentimes, what we believe to be abandoned or lost wildlife are simply cases where a parent has "parked" it's young, and our good intentions are actually disrupting a perfectly normal and safe natural process for wildlife. A lot of animals that end up in rehab facilities are cases of unnecessary rescue. For this bobcat kitten, we knew we could get him back home to his mother based on the description the landowner provided; we believed he had merely wandered from his den.

Before we returned him to the site of discovery, we collected some data for my thesis. Because of his small size, anesthetization was not possible, so we wore Kevlar gloves to protect our arms and hands and relied upon animal handling training to safely restrain the little guy. At five weeks, he was tiny but feisty! Here are a few pics of the little fella:

These gloves protected us from those claws! You can see how unhappy he is to interact with humans. We didn't handle him long.

Latex gloves protect both human and animal from disease. In this photo I was determining the sex of the kitten while Lena restrained him at the scruff, as a parent would to it's young. We are trained to handle wildlife, and we both have our rabies vaccination. 

Very fortunate to have interacted with a bobcat kitten, and even better that we were able to safely return him to his den.

The evening ended with Lena and I driving the kitten back to the property where he was found. The landowner hiked out with us and directed us to the location he was found. After some investigating, Lena and I found what we thought to be his den and safely released him. The kitten seemed to know where he was and scuttled out of sight. Assuming all was well, the bobcat kitten was likely reunited with his mother when she returned to care for him later in the evening.

I am very lucky to have had this experience... I mean seriously, how cute was this little guy?! He should now be almost seven months old, dispersed and in search of or settling into his own territory. In the next two years he should successfully breed and produce kittens of his own... kittens who hopefully aren't keen on exploring an open field at just over a month old (he could have been eaten by a fox, coyotes, or even an owl!). It is always a good idea to research the wildlife in your area so you are able to properly help an animal without hurting the animal or yourself. Familiarizing yourself with the individuals and agencies in your area that are equipped to help wildlife will also ensure that your wildlife stay healthy and free.

For questions on mesocarnivores like bobcats, coyotes, and gray foxes, you can contact me here!